List your performance group members and the instruments that they play:
I’m Suzanne Fatta, a singer of opera, folk, experimental and some jazz. I’m a very low voiced Contralto and sang Bass (yes, Bass – you read that right!) with the world-famous Vivaldi’s Women ensemble. I’m also an internationally published agency model, an actress, and scholar/ sometimes college professor. For an exciting concert in Buffalo on June 8th, one of my best friends and a nationally acclaimed opera singer, Dr. Julie Cross, will join me for some really fun, silly repertoire. Joel S. Kumro, my dear friend and rising star on the Buffalo musical scene, will accompany on piano, organ and harpsichord.
What is the name of your performance group?
2 Snarky Broads! The full title is Winking Women of Whimsy (…or 2 Snarky Broads and a Dude). Otherwise as a solo artist it’s just Suzanne Fatta, and I model under a stage name.
How did the name of the group come about? When did it form?
Well in the case of the June 8 concert, Julie is a Professor of Voice at the University of Wisconsin, and they gave her a travel grant. She was thinking of where to perform and I floated the idea of Buffalo by her. She was very excited by our great performance venues, and our audiences that appreciate unique and fun programming. For some time my accompanist Joel had been inviting me to perform at his historic church, which has an amazing acoustic, so it seemed like the venue, musicians and funding all came together at the right time. We decided to have fun up there, putting our personalities and friendship on stage, so to speak. So we picked repertoire that was sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, or funny in some way… the idea for 2 Snarky Broads was born. So the sarcastic duet Via, resti servita from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro was a no-brainer. After adding in some obvious examples of snark like Rossini’s famous Cat Duet, we dug through and found some rare gems, such as Bach’s Coffee Cantata, art songs by Libby Larsen about shampoo, and the jazz standard My Old Flame. We’ve also been accepted to give a Lecture-Recital at the 2013 biennial Feminist Theory and Music Conference on Suppression & Revival of the Low Female Singing Voice.
Where are you from originally?
Buffalo baby! I was born and raised in the East Aurora area but have lived downtown most of my adult life, aside from college and grad schools.
You moved back to Buffalo recently? Please tell us when and why.
Last July I moved back after 5 years in the UK, where I was a full-time professional opera singer, model and actress. We moved there for the plentiful opportunities in early music (Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque) which is my field of expertise. I also started modeling in London, which was a real life’s dream come true. I was very lucky to model for and sing with some of the top talent in Europe! My husband and I found great career success in Britain (the theatre company I co-founded debuted at The British Museum, for example) and we’re glad we were able to come home on that high; we chose to return rather than needing to, and that’s part of why we’re happy to be back.
Is your family musical?
Yes they are, very much so, although I’m the first one to go to conservatory and perform professionally. There was always music playing in the house – jazz, classical, opera, folk – and my parents & brother play guitar a bit. Both my grandfathers had great singing voices, and in big Italian families music is always present; we also went to lots of concerts. My father and I sang together in various choirs over the years; he’s very active at the BPO, and we’re super passionate about supporting the arts.
When and why did you start singing?
I pretty much came out of the womb singing, and studied piano for a few years. My voice was discovered around age 8 and I started voice lessons (after 2 years of begging) at 12, and serious music studies (theory, history, ear training, etc) from 13 on. Music is something that brought and still brings Dad and me together, so we’re always been singing together, whether around the house or in ensembles. My Mom’s love of American folk music, especially Bob Dylan, was also a big part of my life growing up.
What was the first tune that you remember “really” playing well, when you knew that you would be a singer/musician?
At 8 I was singled out and popped into the school’s “varsity” choir and had a solo Christmas Eve. The church was packed so my parents were in the back row and couldn’t see well. After I sang they said “Wow that sounded great, who was that?” and everyone said “Your daughter!” That’s when I knew this could be something more than just an activity I loved.
Are you schooled in music? From where?
Yes I’ve been lucky to have an amazing education. I attended Oberlin where I got an honors degree in Musicology and Vocal Performance; that’s when my love of both early and contemporary music was really born. Next was Harvard where I got an MA in Medieval Studies, and taught/ worked/ studied in the Music Department. At Harvard I taught a course on Jazz & Music of the Swing Era for which I won a university-wide teaching award. Traveling back on Route 90 towards WNY I did doctoral studies at Eastman in Historical Performance Practice — I sang with Paul O’Dette there, which was life changing. I worked at the doctoral level at the University of York (UK) with the great Tenor John Potter; he taught me so much about ensemble singing and taking leadership as a confident, independent musician. They approach music making differently in Britain and that trial by fire made me three times the performer and musician I was when I left. Finally all the language, dance and dramatic study that comes along with opera… lots of that was done in Italy.
Which famous musicians/singers do you admire?
Singers that I admire include Lorraine Hunt Lieberson for having a big rich tone in early music; Leontyne Price for her collaborations with Barber and her gorgeous timbre; Cecilia Bartoli for making amazing
art with her technique and dramatic skills (even while her timbre is unique or ‘odd’); and of course Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra for… well, for everything. In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning is a simply astonishing album, you hear the pain from his divorce in every beautiful note he sings.
Where is your favorite place to sing in Buffalo?
By the end of my first year back in late June, I’ll have sung in over 2 dozen venues in WNY, and each one is more beautiful than the last. So far my favorite acoustic in which to perform is at the Burchfield Penney.
Where would you most like to sing in Buffalo?
Kleinhans as a soloist! In fact I’d like to get back on the symphonic/ recital circuit soon. I’ve had wonderful experiences as a chorister and operatic soloist in WNY, but I’d like to get gigs as a Tenor or Alto soloist with the local symphonic ensembles.
How would you describe your music style? Influences?
I was raised on classical & opera, jazz, 50s rock & roll, and 60s folk – best mix I can imagine! I get bored with a steady diet of nothing but 4-square dogmatic music making, and have prided myself on performing repertoire from the fringes, whether early music or contemporary opera.
How often and for how long do you practice?
It depends on what gig is next and what the repertoire demands of me. If I’m singing Soprano and Baritone in the same concert, I’ll spend extra time warming up the extremities of my range and giving my breathing apparatus a good workout. I regularly sing 2-6 hours a day every day so I only pound practicing when there’s a lull between rehearsing.
Do you sing covers?
Well all opera is a cover I guess. I do love working with living composers and giving world- or local-premieres. I’ve commissioned a number of songs from British and American composers, and hope to find even more to work with as I love artistic collaboration, and contemporary composers seem to love the low female voice. In fact at the 2 Snarky Broads concert I’ll be performing a song by Buffalo composer Caroline Mallonée.
If you could sing for one famous person, who would that be?
You know my goal is to sing backups for James Taylor – having already achieved my #1 life’s dream of singing on stage with Neil Finn! But in the classical world, I’d love to have a coaching with the great Polish coloratura contralto Ewa Podleś. And in terms of performance? I know he’s passed away but I wish I could have worked with Poulenc.
What are your strengths?
I’m very well trained and have been lucky to work with some of the best musicians and scholars in the world. I mean, my voice teacher in the UK, Lynne Dawson, sang during Princess Di’s funeral! Since I love what I do so much, I work my butt off and bring my intelligence and artistic understanding to everything I do – I learn my music quickly and well so I can be tuned into the director and my fellow musicians on a deep level. I love to have fun and experiment; if you can’t laugh at yourself in the performing arts, you’re in the wrong field. Balancing confidence and humility is always my goal. I think my main strength is my flexibility and open-mindedness about genre, collaboration, repertoire, style, range and so forth. Jump in, have fun, give it a try… see where it goes!
What are your weaknesses?
I still have some confidence issues stemming from severe health problems that lead to a total overhaul of my vocal technique. I was singing pretty poorly for a few years there and I’m still digging out of that confidence and technique hole… it even affected my sight-reading ability. I was well trained enough to know how unevenly I was singing and it was tough. When your body is your instrument (whether as a dancer, singer, model, or athlete) and that body becomes damaged, it’s very hard to separate that from the talent and training inherent in that instrument. But in my time as a diversity advocate in London working with disabled models, I learned ways to turn those flaws into advantages. My instrument is unique and not to everyone’s taste, but I’ve learned to do great things with it.
Have you recorded a CD?
Yes I have, on both sides of the Atlantic. You can find a number of them on iTunes; I’m featured on the DVD and CD Vivaldi – Gloria by Vivaldi’s Women, as well as the Europe-wide Sky Arts documentary Peter Ackroyd: Venice Revealed. www.spav.co.uk
I recently did a recording of Roland E. “Ron” Martin’s music that’s being released on the Naxos Label. In the upcoming months I’ll be recording my pro demo CD with the great Ivan Docenko and some of the early musicians in town. Other CDs, including one of Medieval music-dramas where I have a big solo, can be sourced on my website under Discography: www.suzannefatta.com/singing.php
Where and when is your next gig in the city? Anywhere else?
As I mentioned above Julie (inset image with me), Joel and I are playing together Saturday June 8th 7pm, Our Lady Help of Christians Old Chapel, 4125 Union Rd. Buffalo 14225. I perform with many ensembles and choirs as a Tenor such as Vocális and Harmonia, so those events are coming up and can all be found on my website: www.suzannefatta.com
My next solo recital is with OperaBuffs of WNY for National Opera Week, Saturday Nov. 2, 10.30am-noon, Room 124 Rockwell Hall, Buffalo State College.
Finally I’ll be singing in Venice, Italy in early September – if any Buffalonians are there, please come see me!
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