Soprano Rainelle Krause has been flying high – literally. Once impresarios realized her impressive aptitude for stratospheric vocal fireworks, Krause’s opportunities blossomed in her previous two seasons, particularly in Europe. Her recent debuts include Queen of the Night with Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden and Deutsche Oper Berlin, as well as engagements with The Dallas Opera and The Princeton Festival. In addition to her virtuosic vocalism, Rainelle has developed a passion and an astounding skill as an acrobatic aerialist. Her career was rapidly ramping up until she hit the Covid-19 speed bump of canceled concerts and operas. As the opera world began to emerge from dormancy, she soon returned to the stage in Copenhagen, Berlin, Basel, and other important opera houses yet to be announced. She recently took a moment out of her busy schedule to speak with CS Music about her rise to success, and her hopes for the future.
CS: How did your work as an aerialist begin? Has it affected your approach to singing? If so, how?
RK: I attended OperaWorks in LA during the summer of 2013, and the Alexander technician on faculty (Kate Conklin, with whom I still work regularly!) suggested that a few of us take an aerial silks class as something fun to do on the weekend. She was sure I’d love it even when I expressed some doubts — and she was right. I fell in love during my first class, and decided it was something I had to do. The silks instructor had us sing upside down at the end of class just for kicks, and it got my wheels turning.
Learning another physical and artistic discipline from the ground up, so to speak, has been invaluable in helping me approach singing in fresh, curiosity-driven ways as I navigate bodily changes over the years — a good practice for any singer! Combining the two is a constant lesson in experimentation, efficiency, and artistry, as I’m faced with how to do work that I’m proud of in both art forms. It’s important to me to make a real partnership of the aerial work and the singing, letting each elevate the other, instead of approaching it as a struggle or a compromise. That also translates directly to how I approach singing, not accepting compromise in the many qualities I want, but exploring on my own and working with people I trust to find out how to safely encompass all the qualities that I want in my work.
CS: Have you had any artistic or philosophical crises or epiphanies during the current Covid climate? What have you learned?
RK: Absolutely. When we all realized that performing would be gone or drastically changed for the foreseeable future, I went through a grieving period, made more difficult by the open-ended nature of the pandemic and the total uncertainty of when we’d be able to make music again. I went through cycles of being hyper-productive, or not singing at all for weeks at a time. It forced me to grapple again with my own worth outside of my identity as a singer, and how to find internal motivation without any hope of external validation through live performance. It’s made me look at why I love opera, and the important differences between opera in person and opera through a screen. These are complicated issues, and while I think most singers work through them time and again throughout their lives, the pandemic has been like a pressure cooker for us as individuals and as an industry.
For myself, I’ve learned that I still love the technical puzzle of working a piece into my voice. I love seeing how many different colors and emotions and motivations I can weave into what I’m doing. I’ve learned that the special connection of making art with my colleagues face to face is sacred to me, but that digital platforms can be so much more effective than I ever imagined. And I’ve learned that the resiliency of artists in the face of an existential crisis that none of us could have fully anticipated or prepared for is a testament to creative ingenuity, indefatigable resolve, and the necessary contribution of art to the human condition.
CS: What is most different about your work in Europe versus the U.S.? Which do you prefer, and why?
RK: In my experience, the luxury of a longer rehearsal period in Europe allows for much more creative flexibility in-process between artists and directors and conductors. While of course that is present in U.S. productions, it’s less common to completely change tack in the middle of the rehearsal period. As a corollary, typically having more shows in a run allows for the individual artist to dig into nuances of performance that may not be possible with the pressure, justified or not, of feeling like one has to be “perfect” with only a few shots at performance.
They both have their pros and cons, but at this stage of my career I’m really enjoying the European approach as a way to develop my artistry in a methodical way.
CS: You’ve made a name for yourself as Queen of the night. How do you keep the role fresh after do many performances?
RK: I’m always playing! Every night there’s something different I want to accomplish — how “easy” can I make this feel, what color do I want to try tonight, what subtext will I focus on to color my characterization, and how does that affect the way my instrument responds to the rep? I let my curiosity run wild and see where it goes. Plus, things are always different at every performance, from my own energy level and mood and body, to the audience, to the orchestra, to the many things that go differently (or disastrously!) and how to engage with that and respond in the moment. Singing Queen is very zero-to-sixty, and you only get a few minutes onstage with no time to warm up into the role. I love that challenge.
CS: What other kinds of roles, characters or stories do you hope to sing, and why?
RK: I want to do it all! Music for my type of voice is so rich, spanning characters from queens to ingenues to armed revolutionaries, styles from baroque to hot-off-the-press contemporary. There’s something special to be found in all of it, so my most fervent hope is to have the chance to do as much as I possibly can.
CS: Your career path hasn’t followed the conventional trajectory. What advice do you have for young singers who are trying to find success in the early stages of working after college?
RK: There is no one path. It’s easy to think there is, because careers make sense in hindsight — this led to that, meeting this person opened these doors, etc. But when you’re living it, it’s more like taking a machete to an overgrown jungle than taking a stroll down a well-manicured footpath. Be ready to follow opportunities, because luck favors the prepared. Build a trusted team that can help guide you, but trust yourself to know what is worthwhile and what isn’t. Know who you are, as a person and as an artist — if you’re not sure, dig into that until you discover yourself. And don’t be afraid to ask for help! This is an industry of relationships, and fostering real connections can pay off in unexpected and exciting ways.