does not want the words “opera” or “Wagner” to scare anyone.
“Opera is all about feeling,” she
says, and more familiar than most people think. Welge will share her love of
both opera and Wagner in a recital at 7:30 p.m. May 17 in the Bromeley Family
Theater in Blaisdell Hall at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. The
concert is free, and programs will provide synopses and translations of each
piece she plans to perform. There will be a short reception afterward.
Before George Lucas brought the
world of “Star Wars” to the screen, before JRR Tolkien created Middle Earth in “The
Lord of the Rings,” Richard Wagner created his own world on so grand a scale
that the adjective for such epics became “Wagnerian.”
The 19th century German
composer’s scores are still heard today in movies and television commercials.
Bugs Bunny’s “Kill the Wabbit”?
Wagner. “Here Comes the Bride”? Wagner. “The Ride of the Valkyries” is familiar
to all sports fans.
In October, Welge will have the
opportunity to perform for someone intimately familiar with the art of opera, renowned
mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, who will visit Bradford for the 50th
Anniversary Fundraising Gala. The Gala will raise money to fund a rotating
exhibition of the Marilyn Horne Archives in the Seneca Building in downtown
Bradford. Horne has spent a large part of her retirement nurturing young
singers through her foundation, which at one time regularly sponsored opera
recitals in Blaisdell Hall.
“I am a big fan of Marilyn Horne,” Welge said.
“I just love her voice.” She and her husband also enjoy watching
interviews of Horne on popular talk
shows like “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.
Welge hopes both the recitals and
the museum will make opera accessible to more people in the area, “I think
opera is one of the great art forms, and it is meant to touch the soul.”
That’s especially true with Wagner.
The “Wesendock Lieder” that Welge
will sing during the first portion of her program are “sumptuous,” Welge says.
“It’s very romantic music.”
In the second half of her program,
Welge will portray Brunhilde from “The Ring Cycle.” Wagnerian opera singers are
the marathoners of the opera world who are required to sing for more than four
hours at a time in the four operas that make up the cycle. The cycle tells the
story of a golden ring that brings the wearer unlimited power. But in the fight
for attaining this power at any price, it ultimately leads to the self-destruction
of the ring bearer, who has become corrupt in his quest for power. It is
Brunhilde, daughter of the mighty Wotan, who, in her mortal love, finally
destroys the ring and with it brings balance back into the world.
Welge will sing the climactic scene
of the ring cycle when Brunhilde, who, after destroying the ring, follows her
lover into death, by riding into the flames of his funeral pyre. The theme of
redemption through the love of a woman is a very common theme with Wagner and
plays a role in almost all of his operas.
Welge’s childhood was immersed in
classical music. Starting at age 5, she sang in the local church choir and soon
went on to performing the oratorios of classical church music with the choir
until she was 19. She is also trained as a classical pianist. In spite of her
musical background she went first into studying theology to become a pastor.
After a few years of studying theology, she switched back into music, when, she
met her future voice teacher Ariel Bybee on a trip to New York City.
Welge met Bybee through a fellow
German student, who was professionally studying voice with the veteran of the
Metropolitan Opera. Bybee accepted Welge as a student and immediately
recognized her talent. “You will be singing Sieglinde at the Met,” was Bybee’s
reaction after hearing Welge.
“Voices are something one is born
with,” Welge said. An experienced voice teacher or singer can easily detect a
talented voice, even in the early stages of training. After the first lesson
with Bybee, Welge knew that she had found her calling. “It just hit me. I knew
that this was what I wanted to do,” she said. Welge went on to study with Bybee
for seven years, and then started to take on roles in New York, while
continuing her studies with conductors at the Metropolitan Opera. She now
coaches with Dennis Giauque and Steven Crawford, both conductors at the
Welge has performed the roles and
excerpts of Sieglinde, Elsa, Elizabeth, Venus, Freia, and Gerhilde in New York
at the Wagner Theater Festival at Mannes School of Music under conductor David
Gilbert. She is also versed in the Italian repertoire and has sung the roles of
Tosca with the New York City Opera Ensemble, Desdemona in “Othello” and finally
Donna Elvira in “Don Giovanni” and
the First Lady in “The Magic Flute” with the Opera Forum in New York City.
Under the direction of Bybee, she has
performed Mother Marie in “Dialogues of the Carmelites” and Ellen in “Peter
Grimes,” among other roles.