The boos were loud and aggressive, enough to make even the most powerful monarchs cry.
And the Queen of the Night is quite powerful. She can be pretty mean at times, too, depending on the director’s interpretation.
“Some directors portray her as the bad guy,” Emily Hindrichs says. “And some don’t see her as bad but distraught at the thought of losing her daughter.”
Either way, the queen is always ominous on stage, dressed in an outfit that could stand up to any of Disney’s evil queens and witches. But the Queen of the Night isn’t a Disney character. She belongs to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who created her for his opera, The Magic Flute.
The queen is the mother figure in this opera. She’s dangerous, manipulative and performs two furious, vengeful arias during the course of the show.
She’s everything Hindrichs isn’t, yet when Hindrichs first stepped onstage in the role, she was booed. And loudly.
“It was a performance for children,” Hindrichs says.
She laughs about it now, because an audience of children never holds back. They’ll cheer for the good guy and boo at first sign of the bad guy, even during an opera.
“And at the end of the performance, the cast went into the lobby to meet the kids as they left the auditorium,” Hindrichs said. “They looked at me in my makeup and costume and backed away.”
But Hindrichs wasn’t discouraged. She’s made a career of playing the queen in major opera houses throughout the world. Not bad for a soprano from Slidell whose aspirations didn’t include the stage.
No, Hindrichs’ goal at the University of Southern Mississippi was to earn a degree in church music, specifically choral conducting. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USM, her master’s degree in musicology from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and her doctorate’s degree in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory in Boston.
And it’s in Boston where she’s shared a home with husband, composer and musician Frank Pesci. Well, until now.
The couple has moved to Karlsruhe, Germany, where Hindrichs will perform as an ensemble soloist with the Badisches Staatstheater opera company.
“I’m a member of the company,” she says. “It’s a lot different from the United States, where you work on a freelance basis. I’ve always had work, and life has never been dull. But this is more stable.”
Especially for a person who likes order. Being a company member will provide an orderly life for awhile, unlike the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants lifestyle when freelancing.
Hindrichs landed her new position while performing in The Magic Flute in Frankfurt, a part she began performing almost on a fluke. While at USM, Hindrichs became interested in teaching. She wanted to become a voice coach.
But how was she to coach a voice student through an audition when she’d never been through the process, herself? So, Hindrichs auditioned for — yes — the Queen of the Night. And she was hired.
“It came as a surprise,” she says. “The Seattle Opera took me into its training program. I was 27, so I wasn’t old, but I was on the upper side.”
Other opera companies became interested in Hindrichs while she was in Seattle, the English National Opera among them. The company needed a Queen of the Night, and Hindrichs fit the bill.
Just as she’s been fitting the bill for other Magic Flute productions since.
Now, in Karlsruhe, she’ll play another role before returning to the Queen of the Night. And if a children’s audience boos her, she won’t be bothered.
Because she’ll know she’s done her job.