Kirsten C. Kunkle - Biography Q&A
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Fremont, Ohio, but I currently live in Wilmington, Delaware. I’m thrilled to be back in the Midwest to perform this role.
Which character are you portraying and do you identify with him or her at all in your own life?
I’m singing Mimi! I think that everyone has a spark of romanticism in them. The idea of going to your neighbor’s apartment and falling in love is so simple. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if finding love were that easy in real life? But, I love that she is flawed, that their love is flawed, and that their relationship cannot end happily, even though they truly adore each other. Mimi and Rodolfo are utterly human, and that’s what makes me relate to her so much.
What appeals to you about working with Windy City Opera?
I am excited to work under the baton of Maestra O’Shaughnessy. I’m interested in being in the inaugural production of a company, especially one that promotes the transition process between student and professional. It is such an important part of the opera singer’s life – one that often leaves singers hoping to find opportunities and needing roles. I believe Windy City Opera will give many singers a chance to be heard in the Chicago area in wonderful roles with a fantastic conductor.
What’s something about opera that fascinates you?
I suppose what fascinates me is the fact that the music and drama, for the most part, withstands the test of time so well. No matter how many versions of “La boheme” you may see, it still has the power to sweep you away into the moment by the intensity of the drama and the beauty of the music. I also am fascinated how the art form consistently develops, while maintaining the ideals of beautiful singing. I don’t believe that I could ever tire of singing opera.
When did you know performing opera was what you wanted to do with your life?
I started taking lessons at twelve and was in the chorus of “Tosca” at thirteen. I think the first inkling that I might actually pursue music professionally began around that time. By my early high school years, I knew that I planned to major in music in college. Opera became very important to me early on, and it is still my favorite of all of the classical mediums.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not involved with singing or preparing a role?
I’m a bibliophile, and I love to read mysteries and other types of fiction. I have two wonderful dogs, Roman, a chocolate Labrador, and Wicket, a shih tzu, who tend to monopolize my time and energy. I love to travel and visit historical landmarks and art museums. My husband and I spend a lot of time watching movies at home. Mostly, I love visiting with friends and family, and spending time catching up on their lives.
What did you think of the first opera that you saw/heard?
The first opera that I saw was “Faust” at the Toledo Opera in Toledo, Ohio. Obviously, I thought it was amazing and wanted to sing Marguerite someday. That hasn’t happened yet, but it might still! I grew up on musical theatre, so it was just another excellent dimension of production for me to have the music be of such utmost importance. I loved it.
What music has inspired you recently – opera or otherwise?
I love a large variety of music. I’ve been singing a lot of Puccini, and I always love his music the most. I’m a huge fan of Menotti and the storytelling element of his works. Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky are favorites of mine. I also really love working through Classical and Baroque music, as it challenges me in ways that Romantic music seems not to do. I’m a fan of Stephen Sondheim, Jason Robert Brown, Stephen Schwartz, Lucy Simon, Pasek and Paul, and many other musical theatre composers. I really enjoy singing a number of very different things at any given time. It keeps me open to possibilities and interested in my work.
Did you have an experience related to singing, while stressful or unexpected at the time, you now find amusing?
The closest thing that I can think of to answer this question is that I once had to go into the audience for an opera scene in graduate school. I promptly fell into an acquaintance’s lap. It was pretty embarrassing at the time, but he was a good sport about it.
Do you sing to your pets? If so, do they enjoy it?
I sing around my place all the time. When I’m practicing, my dogs definitely do not enjoy it. The lab pretty much will ignore me, but the shih tzu “sings” along. He is not singing for fun, though. It is obvious that he is concerned for my health and his hearing. He can match pitch sometimes.That always makes my day. When I’m otherwise singing TV jingles or pop songs, I’ll change the words so that they include my dogs’ names. They like that and often want to play while I’m singing to them.
Have you ever worn a stage costume outside of the theater?
Sure. I’ve had to provide my own costumes many times. I think the most fun is when you go out in full make-up. That gets more looks than the costumes.
If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be…
My Dad. He’s one of the most important people in my life. He’s the most supportive and most knowledgeable person I’ve ever met. I’ve had many a meal with him, but if given a choice, he’s still the one I’ll choose to spend my time with over and over.
If you could trade places with anyone for a day, I would choose…
I’ll just stick with myself. I’m pretty happy with my life and don’t really want anyone else’s. I get to sing opera, have a wonderful husband and father, and two of the best dogs on the planet.
Tell us a secret.
It may not be a secret, but it’s close enough. Mimi is my dream role. I fell in love with the opera “La boheme” very early on, and have always wanted to sing it. There is just something about the music, combined with the seemingly simple, but obviously passionate character that just speaks to me. This season, I’ll be singing two of my dream roles, and I could not be more thrilled.