Audrey Luna in The Exterminating Angel: The highest note in New York

Audrey Luna in The Exterminating Angel: The highest note in New York
From BBC - November 9, 2017

Crackling slightly down a transatlantic phone line, Audrey Luna has a pleasant, normal speaking voice. But she's only able to use it for 10 minutes.

Come Friday evening, these same vocal cords will unleash a note so dizzyingly high, so astoundingly rare, that archivists say New York's Metropolitan Opera has never heard it in 140 years - at least, not since her last performance.

And like a world-class athlete on game day, she needs to conserve her strength.

Ms Luna is a coloratura soprano - the voice type capable of the highest notes - and specialises in thrilling, trilling vocal runs that pour out strongly even at their peaks.

Few people alive have the potential to reach the note now winning her headlines - the A above high C.

To put that in context, Christmas choristers singing the descant line of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing will usually hit a high A - some with difficulty. Ms Luna's note is a full octave - or eight notes - higher than that.

The opera showcasing this rarity is Thomas Ads's The Exterminating Angel, a savage, surrealist piece based on the 1962 Luis Buuel film of the same name.

Ms Luna plays Leticia, an opera diva who joins a well-off couple for a glittering dinner party. Macabre twists unfold as the partygoers find they have entered a strange vortex - and are trapped in the house when the evening ends.

It's a supernatural note for a supernatural story - and the Oregon native is hitting it twice a night.

So, how does she do it?

Beyond the usual advice for better singing technique - things like watching your posture, not smoking, and avoiding air conditioning that can dry out the throat - freakish genetics must play a part, I suggest.

"I am not a scientist!" laughs the singer, "but it's something I have been training for years... I have always kind of wondered what the limits are to my voice, and it was not until I met Tom Ads and I saw his score for The Tempest [in which she played the sprite Ariel in 2012] that I saw notes that I had never sung before.

"And when I was asked to actually do the role, I was like, 'Is that something I can do, time and time again?' I found it was easy - it came easily to me. Then, I guess he had to just write one step higher for this! He showed me on paper, saying, 'this is the approach you would take'. I said, 'what do you mean, approach?! There is no approach - it's just bang, out, sing the A!"

Nature and nurture?

Spoilers: She thinks she's got a higher note...


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