Mary Lutz-Govertsen - Biography Q&A
Where are you from?
Northern Virginia---basically Washington DC. I came to Chicago for college and ended up staying.
Which character are you portraying and do you identify with him or her at all in your own life?
I’m playing Musetta. Having also played Mimi before, I certainly identify more with Musetta than Mimi—Musetta’s very high energy and enjoys performing—but I’m not quite as, um, hot-tempered as Musetta is, or perhaps the man in my life doesn’t make me want to throw things at him as much as Marcello does to Musetta. Musetta’s also a woman who has to find her way in the incredibly limited world of 1830; for a woman of her class, her options were basically some sort of crushing sweatshop labor, marriage, or what she ultimately chooses, which is to make her way relying on the men around her. She’s got this reputation as a floozy, which I don’t think is the case at all—she’s a good woman with a heart of gold who is surviving as best she can with her talents and resources.
What appeals to you about working with Windy City Opera?
I enjoy working with young opera companies like Windy City who experiment with presenting opera in unconventional ways and venues. I think opera has a bit of a reputation as being this stodgy, set-in-its-ways art form, and although the big companies are working to change this image as they can, it’s often the smaller companies that truly stretch the boundaries.
What’s something about opera that fascinates you?
By day, I’m an elementary school general music teacher, and every year we have a unit on opera with the kindergarteners and the fifth graders. I love watching and hearing their reactions to opera—sometimes it’s laughter, sometimes it’s just jaw-dropping awe, and sometimes it’s surprise. It’s wonderful being part of an art form that can inspire such strong responses, centuries after many of these works were written.
When did you know performing opera was what you wanted to do with your life?
Well, I wouldn’t say that performing opera all by itself is what I want to do exclusively with my life; I want to make music and have since I was in my teens, but the genre doesn’t matter so much—opera, art song, oratorio, cabaret, musical theater, outreach—it’s all music and it’s all performance and it all makes me happy. It’s been useful as I’ve gotten older and widened my idea of what a “performance career” entails.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not involved with singing or preparing a role?
Lots of things! I enjoy reading, playing long and involved video games that amuse my husband because I get to set different things on fire, and I’ve recently gotten involved in circus arts—mainly static trapeze and silks, which is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and also one of the most fun. Static trapeze is getting very interesting now that I’m five months pregnant…..
What did you think of the first opera that you saw/heard?
It was Don Giovanni and it was awesome. I was twelve and had just started voice lessons, and it was the first thing that made me think, “Huh. Maybe I’d like this more than musical theater.”
What music has inspired you recently – opera or otherwise?
Am I a horrible musician if it’s not music that inspires me so much as literature? I especially love literature where music and musical talent in fictional characters are described really accurately and well—my all-time favorite sets of books are Scottish author Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond and Niccolò series. So very well written and historically accurate.
Did you have an experience related to singing, while stressful or unexpected at the time, you now find amusing?
Not really. Stressful moments in music are usually related to auditions, and those are always stressful to me. Things that stress a lot of people out, like learning roles and dealing with unexpected stage issues, I’ve always found a fun challenge. But again, I’m the girl that likes climbing forty-foot pieces of fabric while pregnant, so perhaps my idea of a challenge is a little weird…..
Do you sing to your pets? If so, do they enjoy it?
They’re often around when I sing, and they don’t like it. The upper parts of a soprano’s voice are not so fun for kitties.
Have you ever worn a stage costume outside of the theater?
Not without a good reason to do so. Costumes are expensive and I would rather the costumer not kill me!
If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be…
Um. Man, I’m the worst performer ever; I’d prefer to have coffee with my husband. I’m kind of a stealth introvert and get-to-know you coffees are kind of my worst nightmare. But with both my husband and I working as performers and educators, our one-on-one time is kind of limited, and spending time with him is always welcome.
If you could trade places with anyone for a day, I would choose…
Man, I don’t know. Life is pretty good.
Tell us a secret.
I rarely listen to music outside of learning repertoire. At the gym, I prefer to watch TV or read, and to de-stress, I prefer to read, play video games, or noodle around on Ancestry.com. I do like having Renaissance and medieval choral music on in the background sometimes, though. Also, I’m a big TMI person. There are few secrets with me. That way, people know exactly what they’re getting.