About the artist(s)
Ms. Fridal is the first international opera singer to bridge the gap between opera, calypso, and the steelpan. She has an extensive repertoire that includes spirituals, jazz, and popular songs. Although raised in a classical background, Ms. Fridal has a profound love for melodies of jazz greats and has sung in many jazz venues, both in Europe and America. She has performed her one-woman show at Harlem’s famous “Cotton Club”, and won rave reviews for her portrayal of Mary in Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in England.
Here are highlights from Ms. Fridal’s conversation with The Enormity of Now.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Anne Fridal. I’m a dramatic soprano. What else can I say? That’s who I am basically.
I’m also the inventor of Calypsopera, which is a combination of Calypso and opera. I’ve written a musical about Calypsopera. Actually, I’ve written a musical and a half because I’m in the process of doing another one – but we won’t elaborate on that at the moment because it’s just in the process. We can talk about the first one which is entitled, London Is The Place For Me.
How did you get here?
I was sent to the UK to boarding school from Trinidad and Tobago. In terms of the Calypsopera, half of it is my culture. Calypso originated from the folk songs that were written by Irving Burgie and sung by Harry Belafonte. I went from boarding school to being introduced to the art of opera and, of course, I won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. I joined Ella Mayer Lissman’s opera workshop and started doing excerpts from different operas: Fiordiligi in Cosi, Carmen in Carmen, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. I also performed at several places around London, mainly the South Bank and the Purcell Room. I gained a lot of experience through that workshop.
How has the journey of your art/career engaged your voice – personally, artistically, politically?
I grew up in politics. My father was one of the founding members of the PNM government. Initially, I was motivated to look at storylines in operas and affiliate them with what was going on in my own country. For example, Porgy and Bess, which I did over 2000 performances in my life, gave me the experience of never giving up hope. This was inspired by the character of the piece, especially the main lead.
In my country, where my people are concerned, I looked at it in the same way. We have achieved so much, coming from basically a humble background, in terms of opportunity and exposure.
Emotionally, I mainly refer to Porgy and Bess again because I performed it all over the world for twenty to twenty-five years. I played every female character throughout my career. One night I was about to go on stage to sing the big aria, “My Man’s Gone Now,” and heard that a friend’s mother died. I always had to be in an emotionally transformed state when I sing that aria but was even more that night.
What is the voice that you found while finding your voice?
A while ago, I thought I was on the way to finding my voice – in the sense of reaching that peak in my voice. I had total confidence and had that I had overcome some of the technical aspects of it. Of course with the present Covid situation, I stopped singing because of all the restrictions. It kind of put a dampener on me. I was upset and not motivated to continue. I mean, I didn’t know whether to continue in that classical vein anymore – that road to improving one’s voice.
But I couldn’t just stop – because I’m me. When I sing, it makes me happy. I’m not saying I sing with a perfect technique or sound, but what I do pleases me. What I term to be ‘crossover’ also gives me a lot of pleasure in singing. Much of what I have to say means a lot to a lot of people. The calming effect of my voice is there. I’ve heard it at work. The humorous aspect of my voice has also contributed to the enjoyment of others.
Anne Fridal received her first professional engagement at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in the production of Porgy and Bess, singing in the ensemble and covering the role of Lily. Ms. Fridal, continued on to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, performing under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle and director Trevor Nunn. Ms. Fridal has appeared at the Bregenzer Festspiele in Bregenz, Austria with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and has also performed at the Royal Albert Hall and the Purcell Room, London. Ms. Fridal has appeared in operatic productions in roles as demanding as Leonore in II Trovatore, Fiodiligi in Cosí fan tutte, Carmen in Carmen, Amneris in Aida, and Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera.
Anne Fridal is the first international opera singer to bridge the gap between opera, calypso, and the steelpan. She has an extensive repertoire that includes spirituals, jazz, and popular songs. Although raised in a classical background, Ms. Fridal has a profound love for melodies of jazz greats and has sung in many jazz venues, both in Europe and America. She has performed her one-woman show at Harlem’s famous “Cotton Club”, and won rave reviews for her portrayal of Mary in Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in England.
Daughter of the soil, Anne Fridal has taken the name of Trinidad and Tobago to many places including Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and Greece. She has acted as an ambassador for her beloved country and has used some of Lord Kitchener’s calypsos to demonstrate the style of opera and to the general public.