In just a few hours after this interview, the curtain would go up on the main stage of the Bastille Paris Opera House. But before that, in a dressing room hidden deep beneath this famous building, soprano Nadine Sierra was getting ready to step into the role of Pamina, the young, innocent heroine of The Magic Flute. FAB took the chance to meet up and chat with the 28-year-old singer, and also with Andrea Klesch, the hair and make-up artist who is working with her on this magnificent production.
FAB: Do you remember the first time you sat down in a chair like this one to get ready for a show?
Nadine Sierra: Yes, I do and it was amazing. I was 16 and I was playing the Sandman in a production of “Hansel & Gretel” by the Palm Beach Opera. That moment was a testament to all the work I’d done to get there. Every time I sit here, I remember how fortunate we are because in shows like those on Broadway, performers have to do their looks by themselves. It makes a huge difference to have Andrea with me before the show!
FAB: Andrea, this is the second time this season that Nadine is singing for the Opéra de Paris. Is this the first time that you two have worked together?
Andrea Klesch: We worked together last season on a production of “Don Giovanni”. For “The Magic Flute”, I’m looking after Nadine and one other singer. I know that I’m incredibly lucky to get to work with her.
N.S.: Andrea was there when I was just starting out at the Paris Opera House! I found out last September that we would be working together on “The Magic Flute”, which really reassured me. The singers don’t usually get any choice in the beauty professionals they work with, so it was a nice surprise.
FAB: Is it important to work with a stylist you know well?
N.S.: Yes, definitely. When you find somebody you like who also understands the things you like about your own face and hair, it really makes a big difference to working together. Because as performers, although of course we want to look like our characters, we also want to keep a little piece of ourselves. Andrea really understands that and she knows how important it is to feel good about your look so that you can convince the audience who’ve come to see you.
FAB: Your look as Pamina is very understated with simply styled, long hair. It’s a very different approach from most productions of “The Magic Flute”, where the characters are usually very extravagant. Doesn’t that make it more difficult to get under her skin?
N.S.: Pamina’s look is very soft, it’s a sort of nude I guess, but I think it’s the perfect style for her because it reflects her character and fits with the rest of the production too. She is just a young girl, people have to root for her and want her to succeed. The idea of her not succeeding should be tragic, so showing her vulnerability through the way she looks is part of the story. I mean, people should look at her and say “She’s such a sweet and innocent girl, she can do it”.
FAB: Do you have much say in the final look of each character?
A.K.: I don’t personally. Petra Reinhardt, the concept designer, explains the type of hairstyles she’s looking for and I work out how to apply that for each singer. To do that I have to adapt her requests to each artist’s hair type, as well as to what’ll be going on on-stage. In this production, I had to take Nadine’s very thin hair into account in order to make her style natural, but still strong enough to hold up during the three hours she spends on stage.
FAB: What’s your secret?
N.S.: Hairspray! We get through tons of it. And Andrea follows me around throughout the production to do any touch-ups we need. During the interval, we re-curl my hair. The problem is my character spends a lot of time rolling around on the ground… Other hairstylists would have asked me to wear a wig, but I know that Andrea can work miracles on my hair.
A.K.: I’ve been working for 17 years with the Paris Opera and before that I worked with the Cirque du Soleil and in the TV business in Germany. I know how to do everything. (Well, almost!)
To have a chance to see, listen and admire the work of Nadine Sierra and Andrea Klesch, you can reserve your seats for “The Magic Flute” at the Bastille Opera House up until the 23 February 2017, www.operadeparis.fr