A Chat with Jamie Barton, 2024 Filene Artist in Residence

A Chat with Jamie Barton, 2024 Filene Artist in Residence
May 28, 2024

Before the 2024 season, Wolf Trap Opera spoke with Filene Artist in Residence Jamie Barton (’09) to reflect on her time with WTO and what she’s excited to share with this year’s artists.

Wolf Trap Opera (WTO): How did WTO’s program set you up for success in your creative and professional endeavors? Any special moments that stand out?

Jamie Barton (JB): My summer with Wolf Trap Opera was such a pivotal moment for me. I was a young singer, directly out of the young artist program at the Houston Grand Opera and had very few leading roles under my belt. In fact, to that point, I had never played a romantic lead! Not only did I get to do that at Wolf Trap (singing Penelope in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria), but I was also buoyed forth in that journey by a group of leaders who were all passionate about helping young singers develop their own artistry. As an artist at WTO, you are given the reins of responsibility for things like developing recitals or singing lead roles, but always shepherded hand-in-hand by established artists, conductors, and directors. It’s an incredibly unique model, given that most summer programs tend to cast established artists in their shows and only let the young artists understudy or sing very small roles. (And as favorite memories go, there is nothing quite as memorable as singing in German about cowboys in Arizona with a mustache on!)

From the archives: One of Jamie Barton’s (third from right) favorite WTO memories.

WTO: What has been your favorite role to perform? Any dream roles?

JB: This might be a funny thing to admit, but I absolutely love singing witches. The Witch in Hänsel und Gretel and Jezibaba in Rusalka are two of my favorites, not only because they’re totally scrumptious roles to sing, but also because I can do just about anything I want to with the characters! There is a freedom that comes with singing roles based on women who exist outside of societal expectations, particularly ones who have magical powers. As for dream roles, I’ve gotten to do so many that I had dreamed of for so long! I would love to do a staged Carmen… I’ve only had the pleasure of singing her in concert. There is also another witch I would love to sing, which is The Witch in Into the Woods… I absolutely love that character, and I am a huge fan of Sondheim. I would love to get to sink my teeth into that particular role!

WTO: What excites you about returning to work with WTO as the Filene Artist in Residence?

JB: I’m really excited to return to Wolf Trap Opera as the Filene Artist in Residence because I am so completely into the idea of supporting the emerging artists there this summer. Emerging artists are inspiring to me… they tend to come in with new ideas and lots of curiosity, and that combination is fertile ground for exciting artistry. I myself stand on the shoulders of the artists who inspired and encouraged me along, so the fact that I now get the chance to be a value add for a current young artist just feels incredibly full circle to me!

WTO: You’ve been a big advocate for how you use your voice both on and off the stage. What advice do you hope to share with this year’s emerging artists?

JB: If nothing else, I hope that I get to inspire these emerging artists to be brave and intentional with how they use their voices, both technically speaking from a pedagogical standpoint, but also from a figurative and personal place. Art isn’t just a fun divertissement… art holds the potential to change hearts and minds. I strongly believe that being part of an art form that quite literally has people interested in listening to artists’ voices is an opportunity to choose what we give voice to. How we choose to wield that gift has the potential for tremendous impact in the world around us. It just takes vulnerability, bravery, and a commitment to staying checked in with your own gut.

See Jamie Barton at her free Public Master Class on July 10 (reservation required) or in recital at The Barns on July 14!


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