Kathryn Lang is an Arlington resident, a senior at a private school in Washington and an opera enthusiast.
She recently performed on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and recently participated in the Washington National Opera's Institute for Young Singers, a pre-professional training program.
In an interview with the Arlington Connection, Lang discussed her personal relationship to music and why opera is still relevant to today's young people.
Arlington Connection: What kinds of things did you learn at the Institute for Young Singers? Was it a positive experience for you?
Kathryn Lang: We took classes in opera history, Italian diction, ear training, sight singing, drama, and voice. We also had workshops with local experts in various fields, including costuming and vocal health.
From this program, I gained or improved many skills necessary for a successful operatic career and learned about the opera industry and life as a working opera singer. The institute was definitely a positive experience for me. I worked really hard, but I had a great time and gained an idea of how my life would be if I decided to pursue and operatic career.
AC: How did you get involved with opera? What made you gravitate towards this kind of music?
KL: I started taking voice lessons from a local teacher when I was in sixth grade. I loved to sing and became very involved with musical theater, but by eighth grade, my teacher said she had taken me as far as she could vocally. [A]t the beginning of high school, I started taking lessons from Tricia Lepofsky, who sings with the Washington National Opera. I originally just sang classical music because it fit my voice better than musical theater did, but I have really come to love it.
I think that there is a misconception about opera. Many people think that it is outdated and boring and only involves fat ladies in horned helmets singing at the top of their lungs. In reality, there is a huge variety in opera, from light and funny Mozart pieces that could easily be adapted into romantic comedy movies, to dramatic and touching pieces, such as Verdi’s La Traviata, that grab the audience and deal with timeless themes.
AC: Do you listen to other kinds of music besides opera? If so, what kinds? Do these other kinds of music influence your opera singing?
KL: I listen to lots of different music. The work of talented singer/songwriters, such as Carly Simon or John Mayer, influences my performing because they write about the same emotions or situations that I am singing about, except in today’s words. They help me discover where my character might be coming from.
AC: What is your favorite opera? Why?
KL: I think my favorite opera is Leoncavallo’s "I Pagliacci." I like it because of the wonderful music and the variety in the show. There are some very funny situational comedy scenes, and some very dramatic scenes that make me cry. I think it’s also a great first opera for someone; it has no slow parts and isn’t too long.
AC: How long have you lived in Arlington? Do you like it here?
KL: I’ve lived in Arlington for about ten years and I love it here! There are lots of fun places to hang out or shop, but if you want to go into the city, it’s incredibly easy and close.
AC: What is your favorite part of Arlington?
KL: I love Clarendon; it’s not very big but there are so many great restaurants and shops that I always have a great time when I go down there with friends.
AC: What is your favorite movie? Why?
KL: I don’t have an all-time favorite movie but some of my favorites are "Breakfast at Tiffany’s," "Dirty Dancing," "Moulin Rouge," "The Notebook," "Mean Girls" and "The Lord of the Rings."
AC: Where do you want to go to college? Why?
KL: I love Princeton. The problem is that so do 18,000 other people. It has a great philosophy program, academics, student body, and campus. I also really like Georgetown, for the same reasons.
AC: If you could take a road trip to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
KL: I am not sure exactly how I would drive there, but I would love to drive all over France. They have everything in France: wonderful opera, great shopping, beautiful beaches, mountains for skiing, historic cities, and peaceful countryside.