Sweets by Kate by Griffin Candey was composed in 2014, workshopped in 2015 and premiered at Marble City Opera in 2016. I met Griffin at a young artist program in Illinois on a production of Don Giovanni in 2012 singing the roles of Donna Anna and Don Octavio. A year or so later I received a phone call from Griffin telling me about his new opera. I remember I was in a hotel room in Wichita, KS, because I was working on a production of the Barber of Seville. I actually didn't even know he was a composer, because the last I had worked with him was singing on stage. However, as someone who does multiple jobs within this artistic world, it did not surprise me that he was also a composer. He said, "Kathryn I have something to ask you. I'm composing a dark comedy opera about a lesbian couple called Sweets by Kate and I'm wondering if you would be interested in singing the role of Kate?"
I would like to say that when called to sing a role that I act cooly and nonchalant, but let's be real I'm a soprano, so I said "yes" without question or delay. Oh, what it must be like to be a baritone with so many questions before accepting a role. (more on that thought another day).
The opera was to be premiered and work shopped first at Midwest Institute of Opera, the young artist program where Griffin and I had met, and then Marble City Opera could premiere it.
I loved getting to know this opera and the role of Kate. Griffin would send me pages of the score before it was even complete, and every section of music I got was like being a kid in a candy store. (Ironic since Griffin's last name is Candey and that my character Kate is a "sweets baker"). Ironic or not, it was true. I have a vivid memory of receiving music for the first big dramatic moment when Liz and Kate have gotten into a fight and my first line of the aria starts "Elizabeth Stop!" with the word stop being sung on a high B flat! "Yes!" I was sold.
The opera is a story of love, friendship, acceptance, and new beginnings. This 80 minute opera pulls at the heart strings of a modern audience while keeping them entertained through comedy and drama. It is a story for anyone who dared to love wholeheartedly and stepped into their dreams boldly and without apology! It has since premiered in New York and Boston and I couldn't be happier for Griffin's success.
In Knoxville we actually had four performances of Sweets by Kate. The first weekend was at the Knoxville Museum of Art and the second weekend was a site specific performance Downtown in Sugar Mama's! We had two venues in order to accommodate a larger audience, but the opera performing in Sugar Mama's was one of my favorite experiences. If you haven't discovered by now, I love site specific opera, and this was opera up close at its best.
A clip from our rehearsal in Illinois of me singing Kate's aria. Direction by Matthew Haney.
Photos from Midwest Institute of Opera Production 2015 - Directed by Matthew Haney
Photos from Marble City Opera's Production in 2016 - Directed by Scott Skiba