A native of Detroit, soprano Jacqueline Echols is an alumna of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at Washington National Opera. In 2017, she sang the role of Helen Gibson in Pittsburgh Opera’s world premiere of ‘The Summer King – The Josh Gibson Story’. Now as the only female cast member in ‘Moby-Dick‘ performing at the Benedum Center, she displays her versatility as an actress by portraying Pip, the cabin boy. Tickets and info available at www.pittsburghopera.org.
When did you first realize you wanted to be an Opera singer?
Exactly ten years ago. I was on tour with a touring company called The New York Harlem Productions doing Porgy and Bess. I was a full-time teacher at the time while singing for fun. While I was on tour, I finally made up my mind to become a performer full time. So when I returned home I made plans to go back to school to earn my masters in vocal performance. So after I got accepted to grad school, I quit my job and ran after my dreams. And here I am today.
“Pittsburgh Opera will be performing an exciting new production of Moby-Dick, which we co-produced with Utah Opera ” – tell us a little bit about the production, what will it be like?
This production, of course, is a lot smaller to fit the smaller stages and the design is kinda cool. The stage moves like a compass to set the boat in a different direction. I think the design is quite brilliant. The direction is quite intimate. I can appreciate the story being told from another perspective. It’s going to be touching.
Can you tell me more about your character in ‘Moby-Dick‘?
Pip is a special character in the story. His relationship with the other cast members are all different. He connects with them individually in his own special way. He’s a joyful young boy with many talents. After surviving a tragic boating accident, his brightness fades and he’s left with only the remembrance of this traumatic experience which eventually drives him mad. I prepared by reading and researching men who hunt whale. I had to learn the back story of whaling in those days and how it took it’s toll on them. My challenges, well I have a few. First, learning the correct notes and intervals because the music is not easy, Second, acting like a boy. I’ve only played very feminine characters and this would be my first pant role. So walking like a dude was challenging! And lastly, physical stamina. In both the original and new productions, being in shape is very important.
The running, the flying, the jumping, the stunts, fight scenes, dancing, climbing, etc. You have to be fully able and capable to execute all the moves and directions given and prayerfully you make it through the show without injury. I do yoga and I hit the treadmill before the show. Get the heart pumping and blood flowing.
How is it being the only female cast member?
It’s actually fun. I’ve done different shows with these guys and they are like family to me. Though there are definitely “goof off” sessions and guy talk. But other than that, we’re good! Lol! They are wonderful musicians and we all have great chemistry!
How many languages can you speak?
I am not fluent in the languages I studied, but I can understand basic grammar. I’ve studied 4 languages. Italian and German I’ve had extended studies in the summer in Italy and Austria. I didn’t really have a choice because we sing in all of the languages I’ve studied. It’s required.
On stage March 17, 20, 23 & 25, Moby-Dick delivers an incredible combination of astounding visuals and spellbinding music you won’t want to miss. Adult tickets start at just $12 – with Children’s tickets for those ages 18 and under starting at just $6″.
Fun fact about Moby-Dick: The character called Ishmael in the book, the rookie whaler who serves as its narrator, is called “Greenhorn” in the opera. A greenhorn is “a person who is new to or inexperienced in a particular activity.” The expression “green with envy” originally referred to new whalers and sailors who, prone to turn green in the face from sea-sickness, would envy veteran sailors who did not get seasick.