BWW Interview: Betsy Wolfe Talks Toronto Symphony Debut
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by Kelly Cameron
Steven Reineke's inaugural year as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's Principal Pops Conductor continues next week with 'Love Will Keep Us Together', a diverse evening of romantic favourites wrapped up in a glowing, glittering package. Joining him on stage are Tenor Mike Eldred and Soprano Betsy Wolfe, and they will perform love songs from across the decades.
Soprano Betsy Wolfe has performed this particular concert in cities across the country and is thrilled to be coming to Toronto for the first time. She just finished starring in the hit musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood on Broadway, and took a few minutes to talk to BWW about the concert, her musical influences and the joys of dueling with Mike Eldred:
Welcome to Toronto! Is this your first time here?
It is my first time! I've been asked three times before but was always engaged in something else so I was determined to make this work. I know it's a top rate city and I'm beyond excited to go.
Could you give us a bit of a general overview of the programming for Love Will Keep Us Together?
It's all the best love songs throughout the ages. We work our way through all the decades. Steven (Reineke), Mike (Eldred) and I got together and picked some representations of good love songs and we've got everything from ballads to rousing up-tempo stuff. We have material that people will know and also songs that are off the beaten path that I'm confident the audience will fall in love with. It's romantic and energetic.
We've done this specific concert in a few other cities and it's always a huge hit so I'm grateful that they've booked it for Toronto. We make some changes to ensure it's unique for the town we're playing, and we've been rehearsing and have some fun things in store.
You and Mike have a Broadway background, is it mostly showtunes or is it a more eclectic mix?
I think it's a brilliant mix of popular songs from movies, standards from recording artists and Broadway songs. It expands and crashes into several different genres. There's no typical sound that you will hear all night but you will hear classic songs as well as songs from something like Dirty Dancing.
How different it is to perform with a full symphony versus performing in a Broadway show?
The orchestra is a huge part of the show when you're singing with the Symphony. That's not to diminish their role in a Broadway show, but when you are singing directly in front of 90-100 people playing there's just this incredible wall of sound that you can't possible experience in any other form. It's thrilling. I love performing with symphonies and I love how much they're incorporated into this program. They transform the song and make it gorgeous in a whole new way.
This is Steven's first year as the Principal Pops Conductor for the Toronto Symphony. What's it been like working with him?
I think Toront is in for a real treat. I remember when we first got together for this he talked about bringing it to Toronto as one of the first choices for the season. It's a huge honour and it shows how much he loves this program. He's immensely talented and I've fallen in love with him. He's a joy to watch conduct and a joy to work with and I think musicians really respect his talent.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Judy Garland all the way to Celine Dion and Billy Joel. I think that's part of why I love this concert so much, it's representational of music that I like and it crosses so many genres. It allows for singers to do everything within their range and makes for a great evening for the audience.
Do you think this show is good for a younger audience?
Absolutely. Steven is so careful about picking material and selecting music that is universal. I consider myself a 'young audience' and I knew every song he chose. I love the classic ones as much as the current pieces. That's why it's so appealing - you can love all of it.
I know that Steven is very fond of surprising the audience so I won't ask for details on specific songs - but is there one moment you're really looking forward to?
Mike and I have a duet that we sing that's a bit of a competitive duel and it's so much fun. We know what's going to happen in every song other than this one, so it's fun to shake it up and get to improvise. Every single time we've done it has been different and the audience loves that. It's no holds barred and we enjoy throwing each other curveballs. So I'm excited to do that one.
We've heard a lot about how this is a great 'Valentines' show, but how about those people who don't have a Valentine? Can they still come and enjoy the show.
Of course! I think this music is universal and love is one of the deepest emotions you can feel. Whether you're with someone or not these songs will touch your heart in a way. Good music is good music, and we're presenting some really unique and fun choices. If you have someone special, bring them. If not, you never know who you might meet!
When and Where?
The TSO Presents Love Will Keep Us Together
Roy Thomson Hall
Feb 19th and 20th at 8PM
Feb 20th at 2PM
Tickets range from $29 to $110 and can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416.593.7769 or online.