A recording of Halka from the Theater an der Wien was released on DVD in January 2022. In the title role American soprano Corinne Winters, who had been steadily gaining fame in Europe in previous years. The recording dated from 2019 and Winters’ career had been at a low ebb since then as a result of the Covid epidemic. But 2022 was going to be a great year for her. For those not yet really familiar with Corinne Winters, now first a retrospective.
Born in 1983, she first performed in a professional production in ….. 2011. That was a late career start and this fill-in for a pregnant Mélisande in St.Louis turned out to be the starting point for a real catch-up. Winters was advised to audition for ENO and in 2013 she sang Violetta there in Konwitschny’s production of La traviata. There seem to have been quite a few casting directors and intendants in the premiere audience, including reportedly Sophie de Lint. Be that as it may, her performance attracted strong attention. Bachtrack wrote about it: ‘Corinne Winters was an outstanding Violetta, who proved capable of controlling the various aspects of vocal technique demanded by Verdi’s operatic tour de force.’ And on the Planet Hugill blog we read: ‘Winters is a lyric soprano, but one with the resources to not only sing La traviata without an interval but to take her through Act 3 with flying colours. She did everything asked of her and more, and was simply mesmerising. She has quite a bright voice, without excessive vibrato so that it was a beautifully clean expressive performance. I do hope that we hear her again soon in the UK.’
Winters with Michael Spyers in Benvenuto Cellinii in the ENO
The wait didn’t last too long: in 2014 Winters sang in that madcap production Terry Gilliam made of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini. Bachtrack: ‘Corinne Winters, returning to the Coliseum after her spectacular debut as Violetta last season, wowed us once again as Teresa. Her Act I aria “Hearts full of love” was wonderfully sung, but the cabaletta which followed treated us to a cascade of coloratura, glittering with diamonds. Winters displayed bags of personality, including a knack for comedy.’
Interest in Winters was piqued among European casting directors and engagements at Opera Vlaanderen followed as Donna Anna and Desdemona, and then also the role she had already performed in America: Mélisande. A recording of that performance in Zurich has been released on DVD. Soon after, she made her debut at the Royal Opera House as a brilliant Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, also released on DVD. From then on, she has definitely managed to add Europe and the very best opera houses to her field of activity.
Of course, there were also performances in the United States, including, in 2017, her role debut in Seattle as Katia in Janáček’s Katia Kabanova, which would become her signature role. A review said: ‘Maryland soprano Corinne Winters was vocally secure and dramatically intense, in the challenging role of Katya. Winters conveyed the soul-searing turmoil of a woman with deeply-held religious belief that extra-marital sexual thoughtsare mortal sins, yet who accedes to a liaison with Boris while her husband is away.’ ‘
My first meeting with Corinne Winters dates from 2019 when I saw her as Rachel in Halevy’s La Juive. It was a production by Konwitschny which I saw in Gent. I wrote about it: ‘In the big scene with her rival Eudoxie, Rachel sings from the auditorium. This creates a literal rift between the two. Soprano Corinne Winters used the parterre row 6 and was immediately in front of me. She had a very big voice, never forced herself and was always in control, with her wonderful timbre and no trace of any vibrato. In the revealing scene her acting was also very strong, she was truly convincing the audience of her disbelieve and I got the impression that she was on the verge of berating Léopold in a very ranting Italian.’
Shortly afterwards came Halka and what immediately stands out in that production is her great range. She initially ‘was’ a mezzo and decided to make the transition to the soprano profession. But this has not come at the expense of the low register. Most of the time, as Halka, she is just a real mezzo who can also handle the heights effortlessly. And, what I find so important: she can sing very softly in all registers
I have never heard and seen her as Butterfly but I can hardly imagine her Cio-Cio-San cutting through the soul even more than Halka does. It is the most moving performance I know of her to date.
Meanwhile, we are back in that stellar year 2022 when I got to experience Corinne Winters as Giorgetta and Suor Angelica. This was a production of Il trittico at La Monnaie Brussels. Due to the Covid epidemic the premiere was sung by a colleague but fortunately I was in the audience for the last performance and she totally lived up to my expectations.
Those Puccini heroines were all role debuts and right after followed another: Jenufa in the opera of the same name. This was a production by Tatjana Gürbaca in Geneva, where Winters would return later in the year for Gürbaca’s Katia Kabanova. That it would become her signature role has been proven by now, especially after her debut as Katia at the Salzburg Festival where she was so very successful. We will surely see her there more often in the future, be it not in 202
The year ended with Les dialogues des Carmélites in Rome. She sang Blanche de la Force there in a production by Emma Dante, and with great success. Jenufa is scheduled for januari 2023 in Valencia but since she was already there she had to jump in last minute as Mimi in La Bohème at the end of December ’22. This lady is a real jack of all trades and although Katia has become her calling card, I hope that in the future she will give us many more performances of all the other roles in her repertoire: Yolanthe, Tatjana, Fiordiligi, Desdemona and so on.
Les dialogues des Carmélites;
When asked, she was able to tell on her fanpage that a DVD of Katia in Salzburg will probably be released in due course: ‘stay tuned’. That is something to look forward to and in the meantime, of course, there are those recordings with her Mélisande, Fiordiligi and Halka. Corinne Winters has made it all the way and that is worth some heartfelt congratulations.