The International Opera Institute presents a celebration of Streisand and Sinatra in “The Concert That Never Was” At The Indian Wells Performing Arts Center on November 10 at 7:30 pm. “The Concert That Never Was” is a concert between Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand that was planned but never took place. This stellar evening will be performed by Opera and Jazz Diva Rose Kingsley, Actor and Entertainer Richard Shelton and The Bob Corwin Trio. I had the chance to catch up with Ms. Kingsley to talk about her storied career and the upcoming Streisand/Sinatra Concert. Here are a few excerpts from that interview:
DG: Where are you from and how did your life lead you into a career in theatre?
RK: I was born in Newark, NJ and grew up in Irvington, NJ. My Mom said that at 2 years old I was singing and dancing around the living room. When I was three she enrolled me in a local dancing school, “Myra Witt School of Dance”. She took me for my first lesson. When the teacher asked us to do a certain movement, I remember not being able to do what she asked. Already being highly ‘dramatic’, I sat down and cried throughout the lesson. My Mother took me back numerous times, but remembering my ‘experience’ i refused to partake in the class! She thought ‘okay, i guess she doesn’t want to dance!” Two years later, I had a parakeet that I adored. When he passed away , I was devastated. My Mom then asked if I wanted another parakeet or something else, I quickly answered “I want to go back to dancing school! ” Back to Miss Myra’s we went. And that’s where I knew, at the age of 5, that the Stage was to be my home. At the age of seven, Miss Myra told my Mother that I had all ‘the makings’ of becoming a ballerina — my build, my grace, my feet, long legs and the love and dedication that she saw I already had were perfect for the ballet stage. That was all I had to hear. I counted the hours and days till Saturday Morning dance classes From the age of seven through twelve I ate, slept and drank dance. Not only Ballet, but Tap, Jazz even Hawaiian Dance. I also adored singing and at eleven I began voice lessons. At fourteen I had earned a Scholarship to the Ballet School at American Ballet Theatre. We lived 40 minutes from NYC and I would take the #107 bus that went right by my house into NYC for Dance and Vocal lessons after school and weekends. At fifteen I was accepted into The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and spent my Saturday Mornings learning how to Act. Although, my Mom said I was a born actress. So I was busy with Dance, Voice and Drama Lessons. High School was a total bore and couldn’t wait till it was over !!!!!!
DG: Talk about your experiences with The Metropolitan Opera and how did that affiliation all come about?
One evening as a Junior in High School, I was watching a TV special on the opening of the New Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. They were talking about the opening of the opera “Anthony” and how they needed extra singers, dancers and Actors. Unbeknownst to my Parents, I wrote a letter to the Met and told them about my background. Remember, I had just turned 16. A couple of weeks later, at dinnertime, the phone rang and I answered it. I was from The Met. They said they were doing a new production of Lohengrin and they were looking for some Actors that had dance training, and could I be there tomorrow morning at 10:00 for an audition? I calmly said “yes”. When I sat back down at the dinner table I announced that I wasn’t going to school tomorrow, but I was going to The Met. My Father didn’t believe it and thought it was a crank call. “Why would The Met be calling you?” He had no idea that I sent the Met a letter. He quickly got up and called The Met and found out that the call was real. My parents were in shock. The next day , along with my mother , we arrived at The Met at 10:00 sharp and I was cast , as a Nun, in my first Opera at The Met. So, that’s how it all began. From there I worked my way into the extra Ballet and Chorus. After two years, the Met became my second home and I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. When I was accepted to The Juilliard School, a couple of Conductors on The Met Music Staff asked if I could sing for them at a private audition. I diid. They felt that I had great potential and they could give me greater training than the Vocal Teachers at Juilliard at that time . How could I say no to be trained at The Met ? I did attend Juilliard as a special student for my musicality and language training . That’s how it all began. For ten years I studied and coached with some of the greatest Conductors and Singers in the world including Roberta Peters, Leonard Bernstein and Maria Callas.
DG: How did you transition from The Opera World to The Musical Theatre World, and then to Jazz?
RK: During my opera years, I felt that my classically trained voice was right to sing many Broadway Shows including Carousel, Brigadoon, The Sound of Music , Do I Hear A Waltz , Fiddler On A The Roof and Funny Girl. Even though I knew my passion was Opera and performing on the Opera Stage, my Idol was none other than “BABS”. I felt her emotion and passion in everyone of her songs. The times I would sing some of her songs people would say “oh, you sound and emote the passion that Barbra does .” She definitely has had an impact on my career. I am a ‘Singing Actress”. So is Barbra. I find we are so much alike in so many ways. I am quite sure that we were related back in ‘the old country”. Her Grandparents along with mine came from the same city. So, who knows ? The ‘Jazz’ part of my career came about 5 years ago. I was at Vicky’s of Santa Fe (in the desert) one evening and a dear friend, Pat Rizzo, a legendary Sax Player, asked me to ‘sit in’. He only knew me as an Opera Diva, and I would usually sing something ‘classical’. That evening I didn’t. I sang a Jazz song in my Jazz Voice. I don’t what possessed me but I did. Pat fell off his chair and said, ” I didn’t know you could sing like that. You’re great !” At the piano that night was Bob Corwin who was Johnny Mercer‘s Son in law and was Johnny’s Pianist and Collaborator for over 20 years. Pat suggested that we immediately start working together. We produced our first Jazz CD together with The Bob Corwin Trio, not long after that night. That CD received 5 Star Reviews from The Associated Press, Jazz Weekly and Jazz Monthly. It is now being played on all major Jazz Stations throughout the country including “Siriusly Sinatra”! It was that that my NYC Publicist, Tom Estey, labeled me ‘Opera Great Turned Jazz Great’ ! I am now performing at some of the Greatest Jazz Clubs In the World including Birdland, Feinsteins, 54 Below, The Catalina Jazz Club and Vitellos.
DG: How do you know when you are connected to a specific piece of material and that you want to include it in your repertoire?
RK: In order for me to sing , whether it be Opera, Jazz, Pop or Broadway, I have to feel connected to it. I need to feel the intonation, the chords, the dynamic of the piece as well as what is being conveyed emotionally !
DG: How did you get connected to The Mercer Songbook?
RK: Because of my closeness with Bob Corwin I realized my ’emotional connection’ to The Mercer Songbook. Talk abut 1400 songs to choose from. Mr. Mercer certainly has not only musicality, but the Great Gift of a poet. What he could do with words and be so prolific. No other lyricist could possibly touch his talent. Mercer and ‘Rose” is like a ‘Hand In a Glove’. Johnny’s Grandchildren come to my Mercer Shows and they have said, ‘if my Grandfather could only hear you” and “what you bring to his songs. He would have loved you.”
DG: How did you get the idea for this current SInatra/Streisand Show and how did you team up with Richard Shelton?
RK: This past July I was debuting my new show ‘Mercer And Whiting Together Again -Too Marvelous For Words in Hollywood and in the audience was Michael Feinstein. He said to me, ‘You are amazing and I love the way you interpret the songs”. What an honor it was to perform for him. In that audience, also, was The Mercer & Whiting Family. So special. Richard Shelton was at that show. Richard is probably one of the greatest International Sinatra Tribute Singers. …He is also a very fine British Actor and has won many awards for his interpretations of Frank Sinatra. When he heard me sing he was so impressed that he asked if I would like to do a show with him. Sinatra and Streisand. What two better singers? Frank and Barbra never really got to sing together , although a concert was planned. So, it became “The Concert That Never Was”. After our show here in Palm Desert, we will be taking it to NYC, and London.
DG: What do you hope audiences will walk away with after one of your concerts?
RK : After every concert I hope that people will feel the love and emotion that I have poured into each song. Making the words come alive with meaning. Coming from every ounce of my Soul !
DG: What would your advice be to young people who have aspirations for careers in professional music and theatre?
RK: For 15 Years I was The Artistic Director of The Opera Institute Of California and The International Opera Institute. I have taught over 300 students and proud to say that many of them are now performing throughout the world on Opera Stages. I would always tell them, ‘Perfect your art. Never give up. If you can dream it, you can do it!”
DG: Career highlights?
RK: Let’s see. I have performed for three U.S. Presidents (George HW Bush, William Clinton and Gerald Ford),Vice President Dan Quayle and HRH Prince Charles. I have performed with Luciano Pavoratti, Placido Domingo, Leonard Bernstein, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Connie Francis, Kathryn Grayson , Vic Damone, Kaye Ballard, Bobby Rydell, and the list goes on. Those are highlights!
Don’t miss Rose Kingsley and Richard Shelton in “The Concert That Never Was” for one special performance at The Indian Wells Performing Arts Center on November 10 at 7″30 pm. Tickets are available on Eventbrite and at www.rosekingsley.com.
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