Issaquah grad reprises ‘Falstaff’ role

February 23, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Issaquah native Anya Matanovic stars as Nannetta in the Seattle Opera’s production of ‘Falstaff.’ By Bill Mohn

Reprising a role from her first years as an opera singer, Issaquah native Anya Matanovic will grace Seattle with her voice again in Seattle Opera’s comedy “Falstaff” Feb. 27 – March 13.

“Working with Anya is always a treat. Her intelligence and charm shine through in this role, which also showcases her beautiful voice,” Director Peter Kazaras wrote in an e-mail. “It has been inspiring to watch Anya mature and master the technical difficulties of this intricate score. I think she is a perfect Nannetta.”

While she lives in Manhattan, Issaquah is the city Matanovic said she calls home.

“Issaquah holds many memories for me,” she wrote in an e-mail interview. “I have family, friends and a unique community who supported me in my journey as a musician.”

The Matanovics moved to Issaquah in 1984 and became woven into the city’s fabric by starting The Pomegranate Center, a design and community building nonprofit organization, where she spent many years volunteering through her 1999 graduation from Issaquah High School and undergraduate studies at University of Southern California.

It was at home and in Issaquah schools where she said she found a love of singing.

Q: How long have you been singing?

A: I began singing at age 5 with my family. My father Milenko wrote music for classical children’s poetry and together with my older sister Katya and my father and mother Kathi we recorded several albums. We sang as a family until I was 14. I was also very lucky to be a part of the music program during my time at Issaquah High School, under the direction of Lavonne Watson, singing in musicals and the Vocal Jazz and Hi-tones ensembles.

Q: What styles most appeal to you?

A: I enjoy listening to many styles of music, but there is something in the operatic human voice that stirs me in a way nothing else has matched.

Q: When did you develop an interest in the opera?

A: My mother gave me a CD for my 16th birthday of Maria Callas. Up to this point I had not been interested in opera, though my voice teacher at the time insisted I had a voice for it. I was painting my bedroom and I decided to put the Callas album on. I didn’t turn it off for three days — it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and though I had no clue what she was singing about, I had tears in my eyes. I knew from that moment if there was a chance I could make even one person feel that same way, this was the work I wanted to do.

Q: What is it about opera singing that appeals most to you?

A: That I might be able to lift people out of their everyday lives. That the power of the human voice in combination with glorious music can transport people to an elevated emotional state. It is thrilling to be a part of that.

Q: What does it mean to you to reprise your role in “Falstaff” as an adult with the Seattle Opera?

A: It is very significant for me. I consider Seattle Opera my hometown opera. When I was in high school, I told myself that I was going to be in the young artist program at Seattle Opera. Six years later, I was in it! This company has nurtured me and believed in me, and I feel honored that they have asked me to make my debut in this opera, with such a terrific cast. And it is very special to have so many friends and my family close by to share it with me!

Q: What would you like audiences to take away from your performance in “Falstaff?”

A: It’s a comedy and it moves at breakneck speed, so I hope that we give the audience an evening where they can laugh and enjoy themselves while listening to delicious music. And I hope that we create a few new opera fans in the process.

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