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Nerves of Steel: A Conversation with Abigail Rethwisch

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

Later this month, its "curtains up" on sparkling soprano Abigail Rethwisch, baritone Norman Garrett, and pianist Minji Kwon at CSPS! The trio kicks off Cedar Rapids Opera's 25th Season with a wonderful evening of magic and music, aptly titled Norman & Abigail, in the hall where CRO performed its very first opera in 1998.

Soprano Abigail Rethwisch recently shared her thoughts and excitement about the evening's program: We are so excited for you to join us for the kick-off to our 25th Anniversary Season!

CRO: The Norman & Abigail concert will be broadcast live on the radio by Iowa Public Radio! Have you done live broadcasts before? Does that change the energy of concert for you in any way?

AR: I have had the opportunity to do live broadcasts in the past, and it always brings added positive energy, knowing that supporters and loved ones from afar are able to tune in, even if they can't be present in person!

CRO: Is there a piece of repertoire you are especially excited to perform at the concert on October 28?

AR: Is it cheating to say all of them?? Each piece I'm offering on this concert is quite challenging in its own way, which leads to wonderful rewards. But if I had to choose one piece to highlight, it would be Sempre Libera, from Verdi's La Traviata. This piece is complex dramatically, and demands a high level of vocal stamina. It is the most amazing rush of adrenaline when you finish the high Eb at the end of the aria, knowing you've put your all into the performance. I also love to look at how my performances of a piece have changed over the years, as my voice has grown and developed. I remember a time when I could barely make it through this aria, but with years of practice and growth, it's now one of my favorite things to sing!

CRO: What made you first fall in love with music?

AR: Some of my earliest memories of music are sitting in my dad's lap as a young child, while he played guitar, or singing with my 5 siblings, while my mom played piano. Music has always been a large part of my life, but the moment I fell in love with Opera was during my Freshman year at Simpson Collegewhen I was playing French Horn in the pit for Menotti's The Consul, under the baton of Dr. Robert Larsen. My voice teacher, Kimberly Roberts, was singing the most beautiful aria on the stage above me, and while I was thrilled to be taking part in the pit, I suddenly knew that I wanted to sing on that stage more than anything!

CRO: Cedar Rapids Opera is just wrapping up its fall audition tour for Young Artists. What advice do you have for performers just beginning their opera careers?

AR: This is such a challenging field and takes nerves of steel. There are so many talented artists, and very few jobs to go around. Rejection is simply a part of the world we live in, so view each audition as a performance, an opportunity to share your voice. Your voice needs to be heard!

CRO: Besides your opera accolades, what else would you like people to know about you?

AR: I was born and raised in Iowa City, and still have most of my family in the area. In the early months of the pandemic, when all of my work was canceled, I moved in with my sister in Cedar Rapids, to help care for my young nieces. Since then, I have been all over the country for various gigs, but I kept finding myself coming back to Cedar Rapids. So I took the dive a few weeks ago, and purchased my first home here in Cedar Rapids. I'm enjoying working on lots of projects on this cute little 1910 house, and am so excited to make Cedar Rapids my long-term home base!

- Abigail Rethwisch

Norman & Abigail

Friday, October 28, 2022 at 7pm

CSPS Hall, 1103 3rd Street SE Cedar Rapids


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