Time in the (LEIMAY) Studio with 

Judith Barnes

LEIMAY Studio Manager Lou Mandolini in conversation with LEIMAY Fellow Judith Barnes. Judith is a director, opera singer, sculptor, and all around great human.

  • LOU - As a returning Fellow, what are you working on this year in the LEIMAY Studio?

JUDITH- This year I continue to work on my singing, exploring repertoire, exploring personae, and exploring stories. Claiming space physically and mentally as a solo performer while continuing to pursue my sometimes elusive vision as a singer/director. I continue to work on incorporating my sculpture and my visual and spatial sense into creating operatic performance. In that vein, I’m developing ideas for a production of Bartók’s great opera A Kékszakallu Herceg Vára, Bluebeard’s Castle, following the imaginative thread of the articles I wrote last year for conectom. I’ve also been dreaming of the Greek myths that were such a powerful influence on my childhood. For conectom, I recently wrote a draft for a libretto based on the myth of Persephone, and it has been an interesting exercise in structure and storytelling, which I would like to pursue further.

  • How do weekly rehearsals at CAVE bolster your creative process?

Getting to CAVE on a weekly basis has been particularly challenging this year. I am recovering from surgery and dealing with physical pain. But the dedicated hours remind me constantly that I have a creative life, an imperative, despite whatever obstacles I might be facing personally.

  • Last year when we sat down together you defined your desire to create as "a spiritual imperative, a search, a restlessness, an impossible possibility, an antidote to death". What are your thoughts on that definition a year later? 

I still feel that way. Perhaps even more so. Doing the work is difficult for me these days, mentally and physically, but the promise of creation illuminates my darkest moments.

  • As an accomplished opera singer and pioneer of the alternative opera movement in NYC, what advice would you give to someone who is new to vocal training? Any advice for someone who is attending an opera for the first time? 

Singing should be a physical pleasure. If it isn’t, search for the pleasure in every sound you emit. You only have one body so be kind to your vocal cords. If you are someone going to the opera for the first time, surrender to the sensuality of the experience. Remember that production styles come and go but the core of the art form is the music and the way it marries to the story - even if the story is very abstract. Allow yourself to feel the music physically and intuitively. Leave the critical mind behind. It will be waiting for you later!

  • After having time to reflect, how was your experience as a producing artist, working collectively, to create SOAK 2018? 

I am always glad to have a deadline and pressure to create. I think it pushed me to make work even when I didn’t feel ready and suddenly I found that I was ready when it came time to get out on stage! Working together with everyone to produce the series was interesting, challenging, and gratifying. I feel proud of what we all did together.

  • If you ran your own space, what would be your focus and how would you connect to the community?

I have been running a space for some time now, a storefront theater, which is also my home. I have not really been able to achieve my dreams for the space. My desire for privacy and solitude is constantly at odds with the intense social life necessary to build a functioning, vibrant gathering place. In my dreams, I would love to have a multifaceted arts center, with ongoing workshops and training, and with a theater especially suited to unamplified music. And I would not live in the performance space!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me Judith. Your commitment to your craft is inspiring! Read Judith's reflections on Bluebeard's Castle as she continues to develop her vision for a future production. Article #1 & Article #2. Learn more about Judith and connect with her through here connectom profile.

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