Soprano Erica Schuller has been praised for her “lively personality, abundant charm, and luscious vocalism” (Chicago Tribune), and for “her warm, agile soprano full of passion and depth” (Chicago Classical Review). She has performed leading and supporting roles with the Boston Early Music Festival, Haymarket Opera Company, Florentine Opera Company, Opera Siam and Skylight Opera Theatre, among others. As a soloist, Ms. Schuller has appeared with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the San Francisco Bach Choir, Second City Musick Baroque Ensemble and Great Lakes Baroque. Upcoming engagements include roles with The Boston Early Music Festival, and concert appearances with the Lincoln Trio, the St. Chrysostom’s Concert Series and Theatre Comique of San Francisco.
Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Ms. Schuller earned her Master of Music Degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and her Bachelor of Music Degree from the Eastman School of Music. She currently lives and teaches in Chicago.
What is the story of how you first came to love music and opera?
I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t obsessed with music. I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who valued music in the home, so it was a part of my life as far back as I can remember. My mother studied voice privately, and enrolled all of us in musical instruction as early as possible. My three siblings and I all sang with the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, and also studied instruments. As I got older, I would steal my mother’s vocal music and try to learn it. I was a particular fan of Purcell. In all honesty, it never occurred to me that music wouldn’t be my profession in some capacity.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?
Holding on to my own ideas and identity as an artist in a world that values conformity. I rarely hear a performance of a well-known piece that is unique. Once a standard or tradition has been established in a work, it’s incredibly difficult to push against it. That is one of the things I value most as an early musician – because this music wasn’t recorded for hundreds of years, there’s no single way of performing said music. There’s a lot of room for individual interpretation.
Do you have a favorite performer?
It’s a tie between Anne Sofie von Otter and Susan Graham. They get me every time.
Do you have a favorite role? Aria? Opera?
Hands down Rossi’s Orfeo is my favorite opera. The music is spectacular! My favorite role may be Poppea – she’s so multifaceted and complex. There are so many different ways to play her on stage.
Do you have any favorite books about music?
I have been enjoying Jane Glover’s book, Mozart’s Women.
What else are you reading?
Right now I’m reading Wolf Hall, which views the years Henry VIII was in power through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell.
Who are your favorite 17th and 18th century composers?
17th C – John Dowland, Étienne Moulinié, Luigi Rossi, Matthias Weckmann, Barbara Strozzi
18th C – Carl Heinrich Bieber, François Couperin, G.F. Handel, Georg Philipp Telemann
If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you?
William Byrd’s Great Service as sung by the Tallis Scholars.
What do you love about HOC?
I love that this company was created and is led by people who love music, and whose primary aim is to create well-informed, beautifully performed music for others. This company lives for creating art, and gives quite a lot of freedom to its performers to voice opinions and try different things.
Do you have a favorite memory from a past HOC event?
At the fundraising event last year I got to visit all my old costumes with Meriem. That was really fun!
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not making music?
Snuggle with my cat.
What is the first thing you think about in the morning?
Checking my email.
What music do you listen to most often?
I actually listen to a lot of baroque instrumental music. I think singers can learn a lot from listening to instrumentalists (and vise versa, really).
If you had not entered into your current career what do you think you would have done instead?
I either would have gone into teaching (English or drama most likely) or I would have pursued a career in veterinary medicine.