As we chat over a bite to eat, she recalls a recent conversation with a would-be agent: “It was pretty clear that we weren’t a good fit for each other. Then, just as our meeting was ending, he turned to me and said, ‘You really should consider joining a young artist program at an opera company or doing some competitions. You know, like other sopranos,’ ” she says with a chuckle and more than a little disdain. “As if I hadn’t already thought about that! As if I should be trying to sing ‘Quando m’en vo’ just like everyone else at a competition would do even though I know it isn’t right for my voice.”
Later, I prod her into singing a few bars of it for me, alleged vocal “fach” limitations be damned. She then launches into an utterly beautiful and convincing rendition of Musetta’s famous aria from La Boheme, albeit a bit reigned in. We are, after all, standing just inside the doorways of the Westside Pavillion shopping center in Los Angeles, and she’s trying to not draw too much attention to us. Three lines into it, she stops abruptly and laughs. I laugh. A few of the startled moviegoers who had turned their heads to see this striking woman effortlessly toss-out some Puccini return to their ticket buying.
“Ahhh. Yeah, not really for me. I’d rather sing Stravinsky. Or Bach,” she says with a coquettish grin.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the off-stage Ms. Kamareh in a nutshell. Confident of her talents, yet completely aware of her limitations. Hammy enough to sing an opera aria in a shopping mall, but also unpretentiousness enough to sing an opera aria in a shopping mall. Serious about her craft, but always a a bit of character: spirited, funny, and easy-going. In a word: charismatic.
On stage, she’s that and much more: superb in technique, charming in performance, meticulous in attention to detail. When first we saw Ms. Kamareh in her professional debut, she blew everyone away in a tour-de-force rendition of Oliver Knussen’s thorny Hums & Songs of Winnie the Pooh. Since then, she’s solidified her new music credentials. She was part of the acclaimed production of Invisible Cities, Chris Cerrone’s opera crafted by The Industry and performed at LA’s Union Station. During that run, she fought through a throat illness and still made a successful debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic singing the the second soprano part in Esa-Pekka Salonen’s soaring Wing on Wing. And she’s only in her mid-twenties.
This weekend, she makes her debut with the Los Angeles Master Chorale as soloist in two performances of Tan Dun’s Water Passion After St. Matthew. It’s tough to know who’s more enthusiastic about it, Ms. Kamareh or Grant Gershon, LAMC’s Artistic Director.
“I am so excited about working with Delaram on this piece! She is a fearless performer with an unbelievably flexible voice,” he says. “The Water Passion requires an enormous range of vocal techniques and a fertile imagination as well. There is a lot of improvisation and the soprano soloist embodies many different characters through the course of the work.”
The praise is noteworthy given how important a work it is for Mr. Gershon. “The Water Passion is a piece unlike any other, and the impact of this work is both profound and mysterious. It’s much less of a ‘performance’ than it is a ritual of cleansing. This was the concert that people still talk about the most of anything that we’ve presented at Disney Hall,” he says of the piece first performed by the Master Chorale and him in 2005. “For me personally, returning to the piece in my study and in rehearsal has allowed me the opportunity to imagine its emotional colors even more vividly than the first time.”
“I have to say that Delaram is the absolutely ideal singing artist for this piece!”
For her part, Ms. Kamareh is equally effusive about her opportunity to perform this work with Mr. Gershon and the LAMC. “I’ve been very lucky to perform with many wonderful organizations, but without a doubt, preparing for and rehearsing the Water Passion with the Master Chorale has been the best experience I’ve ever had.”
“They are absolutely lovely people, all of them,” she declares. “And Grant is absolutely amazing! He has a way with newer music that is so clear, so easy to follow. It is such a pleasure to work with him, and this is such a beautiful piece. Gorgeous phrases that are lots of fun to sing. I think people will really love it.”
Yet while her skill in contemporary classical repertoire is now well-established, she takes pains to make it known she doesn’t want it to define her. “I obviously enjoy singing newer music. But I love singing other music too. My absolute favorite is Le chant du rossignol (Stravinsky’s “Songs of the Nightingale”). It’s so beautiful, though I think it still scares some people even though it’s almost 100-years-old. I really enjoy singing baroque music, even some romantic music. It’s just been a little more difficult finding the right music that sits properly for my voice.”
She recently had a chance to show off some of her pre-20th Century chops at a performance with the Classical Underground where she sang works by Back, Vivaldi, Strauss, and Stravinsky. “It was honestly the most terrifying performance of my life,” she confesses. “I’d been going there for many years as just an audience member. I loved the salon-like atmosphere, being among people dedicated to just being artists in such an intimate setting.”
“And everybody would chat with each other about each performance as friends do. So when I finally performed with them, it scared me because these are all friends, artists and musicians themselves, who know me well. Luckily, I made it through without freaking out!”
You can find videos of those performances HERE. This coming weekend, you can catch Ms. Kamareh, along with baritone Stephen Bryant, instrumentalists Shalini Vijayan, Cecilia Tsan, David Cossin, Yuanlin Chen, in Tan Dun’s Water Passion after St. Matthew with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, conducted by Grant Gershon.
- A million miles away, everywhere at once:Invisible Cities is an opera that embodies the LA experience
- Soprano Delaram Kamareh, Knussen’sWinnie the Pooh steal the show at Southwest Chamber Music
- Delaram Kamareh, portrait: courtesy of the artist’s Facebook page
- Delaram Kamareh with Southwest Chamber Music: Timothy Strempfer for All is Yar
- Delaram Kamareh in Union Station during Invisible Cities: CK Dexter Haven
- Delaram Kamareh, Martha Argerich, et al: courtesy of Classical Underground’s blog