Joelle Harvey, soprano

Harvey, Joelle (1)

A native of Bolivar, N.Y., soprano Joelle Harvey has quickly risen to the top of her field with acclaimed operatic performances and appearances on the concert stage. After her H+H debut last year in Handel Jephtha, she feels ready to perform the role of the seductress as Dalila in H+H’s upcoming production of Handel Samson.

Q:  What was it like making your H+H debut last season in Jephtha?
A:  Singing in last year’s Jephtha was a wonderful experience in general, and I feel so fortunate that I was able to make my H+H debut singing Iphis. Jephtha‘s strength rests not only in its music, but also in its drama. It was a pleasure to become more familiar with the piece and the role, especially with such terrific colleagues and in this supportive environment. The added element of the tour was very exciting and included my first chance to sing at Disney Hall in LA, which was great fun!
Q:  Do you prefer opera or concert performances?
 A:  This is a common topic among my singer friends, and I think that we all generally agree that it’s nice to have a balance of concert work and opera. Opera is great because you get to live with the piece and the people for so long, and it’s fun to wear costumes and get to have someone do your hair and makeup! Concerts, though, allow you to really focus on the music and words in a way that sometimes gets pushed aside in opera.  I love running around on stage, but it is also incredibly fulfilling to be still and communicate to an audience directly as we do in concerts.

Q:  Favorite musical memory?
A:  In 2013, I performed in the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Radamisto at Carnegie Hall. The entire cast and ensemble were/are top in their repertoire, and it was an honor just to have the chance to sing with them. What I didn’t expect was the outrageous ovation that we received at the end of the performance. It was unlike anything I had heard before, much less anything of which I’d been the recipient! The audience erupted in applause and yells, and it was amazing to know that we had all contributed to making those people feel something so strongly.

Q:  Can you tell us something that not many people know about you?
A:  My husband knows this and is blessedly tolerant, but I am sort of obsessed with animals in general. I become completely distracted by dogs on the street, squirrels in the trees, and I even search for rats or mice in subway stations. That’s just embarrassing.
Q:  What past musician would you most like to have met?
A:  I wish so much that I had had the chance to hear Lorraine Hunt Lieberson live, let alone to have met her. My real introduction to her was on YouTube in a scene from the Peter Sellars production of Handel’s Theodora.  I must have watched the video at least 500 times by this point. It’s “As with rosy steps,” and it’s one of the most moving and inspiring things that I’ve ever seen or heard. There was an unparalleled honesty in the way she made music, never mind the stunning beauty of her voice.
Q:  What do you most enjoy about Handel’s music?
A:  The first time I sang Handel was in my first year of college at UC-CCM. I couldn’t tell the difference between a tenor and a baritone, but I knew that I loved singing, and when I sang “Lascio ch’io pianga,” something just clicked. That something so simple could be so moving was a wonderful discovery.  It seems that Handel is able to reach inside us without us even knowing, and we are transformed.  I don’t refer only to pieces like “Lascio ch’io pianga,” but to more joyful music as well: “Tornami a vagheggiar” from Alcina, “Dopo Notte” from Ariodante, etc.  It isn’t as if we as listeners (or singers) are being forced to feel something, but we’re drawn in and “infected” by the emotions.
Q:  What do you find special about performing in Symphony Hall?
A:  Part of what is special about Symphony Hall and Boston in general is the support from the audience and community. As a performer, there’s a tangible difference between when an audience is there to enjoy something versus being there to “be seen” or to be critical.  There’s also so much history in the Hall itself; it’s a great privilege to be able to sing there.