Fri, Nov 15, 2002 - Page 19 News List

Fun and games with operatic arias

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

Natalie Choquette has fun at the expense of opera snobs.


Natalie Choquette is not your traditional opera diva. The celebrated soprano is perhaps more widely known for making her audiences laugh than as a star of the opera stage. Whether she's singing Carmen in hair curlers or filing her fingernails during Summertime, her magnificent voice, unique humor and exceptional talent make this French-Canadian singer an artist of international stature, albeit not in the US.

Some years ago a video was made of one of Choquette's performances with the aim of using it as a promotional tool targeted at the US. It didn't work there, but it succeeded in gaining her recognition just about everywhere else in the world. Choquette now gives over a hundred performances a year, more than half of which take place abroad. She's performed for audiences in Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East.

Choquette was the daughter of diplomat parents who raised her in Japan, Peru and Moscow and as a result is comfortable performing in a number of different languages. If fact, during her previous visit to Taiwan, she entertained her audience with the bit of Mandarin she'd picked up between the time her plane landed and when the curtain rose.

It worked. The audience loved her and demanded that she return. She comes to Taipei tomorrow as part of the ongoing festivities of the Taipei Arts Festival.

But don't be misled into thinking her onstage antics mask a lack of vocal talent. It was the power and beauty of her voice that first got her noticed in the world of opera. It was her love of making people laugh, as well as her initial inclination to study music therapy, that led her to parody the famously snooty art form.

"Humor is so naive and stupid," she's been quoted as saying. "When you laugh with abandon, it opens your heart and suddenly the beauty of the music becomes even greater."

Choquette will perform Who Ever Said Opera was Boring? with the Kaohsiung Symphony Orchestra at Chungshan Hall starting at 4:30pm. Admission is free of charge.

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