A Requiem Rescue: Robyn Marie Lamp takes over for ill soprano at Southwest Florida Symphony performance
FORT MYERS, FLA. – With an 11th-hour cast change for a soloist, the Southwest Florida Symphony seamlessly performed Giuseppe Verdi’s powerful Requiem to a packed house on Saturday, March 2.
When the soprano originally cast fell ill during the dress rehearsal, a few hours before showtime, management for the symphony began an urgent search for a replacement. That understudy would have to be able to sing the complicated work and perform with a cast of singers, a chorus and a conductor she had never met.
Symphony Executive Director Amy Ginsburg and General Manager Susan Anderson contacted performing arts institutions throughout Central and South Florida, as well as the East Coast of the United States. They needed a soprano meeting their criteria who could be dressed, warmed up and ready to perform — with only a few hours’ notice.
Robyn Marie Lamp, a soprano from Oakland Park, had trained for several months in the work, but hadn’t yet performed it onstage. She had been learning it for an upcoming performance in Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Mass. Fortuitously, Lamp was already in Southwest Florida March 2 for a concert that afternoon.
She was in Naples, starring in “Opera Meets Broadway” with baritone Norm Lewis for Gulfshore Opera. In it, Lamp performed most of the title role songs from Lucrezia Borgia by Gaetano Donizetti, then joined Lewis for a cabaret style concert including the well-known “Bess, you is my woman now” from Porgy and Bess.
Florida Grand Opera General Director Susan Danis and Orchestra Miami Artistic Director Elaine Rinaldi put Ginsburg in touch with Lamp. “The performing arts community throughout Florida selflessly came to our rescue on a Saturday afternoon, when they were all likely preparing for their own performances that night,” Ginsburg said. “Not only did they rush to our aid, but they found us a star.
“I have never been more grateful,” Ginsburg said. “Robyn called me to accept the role at 2 p.m., pulled into the parking lot at 7:10 p.m., jumped out of her car in a flowing evening gown, gave me a big hug, and said, ‘let’s rock and roll!’ She was onstage, cool as a cucumber and dazzling our audience, by 7:30. Her performance was breathtaking. You couldn’t write a better story than that!”
Gulfshore Executive Director Steffanie Pearce, hearing of the symphony’s emergency, released Lamp from post-show commitments so she could drive to Fort Myers — with only two hours between the end of the Gulfshore performance and the start of the Requiem.
“I looked Robyn in the eyes and knew she could and must do it,” Pearce said. “She possesses a unique world-class voice — comparable to Joan Sutherland in resonance. And she undoubtedly gave a glorious performance that evening, just as she had earlier in the day.”
“This was my first time singing it, which was the crazy part,” Lamp said. “I learned all the notes and rhythms sitting at the piano on my own. Then when I knew all the notes I took it to my favorite coaches and teachers to ‘get it into my voice.’ Now I just reinforce it with practicing it daily.”
“It was heroic,” said Birgit Djupedal Fioravante, executive director of Opera Fusion and one of those coaches. “It takes nerve and incredible vocal stamina to sing either of these works, but back to back within a few hours and with no warning, that is the stuff of which legends are made.”
The Requiem is a musical setting of the parts of a Requiem Mass in the Catholic Church. Verdi’s version is operatic in scale and dramatic, calling for a large orchestra and chorus as well as four soloists: soprano, alto, tenor, bass.
“The soprano ends the piece with the gorgeous ‘Libera me,’ ” Lamp said. “I frequently joked that I will die a happy soprano if I get to sing one Verdi Requiem in my lifetime. But after singing this amazing work, I’ve come to realize that I’ll only die a happy soprano if I get to sing 500 performances of this incredible piece of music!”