Aline Kutan is, no doubt, a true rock star.
Although her instrument is not readily apparent, she wears more stage makeup than the members of Kiss combined and performs in front of huge crowds, bringing the audience to its feet every night.
No, she is not part of an 80s hair band. Better yet, she is an opera diva.
Kutan is performing as The Queen of the Night in Mozart’s opera classic The Magic Flute, at Opera de Montreal at Place des Arts from Nov. 7 to 21.
The role is old hat for the actress at this point; she has been playing The Queen of the Night since 1991, in over 20 productions worldwide. Yet, she is content to recreate the part in Montreal, where she has lived since emigrating from Turkey at the age of 10.
“Every production is always different musically and production wise,” the actress said. “I get bored if I’m in different cities, but it’s nice to be home in Montreal.”
Kutan, a soprano of Armenian origin, started singing and performing at an early age, and followed her passion to Quebec City to study opera at UniversitÃ© de Laval at 20. Her big break came at 22 when she starred as Carlotta in the Canadian national tour of Phantom of the Opera.
Kutan fondly remembers how she got the part.
“I wasn’t auditioning for the job,” she said, “a friend came to me with a newspaper clipping for Phantom auditions, and he was [a francophone], so he wanted my help learning the [English] arias.”
Kutan, who had never heard of Phantom, decided to help her friend learn the part, and decided to audition herself.
“I thought I would do the audition for experience,” she said, “but when we got there, they told him thank you very much, and when I went in, they wanted a second aria.”
Kutan was then invited to audition in Toronto for Hal Prince, the original director of Phantom, where she got the part, performing the show eight times a week.
Kutan has since moved on from musical theatre, choosing to perform pure operas instead.
“I didn’t want to be Celine Dion,” she said. “I love hiding behind the masks and makeup, it’s a continuation of what I did as a kid, dressing in my mothers clothing.”
Kutan also chose opera because of her naturally high singing voice; she is capable of sustaining high C’s and D’s.
“[In] musical theatre you get to sing with mics,” Kutan said. “Opera is [sung] acoustically in front of many people, so you need to learn to sing long phrases.”
The Montreal production of The Magic Flute is a family affair for the cast; many of Kutan’s long time colleagues reprise their roles in this production as well. “Karina [Gauvin] is a good friend of mine and she is a superstar,” Kutan said of The Magic Flute’s Pamina, the female lead.
In short, The Magic Flute is about Prince Tamino who tries to rescue a princess from her kidnapper and from her wicked mother (the Queen) with the help of his flute.
The Queen does not have much stage time; she only sings her two arias, in the first and second acts. During her offstage time, Kutan likes to occupy herself with other daily chores.
“I’ve been known to do my taxes at work,” said Kutan when she played the Queen in Victoria, B.C. “My colleagues would pass by my door and see me do my taxes in full costume.”
Kutan does have the most recognizable song in the show, her Act two aria, “Der HÃ¶lle Rache” (translated as “Hell’s vengeance”). In the song, the Queen, in a fit of rage, forces her daughter to assassinate her enemy, placing a knife in her hand, promising to curse her daughter if she does not comply.
Kutan says it takes a while for her to cool down after performing the aria.
“It takes me a few minutes to get back to myself after that song,” she admitted, “because I’m in a manic temperament, but [once I get] backstage I usually try to entertain my colleagues.”
Although she has sung the same song for almost two decades, she hasn’t yet gotten tired of it.
“I don’t [get sick of singing the song] because I don’t really think about the notes, I’m thinking about what I am expressing,” she said. “The Queen of the Night is a very interesting character . . . [onstage] I’m thinking about how she is angry and trying to get her power back, in a very vain and fairytale like way.”
Although the tickets for the opera are pricey, Kutan says this opera is worth it. She guarantees The Magic Flute will rock out harder than any other concert.
“Opera is an expression . . . it’s true seats cost money, but the experience is so uplifting and wonderful,” she said. “What makes Magic Flute so special is it is so timeless; good and evil. The show is live and it’s better than a rock concert.”
Aline Kutan is, no doubt, a true rock star.