Q&A with Deborah Voigt

This week we caught up with Deborah Voigt, the international opera superstar, who joins the San Francisco Girls Chorus as a special guest for An American Christmas, Monday, December 7. Deborah Voigt, soprano; Photography by Dario Acosta

SFGC: As a performer, you travel a lot. How do you manage all of the various repertoire, traveling, and life on the road? DV: It’s never easy! I have to stay focused on the task at hand, and try to make myself as at home on the road as I can–it’s always nicest when my little dog, Steinway, comes along for the ride.

SFGC: Who are you most inspired by? DV: I’ve been very inspired by the characters I’ve played over the years. For example, Sieglinde from Wagner’s Die Walküre – there’s something about her I really identify with. I think it’s the resilience: she’s in this horrific place and yet she still hopes and wants. I often wish I had her strength and courage.

SFGC: Do you have a favorite Christmas carol and why is it your favorite? DV: Who doesn’t love to sing Christmas songs? Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I learned to love snow and winter too. One of my favorites has always been “The Christmas Song.” Karen Carpenter was a huge inspiration to me and I’ve always loved her version. I was raised very religious so I have a soft spot for more religious Christmas carols too.

SFGC: When did you know you wanted to be a singer? DV: I’ve felt that I wanted to sing my entire life. As a toddler I begged my grandmother to put on her vinyl record album of My Fair Lady. I learned all the songs by heart and belted them out in Grandma’s living room, outfitted in her apron and one of her pillbox hats! As I describe in my memoir, I was called on to sing by God. When I was lying in bed one morning, at 14 years old, I heard His voice saying: “You are here to sing.” I sang at church, at school, in Christmas pageants, wherever I could. I could tell by people’s faces that there was something special about my voice, and I lived for those moments of connection! At one with an audience, I felt at one with myself.

SFGC: Why did you decide to write a book? DV: Basically I wanted my audience to know who I am–that’s why I decided to write Call Me Debbie. It’s a very honest book, and it was difficult for me to write it, but cathartic in many ways too–it ended up being an emotional map of my life. I just felt it was time to let everything out, and although it left me feeling emotionally naked, I hoped it might help other people with their own struggles.

SFGC: What advice would you have for young singers interested in making their career in music? DV: Do the best that you can in the job that you are doing right now. Many people will offer advice and you have to learn which opinions to listen to – to take the best advice and let the rest go. In the end it’s about trusting your own experience. I believe in supporting young opera singers and giving them guidance, and I recently worked with the Vero Beach Opera in Florida to put together an International Vocal Competition–the first one will take place in March.