Bradley’s career was beginning to surge nationally and internationally when she sang here in 2019, but like her fellow performers everywhere, her career was put on hold when the Covid-19 pandemic closed theaters and other concert venues in March of 2020.
“I can’t complain about that,” she said diplomatically in a phone interview last month. “I was supposed to do sing with San Francisco Opera and [Great Britain’s] Royal Opera House—but fortunately the Royal Opera House paid half of my contracted fee!”
Bradley spent nine months of the pandemic with her family in Kentucky. “I am so grateful for that time with them because it kept me from getting too depressed,” she said. “With other members of my family, we were engaged in virtual services with my home church, and that kept my voice in shape.”
She also produced three virtual recitals from her home. “My nephew is a computer whiz,’ she explained, “and he discovered the best place to record me was in the bathroom. So I would get all dressed up and we would go into the bathroom to record!”
For Bradley, the restrictions the pandemic brought about several unexpected benefits.
“I learned just how much I can endure, and how to appreciate my life more. Being close to my family was something I discovered I needed. When I was performing regularly, I was traveling so much, so it was nice simply to be at home, being around people who really loved me. At first I had this scary thought—I’m not going to sing again—which made me a little depressed.”
She summed up her conclusion about living though the pandemic: “leaning patience and faith.” Although she admitted, “I’m still working on the patience half of that equation.”
Bradley proved eager to talk about selecting music for her upcoming San Diego recital.
“I decided I would sing music I was always scared to do. With all of the time I’ve have during the pandemic, I definitely wanted to challenge myself, so this recital will be completely devoted to music in English.” Bradley reflected on the profound influence of her musical mentor in graduate school, Myra Merritt, a teacher who encouraged her to learn the songs written for Leontyne Price by the great American composers Ned Rorem and Samuel Barber. And she noted in graduate school, she appeared in the role of Lady Billows in Benjamin Britten’s comic opera Albert Herring.
“I wanted to go back to that time, so I chose Barber’s Hermit Songs,” a cycle of 10 songs written in 1953 that was premiered by Price in a recital at the Library of Congress with the composer at the piano. “Although Barber’s rhythms are really difficult, by now they have become a staple. Because all of his texts have a religious foundation, I love singing them, now that I have grown into an older adult. At this stage of life we are looking for something greater than ourselves.”
After her San Diego recital, Bradley will be performing the title role of Lyric Opera Chicago’s Tosca. Having just finished singing Liù in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Puccini’s Turandot, Bradley concluded with evident satisfaction, “This is my Puccini year!”
San Diego Opera presents Michelle Bradley in recital Saturday, November 20, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Avenue, La Jolla, CA.