Knoxville Opera’s ‘Mary Queen of Scots’: Meet Rochelle Bard

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – When thinking of the musical “The Sound of Music” many people might think of Julie Andrews or the song “Do-Re-Mi.” However for one singer with the Knoxville Opera, the musical reminds her of the day she decided to choose a different path.

Rochelle Bard plays Mary Queen of Scots in Knoxville Opera’s upcoming production. The opera tells the story of the rivalry between Queen Mary and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England. Audience members can expect to see a whirlwind of emotion and passion from the performers.

When living in North Carolina, Bard decided to start singing as a way to have fun outside of her teaching career. She remembers singing the song “Climb Every Mountain” as the role of Mother Abbess when a man came up to Bard. He couldn’t understand why she wasn’t singing professionally.

Related: Knoxville Opera to take on ‘Mary Queen of Scots’

“I don’t know if he was an angel or just a messenger from the future,” jokes Bard.

The moment led her to go back to school to receive a second bachelor’s degree. After that, everything started to fall into place.

She was accepted into many programs, including a master’s program at the New England Conservatory, the Chautauqua Institution voice program,  a fellowship with the Tanglewood Music Center and more.

“It took me many years to identify as a singer,” said Bard. “I told people that I was a pianist everywhere I went.”

The singer has played many leading roles, but her favorites are Norma (“Norma”) and Lady Macbeth (“Macbeth”). Norma was her first role with the Knoxville Opera. She sang for the role several times in New York and Knoxville before getting the part.

During one of her auditions, Executive Director and Conductor Brian Salesky had Bard sing at the Tennessee Theatre…but in the dark.

“It was so funny, we only had one little light on stage,” laughed Bard. “He wanted to make sure my voice could fill that space.”

Bard likes roles that allow her to play intelligent and fierce women who make mistakes.

It takes many people to put on an opera production. Collaboration is key.

“Everyone has their own opinion and somehow we have to come down to an agreement that feels good for everyone,” said Bard. “I love that kind of collaboration. It is magical when it works.”

East Tennesseans can see a sneak peek of “Mary Queen of Scots” during the Rossini Festival International Street Fair April 22. The festival will feature food vendors and performances from many performing arts companies. Bard will perform at 2 p.m. on the Pilot Flying J Opera Stage.

The singer says the opera will be great for fans of the TV shows “The Tudors” and “Reign” to see.

There are many misconceptions about opera. Bard says the language of the show is not important for an audience to know if the performers are giving their all.

“If you see good opera, just the acting alone combined with the beautiful music, sometimes really intense music, should be enough to move you,” said Bard.

Many times, there are subtitles in English for audience members to follow along.

Singers prepare months in advance before taking the stage on opening night. From learning the high notes to translating the words, there are many things singers have to remember while showing emotion.

“It takes months and months to really learn an opera,” said Bard.

On the day of a production, Bard tries to rest and not talk. Also, she makes sure to not get sick weeks before the show.

“Mary Queen of Scots” will be Bard’s third time performing with the Knoxville Opera. It is a special moment for her because the opera’s founder Edward Zabara was one of her teacher’s at the New England Conservatory. He passed away before seeing Bard performing with his company.

“I hope he can see it from heaven. It [Knoxville Opera] was his baby,” said Bard. “He was a brilliant, brilliant man and I’m honored to be here.”

“Mary Queen of Scots” will be at the Tennessee Theatre April 28 and 30. For ticket information, visit Knoxville Opera’s website

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