Cabell sings Rachmaninoff at Ravinia
Nicole Cabell | Photo by Devon Cass
Nicole Cabell, Sean Botkin, Chicago
All-Rachmaninoff program, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda
Ravinia Festival, Lake Cook and Green Bay roads, Highland Park
8 p.m. Aug. 2
Tickets are $40-$70; lawn $10; ticket and dining package $75
www.ravinia.org or (847) 266-5100
Updated: July 24, 2012 6:02PM
Nicole Cabell, named BBC Singer of the World in 2005, makes her home in Chicago, but to appear at the Ravinia Festival Aug. 2 she has to fly in from the Santa Fe Opera. “I’m singing Leila in ‘The Pearl Fishers’ on July 31,” Cabell explained. “I’m coming in between Santa Fe performances, so I am just doing one number at Ravinia.”
At Ravinia, she will sing Rachmaninoff’s glorious “Vocalise” Opus 34, No. 14, a showcase for female singers. She is quite a festival favorite, having appeared in either the pavilion or the Martin Theatre five times between the summers of 2002 and 2008.
Cabell grew up in Southern California in the beach town of Ventura, but she resisted the style of a California girl. “I wore black and tried to create the fantasy that I lived in New York,” she said, laughing at the memory. “Now I live in Chicago, but I regard myself as a California girl. I love to go back there. I love the water.”
Her early years were not particularly musical, but, when she was about 16 years old, teachers, family and others began to notice the operatic timbre of her lovely soprano voice. Soon she was taking voice lessons and she went on to graduate from the Eastman School of Music.
In 2002 she joined the apprentice program at the Lyric Opera School for American Artists, now the Ryan Opera Center, where she studied for three years. In addition to training in vocal production, movement and acting, the young people in the Opera Center take roles in Lyric productions. Cabell sang Barbarina in the company’s production of “The Marriage of Figaro,” as well as Isabel in “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Right after leaving Lyric in 2005, she entered and won the BBC Singer of the World contest in Cardiff.
“Competitions were held all over the globe,” she said, “and I took part in Chicago.” After she made the first cut, she went to Wales for an additional series of eliminations. Her Lyric fan base included Bill Mason, then General Director, and the late Richard Pearlman, director of the Opera Center.
When she won, Lyric enjoyed bragging rights. “They should,” she said, “they were behind me 100 percent.”
For Cabell the title opened important doors, including debuts at Covent Garden in London and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Successes continue. This season after Santa Fe, she makes her San Francisco Opera debut as Giulietta in “The Capulets and the Montagues.”
“I started out with a light lyric soprano voice,” she explained. “Now I am a lyric soprano and I hope to transition into slightly heavier roles, like Mimi in ‘Boheme.’ ”
She is very careful of her voice. “I go on vocal rest before I sing,” she said, “and I would like to sing more in Europe. Their opera houses are much smaller than in the United States. I want to be cautious. The voice is a very delicate instrument and it can have a very short shelf-life.
“I’d like to be an artist, rather than live the life.”