Q&A: Michelle DeYoung on performing with the San Diego Symphony, Mahler, and the Rady Shell

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On October 16, Michelle DeYoung will make her San Diego Symphony debut singing Mahler’s “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen”.

But the debut will be very special as the concert will take place at Rady Shell, a new bay-side venue in Jacobs Park that has seen more than 88,000 visitors since its opening on August 8, 2021.

OperaWire recently spoke to DeYoung ahead of their upcoming debut and about performing at this new outdoor venue.

OperaWire: What excites you about performing with the San Diego Symphony for the first time?

Michelle DeYoung: This is my first time singing with the San Diego Symphony and I’m so excited to be here. We were supposed to do concerts last year, but of course due to COVID they were canceled. Glad we were able to reschedule.

OW: What excites you about playing Rady Shell?

MD: The location of the Rady Shell is amazing! I still feel the power and the force of the water, and being able to see it during a stage is idyllic!

OW: How does playing outdoors affect your performance and are you doing anything differently than playing indoors?

MD: When we sing outside, we have to be amplified, because there is no barrier to stop our voices. I find it an added excitement because you can do anything musically and still be heard! Also, I like to see the sky, the water and the beauty while I sing… It’s exciting.

OW: Let’s talk about working with Rafael Payare. How was your collaboration with him?

MD: This is the first time that I have worked with Rafael Payare. I was so excited about it, and after our first rehearsal, it’s even better than I expected. He’s a wonderful musician, and we work together so well… and he’s there with me. It’s a dream!

OW: Tell me about Mahler’s “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen”. What are some of the challenges that this piece brings?

MD: This particular song cycle is a story from start to finish. It’s a journey. It’s a little hard to sing because it requires a lot of delicate high-end vocals, but I like the challenge. The hard part is not getting too emotional.

OW: How is this piece different from other Mahler music that you play?

MD: All Mahler has similarities and differences. Musically it’s similar… the vocal challenge is also similar. It’s such a wonderful journey and story… start with loss, then try to see beauty, then in deep despair, and end with acceptance and a silver lining.

OW: What is your favorite song and why?

MD: The last song is my favorite…. This is the one where you walked through the tunnel and the sun is shining.

OW: How does Mahler fit in with Boulanger and Tchaikovsky and why do you think that makes a great combination?

MD: I don’t know why this program was chosen and I had nothing to do with it… but I think it works perfectly together. The three composers are so passionate and deeply emotionally. All of them are so poetic in their writing.

OW: What are you looking forward to this next gig?

MD: I can’t wait to recreate these songs with Rafael and the symphony in this incredible space… I can’t wait to share this trip with the audience. I also look forward to the journey these songs take me.


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