Deborah Mayer prepares for spring Met Opera debut

debmayerDeborah Mayer, associate instructor of voice, will make her Metropolitan opera debut as “Gerhilde” in Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), part of Richard Wagner’s epic four-part Ring Cycle.

In the spring of 2013, Die Walküre will be broadcast live on the Met Opera Saturday Afternoon International Radio Broadcast Schedule. The revival of the Ring Cycle will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth.

When Mayer learned from her agent that there was an opening for a soprano, she quickly headed to New York. She auditioned on a Monday, was back in South Bend teaching the next day, and on Wednesday she found out that she got the part—a testament to the whirlwind nature of professional performing.

“It was really one of those situations of being in the right place at the right time and being prepared,” she says.

The opera’s composer, Richard Wagner, has a devoted following around the world—but perhaps no more so than in Germany, his birthplace.

“I’m of German descent, my father was born in Germany—he came here in 1959. For the last 10 years of my life, my husband and I had been living on and off in Europe and I mostly sang in German theatres but I also spent a year and a half in Bayreuth, Wagner’s hometown.”

Originally specializing in Italian operas, Mayer became increasingly skillful in performing Wagner’s work over the course of her career.

“It’s just something I grew into, but it didn’t happen overnight. I started singing Italian repertoire—Mozart, Verdi, things like that, but I’ve been studying Wagner for a long period. The first Wagner opera that I sang was actually his first opera, Die Feen (The Fairies). And that was premiered in Würzburg—and in fact, Richard Wagner’s grandson was in the audience.”

The Die Walküre performances will be physically demanding, featuring a set equipped with wooden planks controlled by computerized hydraulics. 

“We have to run and jump off these planks, so I obviously want to make sure I can get up and not fall," says Mayer. One big thing for me is to stay physically fit so I can run. For our entrance, we kind of slide down them like a teeter totter.”

In between performances, Mayer will be flying back to IU South Bend to continue teaching her classes. She will also be bringing students to New York with her to watch the performances live.

“Once you sing Wagner, it’s kind of like you’ve come all the way,” Mayer says. “I’m actually singing a smaller role to be honest, but it is something that I’ve been striving for all my life. I can remember being a young student in Bloomington and my teacher saying ‘This is my young Walküre,’ and now I’m doing it. It’s something that I’ve been aspiring to for a long time.”

The Ring Cycle will debut at the New York City Metropolitan Opera on Saturday, April 13, at 11 a.m., and will be broadcast on 88.9 FM. It will be performed again on April 26 and May 6.

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