I’m back with another entry in our Culture365 Q & A series. This week we are featuring singer and theater artist Misha Penton and Culture365 artist member. Soprano Misha Penton's diverse performing career includes opera and multidisciplinary performance projects. Most recently, she sang the principal role in Divergence Vocal Theater’s world premier opera, Selkie, a sea tale, composed by Elliot Cole;, and the role of Leah in Ofer Ben-Amots' contemporary multimedia chamber opera, The Dybbuk, presented by the Jewish Community Center Houston's Maurice Adamo Music Foundation Residency. She has also created the roles of Isabelle and Brooklyn in the world premieres of The Masque by Roger Keele for Lone Star Lyric Theater Festival and James Norman’s opera Wake… with Opera Vista; and Marguerite in Norman's Incline, O Maiden, a monodrama for soprano and chamber ensemble, with Audio Inversions, a new music ensemble in Austin, Texas. Misha is the founder, artistic director, and ensemble lead artist of Divergence Vocal Theater, a Houston-based opera and multidisciplinary performing arts company. In 2008-09 she sang Ottavia in Divergence Vocal Theater’s The Ottavia Project, Sapho in The 10th Muse, and was a featured soloist in Autumn Spectre, a multimedia evening of staged arts songs, piano works, and dance. The most recent Divergence Vocal Theater project was the world premier of Selkie, a sea tale, composed by Elliot Cole, a setting of Misha’s libretto. Upcoming projects include Selkie, a sea tale, performances in Austin, Texas in May 2011; and Klytemnestra, with composer Dominick DiOrio, another collaborative musical setting of Misha’s words, premiering in Spring 2011. All this information and much more can be found on Misha Penton's Spacetaker profile.
Misha shares with us some of her experiences and knowledge in this week’s Culture365 Q & A.
Q (Photo by Kerry Beyer)
Who introduced you to opera and at what age?
I grew up involved in music and dance from a young age and over time I naturally gravitated toward opera. I'm specifically drawn to dramatic expressions in music-theater.
What is your favorite opera and why?
Mmmm... I'm not sure I have a favorite opera! When I think of opera, I think of music-theater in a very broad sense, and of performance that is operatic in spirit -- this can manifest as very traditional or very experiential work. I'm drawn to the music of some composers over others and drawn to the work of certain opera and theater directors. Opera is very much a multidisciplinary art, so there are many disciplines that converge to create the work. In a glimpse: I love Puccini, French grand opera, baroque opera, the work of Meredith Monk, Phillip Glass, Diamanda Galas, Robert Fripp and Robert Wilson. My very favorite work is collaborating with composers. I've worked directly with James D. Norman, Dominick DiOrio and Elliot Cole, creating settings of my words that I've subsequently performed and brought to fruition as collaborative performance works.
What do you wish to accomplish when performing in front of an audience?
I'm interested in the intersection between the arts and community building. By inventively presenting classical music, over time I'm seeing the fruits of what is possible: each performance creates the circumstances for an ever-widening group of people to get to know each other.
What is your biggest accomplishment to date?
I'm all about the process of creating work and sharing that experience with others. I'm very excited about where I am as an artist and where Divergence Vocal Theater is, right now. Continuing to collaborate with composers and other music and performing artists on the creation of new work is what is most exciting to me. I'm also thrilled that Divergence Vocal Theater will have a new home for performance at Spring Street Studios: Divergence Music & Arts.
What future projects are you looking forward to?
The Divergence Vocal Theater spring production is a collaborative work with composer Dominick DiOrio. It is based on the Greek heroine, Klytemnestra, and is a setting of my words. I'm singing in the work and the piece is also includes actress Miranda Herbert, dancer and choreographer Meg Brooker, violist Meredith Harris and pianist Kyle Evans. Serret Jensen and Sarah Mosher are creating wigs and costumes, respectively, and Frank Vela is the lighting artist. The work is inspired by Dr. John Harvey's new translation of Aeschylus' Agamemnon, at the University of Houston Honors College. John asked me to portray Klytemnestra in the play and that was the genesis of the Klytemnestra opera project.
To learn more about Misha Penton, make sure to check out her Spacetaker profile and for more information on Divergence Vocal Theater click here. I want thank Misha for taking time out of her busy schedule and answering my questions. And thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. See you next week for another informative Culture365 Q & A. Best of luck in your life endeavors.