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"Unwaveringly powerful:" Camille Zamora brings her one-woman breakup opera to VoiceFest
By Anne Pyburn Craig
6/20/12 - 8:13 am
6/20/12 - 8:13 am
Today we're launching a guide to the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice, with coverage of the many vocal acts headed to the Catskills this August. This article is the first in a series. -- Julia Reische
Above and bottom: Camille Zamora performing "La Voix Humaine."
Who knew that when one of America's coolest small towns found its voice, it would sing like this? The Phoenicia Festival of the Voice has been one of those inspired creations that filled a void -- and an entire park full of folks who are willing to listen to opera in a downpour.
“Opera's not meant to be in some ivory tower,” says Camille Zamora, who will be performing "La Voix Humaine" on August 3. “This stuff was written by crazy rabble rousers. It's meant to be enjoyed sitting in a field with a glass of wine.”
A couple of things to know about Camille. She is a winner of the U.N. Harmony Torch Bearer Award, the arts activist behind an organization called Sing For Hope and its pop-up pianos. And she's hoping to find the time to go tubing while she's in town. And opera critics keep applying adjectives like "fabulously colorful and unwaveringly powerful" to her vocal acrobatics.
We interviewed Zamora about her upcoming trip to Phoenicia and the Festival of the Voice.
Watershed Post: So how'd you come to do this? Did you hear an opera when you were six and just know?
Camille Zamora: Actually I didn't. I grew up in Texas and not around a whole lot of classical or anything. But singing always fascinated me -- the more I sang, the more I wanted to sing. I was in chorus and stuff. Then I heard opera and I knew -- that's the final frontier. No microphone, filling a big hall with just your voice. I got very curious. How is that done, exactly?
So from Texas, I went to Julliard. I've been very lucky in my path. People think opera's all fancy and hard to understand. No! It's the Olympics of music. It's visceral and intense, it's all love and death and passion, anybody human will get it, a lot of the composers are completely crazy. One of the things so important about this festival, and so wonderful, is bringing opera to people in unexpected ways.
WP: You're bringing us “La Voix Humaine.” The Human Voice.
CZ: Part of what's so great about the piece -- anyone can relate. For me, it's an athletic feat. You're up there, just you, solo, for an hour, an incredible hour in this woman's life. She's on the phone with the man she loves and is losing. There's laughter, cajoling, manipulation, agony . . . One classic moment, he asks her what she's wearing and she describes this pretty pink dress he loves, only the audience can see she's a total mess. Meanwhile, he may not be where he's saying he is either . . . You laugh with her and at her, at the craziness.
Poulenc, the composer, was a theatrical genius. He took this libretto by Jean Cocteau, another nut, and brought it to Denise Duval, who was a dear friend. They had both just gone through nightmarish breakups. They worked on this together for months.
It's love on the most human storytelling level, yet it's very existential -- we reach out, form incredible bonds, and yet we're finally alone . . . They wrote it back when phone service was iffy, and used that. So you'll be right in the middle of an intense moment and they lose the connection . . . Kinda like a cell phone call dropping. Kinda timeless. It's an amazing piece.
WP: And now you're bringing it to Phoenicia.
CZ: I've been to the Hudson Valley and loved it so much. This will be my first trip to Phoenicia and I can't wait! I've heard so much about the last couple of years there. The people running this are geniuses, and they're doing something important. You gotta come check it out. You'll love it!