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Spotlight: Amy Stebbins '07

Alexa J. Bush

What is your assessment of Harvard’s artistic community and culture?

This might seem like a cop out, but I don’t think you can really quantify “Harvard’s artistic community.” It’s too broad. I don’t think I’m any sort of authority on the matter, since my work here has been primarily through the HRDC. From what I’ve seen, Harvard has a terrifically diverse range of opportunities. In my experience, this community has been very “open,” but I would argue that the separate areas of artistic interest might benefit from working together a bit more. There tends to be little opportunity for fusion among the various artistic fields. In that sense, L’Orfeo has offered a wonderful stage on which to blend my love of theatre and music.

What do you find rewarding about performing? What inspires you, as a busy college student, to continue to participate in an art that requires such intense practice?

For me, the reward of performance comes through offering the audience something that both entertains and educates. But that’s somewhat mundane. Frankly, I find performance less rewarding than the actual rehearsal process. That might seem somewhat antithetical to the project’s purpose, but it’s in rehearsal that I feel I develop as a singer, actor, person, whatever. And that’s really why I do it.

Briefly describe your creative process in preparing for a performance.

Well, unfortunately, I was not able to go out and experience life as a goddess, or explore the underworld to get a “feel” for what [the goddess, my character in L’Orfeo] Speranza must have really felt. Preparation for this role ultimately involved educating myself on the particular style of music. I knew shamefully little going into this project, but to be able to perform this type of music, I really had to work to grasp the method behind it (not that I am claiming to have become an expert in any way). Admittedly, I’m still working on solidifying this. Hopefully I’ll have figured it out by Thursday.

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What has been your most fulfilling artistic/academic experience?

My most fulfilling artistic experience at Harvard was performing in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It wasn’t that I had a large role; in fact, I didn’t have one line in the whole show. But it involved a very rigorous rehearsal process. I was a member of the tragedian troupe and we spent a lot of time building and uniting the ensemble. The cast was extremely talented, as was the staff. It was overall just a very enjoyable, professional, and rewarding play.

Have you ever composed a piece for yourself? Which do you prefer: performing your own material or singing a piece written by another composer?

Oddly enough I have composed. I took A.P. Music in high school, which involves a fair amount of writing, and I wrote a short opera with a friend for the class. Fortunately for the general public, I would never perform my own work outside of the classroom. I think my interest in music lies primarily in interpretation, not creation.

The ability to perform opera is a rare skill set for young singers today. What draws you to sing opera, in particular?

Well, whether or not I have the ability to perform opera is up for debate. What draws me to opera though, as unromantic as it sounds, is that I am entirely indiscriminate in my choice of music and opera just happens to be where my voice lies most comfortably. If I could sing like Ella Fitzgerald, I’d probably sing more jazz. Opera’s just sort of my biological calling.

What was it like to have someone like Knafel Professor of Music Thomas F. Kelley, who is so accustomed to teaching about and intimately familiar with the authentic L’Orfeo opera, play a main role in the staging of this production? Was there a great deal of attention paid to detail?

I actually took First Nights [taught by Prof. Kelley] last year which made the audition process (and the rehearsal process) a little more than intimidating! In fact, the man still intimidates me. In all seriousness though, he’s been so helpful, instructive and patient. It’s a privilege to work with someone so impassioned by the work you’re doing together.

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