Nili Riemer is en route to Kansas City to begin rehearsals for The Pirates of Penzance, in which she will sing the role of Mabel. Nili took a few moments out of her busy schedule to share answers to 10 questions with our readers.
1. Where did you grow up?
Israel, Massachusetts, South Carolina and New Jersey, then went to school in Boston/ Milan (study abroad), and New York.
I was born in Israel and lived there until I was nine. My family moved to Newton, Massachusetts when I was in the fourth grade—the first time I saw snow and learned how to ski on the “East Coast” snow (aka- ice). Next, we moved to Greenville, South Carolina (before BMW moved there), so my Middle School days were spent in the idyllic South, swinging on a rope across the creek (pronounced: crick) in our backyard. Next, we moved to New Jersey (exit 14 off of the NJ turnpike, just in case you were about to ask me the “which exit” joke/question!), where I attended public school at Randolph High School until my graduation and subsequent studies at Tufts University, New England Conservatory, and SUNY Binghamton.
I loved moving as a kid-meeting new people, going to a new school, choosing which room would be mine and where I would put all of my books, tapes, and (eventually) CDs-but I’m also very glad that my family chose to stay in one area during my high school years.
If I learned anything from those early years of packing all of my treasures into boxes and labeling them for the moving men, it was-how to pack light for my life on the road as a professional!
2. What is an average day like for you? Do you have a set routine?
Sleep as late as possible because I’m a night owl (I do my best work and Google-research between midnight and 3am)!
During a production I will practice running lines or scenes of the day before my rehearsal begins, then it’s off to rehearsal.
I don’t have a set routine, but my day always involves talking with friends and family on one of the following methods of communication: skype, ichat, google-chat, facebook-chat..and as a last resort-my cell phone!
3. Have you performed your role in The Pirates of Penzance before? What intrigues you about the role of Mabel?
I haven’t performed this role before and I’m very excited to be performing it for the first time here!
This is going to be the first time that I’m performing a work by Gilbert and Sullivan, and what intrigues me most is the history and record of performance that precedes me.
From the 1879 opening in New York City on New Year’s Eve, Pirates has been a hit. It toured with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company throughout England for almost 100 years! And of course, everyone knows SOME of the words to “Modern Major General”, or has seen the Public Theater of New York production with Rex Smith, Linda Ronstadt, and Kevin Kline as the swashbuckling Pirate King.
With such a high profile work, I hope to make this first performance of Mabel just as memorable and fun, whether the audience has seen or heard the music before, or not!
4. What language(s) do you speak fluently?
I’m fluent in English and Hebrew with a pretty high level of Italian and French thanks to study abroad immersion programs. I also lived in Munich for a summer to study German.
5. How did your initial interest in the art form of opera begin?
My dream was to sing Christine in Phantom, Cosette in Les miserables, Sarah in Guys and Dolls and a number of other Broadway leading ladies as a younger singer. Although we listened to classical music in my family, it was mostly instrumental. My first introduction to opera was really from my first voice teacher, and also-those arias that you hear in the background tracks to Ghirardelli chocolate commercials (The flower duet from Lakme), and Ragu Spaghetti sauce commercials (“O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicci).
After I learned my first aria and translated it into Italian I realized how much amazing repertoire was a part of this art form, and knew that I wanted to be a part of that.
6. What is your favorite opera to watch/experience?
This is a tough question! I have had the opportunity to see and hear many wonderful performances that I will never forget, but I don’t think that I have a favorite.
Many times, the production that I’m singing in becomes my favorite, because I am living in it for 5 weeks of rehearsals; between costume fittings, wig fittings, staging, orchestra rehearsals, director’s notes, and tech week, it’s hard to think about anything else!
7. Where is your favorite place to perform?
It’s a tie between the shower (great acoustics!) and once when I was visiting the Roman amphitheater in Verona as a tourist and I started singing “O mio babbino caro” because it was a once in a life-time thing to do-and all of the other tour guides and tour groups thought I was crazy, but they clapped anyway!
8. What is the opera role you haven’t performed, but would like to perform the most in your career?
I would really love to sing the entire role of Zerbinetta in Strauss’s Ariadne Auf Naxos (I’ve sung it in pieces and in concert, but not in its entirety, yet!)-the vocal prowess and ‘gymnastics’ that the role requires both physically and vocally are amazing. And she is a smart, sensual, and sarcastic character that I think I could really have fun with onstage.
9. If you bumped into me at a coffee shop and learned that I had never been to an opera before, what would you say to entice me to give it a try?
I would ask you what your favorite TV show is, and then let you know that MOST likely, there is an opera that has just as much drama and may EVEN be in HD (thanks to the MET’s recent program to bring opera to the movies), and the only difference is, it’s all sung, you can’t DVR it, and there are subtitles.
Desperate Housewives: you think Edie, Mike, and Susan had issues? Try Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro-Susanna, Count and Countess have more problems on their hands and with their in-laws than the folks living on Wisteria Lane.
House: Main character is a self-loathing, sarcastic artist-genius type that has to try and save lives? Meet Rodolfo from Puccini’s La boheme- talented dramatist and poet, who with his three friends must try to save the dying Mimi.
Lost: A plane crash, mistaken identities, and a hope for return to the mainland. Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri; A shipwreck, a search for a long-lost fiancée, Turkish disguises in order to escape the captors.
Family Guy (yes, I can even do this for cartoons!): Brian the dog, bumbling and well-intentioned Peter, and tangential vignettes—perfect! Try Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann: Nicklausse the Muse, troubled and beer-filled Hoffmann, and Acts that take place in a mad scientist’s lair, a Munich music room, and a Venetian Palace on the Grand Canal.
Gossip Girl: Blair, Serena, Nate, Dan, Jenny—all this teen angst and relationship drama while living the upper class life in New York’s most posh apartments. How about Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte-only Despina and Alfonso know the truth about the true love and fidelity of Fiordiligi and Dorabella’s fair-weather boyfriends!
10. What facts about you would our audience be surprised to learn?
I am a down-to-earth-diva– I do love the glitz and glamour of the opera performer life style, the thrill of the curtain rising on a new performance, the triumphant last curtain call, opening night galas with gowns and grand entrances, but at the end of the night I kick off my heels, put on a pair of fuzzy slippers, have some tea, and settle into bed with a good book-and my ideal day off is spent reading the Sunday New York Times, wearing sneakers and my favorite pair of jeans, and laughing with friends over a late brunch that includes the latest Hollywood gossip.
Also, not many people know that I actually went to school for a degree in International Relations with a concentration in Mid-East policy. If I hadn’t received an immediate scholarship to pursue my Master of Music degree, I was going to apply for internships in D.C. and with the United Nations.