When Kate Lindsey called from her home in a seaside town in the south of England, one of the first things we did was compare notes on the Vienna State Opera.
My wife and I recently visited Vienna and attended a ballet at the venerable opera house. We perched literally in the cheap seats — though they weren’t actually seats since we were stationed in a standing-room-only section high above the floor. All in all, a bargain for 3 euros.
Lindsey’s perspective on her visit had been slightly different: She performed on stage.
Slightly “surreal and intimidating” is how she recalled the experience.
“There’s a level of history and pride to the house and to the music-making,” Lindsey said of the place that opened in 1869 with an opera by a hometown guy: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. “It’s unlike any other place I’ve sung.”
Which is saying something, as Lindsey has been cheered as a rising star in the opera world, having performed in such places as New York (the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall), Washington, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Munich — and Vienna.
Not bad for someone who grew up chasing a soccer ball around the fields of Chesterfield County and singing in the chorus at Monacan High School.
“I sort of can’t believe it,” said Lindsey, who is making a rare return visit to Richmond to perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the University of Richmond’s Camp Concert Hall with jazz pianist Baptiste Trotignon. “Twenty years ago, I’m not sure I would have dared to even dream this far. Now that I am where I am, I can only be really grateful and mindful of that.
“I fully understand this is a limited-time offer. The voice lasts for a certain amount of time, and nature will always take hold. You will never escape that. For that reason, my priority is to enjoy it as much as possible, at every moment. Just to soak it in.”
Lindsey, 37, is now married and a new mom. She and husband Olly Lambert, a documentary filmmaker, have an 11-month-old son, Finn, who will be making his first overseas trip on this concert tour, which will take her around the East Coast and Midwest.
With a laugh, Lindsey said she’s come to view parenting as “coming to terms with your complete lack of control over everything. It’s being in a constant state of self-doubt.”
As a kid herself, Lindsey was more interested in soccer than singing, though a couple of knee injuries slowed her on the pitch, and she began to turn her attention to singing. Good fortune — and maybe the teacher — sat Lindsey as a ninth-grader at Monacan next to a 10th-grader, Christa Arnold, in chorus class.
“She was a really good singer,” Lindsey recalled. “One day she turned to me and said, ‘Have you ever thought of taking voice lessons?’”
It wasn’t meant as an insult. As Lindsey recalls, Arnold explained that she studied with a classical teacher and she thought Lindsey had a classical voice and that style of music would be a good fit.
“That’s so fun!” said Arnold of Lindsey’s memories of those days when I reached her as she was driving to work in Dallas the other morning. Now Christa Arnold Salgado, she’s married with daughters ages 6 and 3 and works in the business world, though she still sings in a church choir.
She recalled that she and Lindsey were paired to sing a duet, so she suggested, “Let’s go see my voice teacher, and she can help us.”
Being introduced to Jane Ohly proved to be a big turning point in Lindsey’s life and career path.
“So we went to Jane Ohly’s to work on the duet ... and then basically at the end of that, Mrs. Ohly just said, ‘Honey, you’re going to come here once a week and we’re going to start working,’” Lindsey remembered. “I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, but I was excited and completely naïve about the whole thing.”
At that point, Lindsey said she was more into athletics, so she would show up at voice lessons “stinky and sweating” after soccer practice.
“A grass-stained student,” she called herself.
But the singing took, as did Ohly’s encouragement and tutelage. After graduating from Monacan, Lindsey went off to Indiana University, where she sang opera during a summer program and found her true calling. She left Indiana with a degree in music, and she was on her way — a path that may have started back in chorus class.
“I wasn’t really a theater kid,” said Lindsey, who enjoyed singing early on but didn’t really know how to pursue it. “I just didn’t know where to start. I was pretty timid and shy, and that whole environment felt really scary to me. So it was really fate in a way that Christa was there because she opened the door that in a way I had been wanting to find.”
Arnold Salgado recalled how easy it was to sing with Lindsey.
“I don’t think she knew how good she was because it came so naturally to her,” Arnold Salgado said. “I remember being impressed with her and being excited to sing with her because she had a bigger voice. It’s always fun to make beautiful music. It’s even more fun with people you like.”
This will be Lindsey’s second professional performance in her hometown. She was last here in 2013 to sing with the Richmond Symphony for “An Evening with Kate Lindsey.”
(Richmond is no longer on her frequent-visit list since her parents retired and moved to Charlotte, N.C.,; her father, Dick, was pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church, and her mother, Nancy, was the office manager at Crestwood Elementary School.)
On Friday evening, she will be performing songs from “Thousands of Miles,” her recent album with Trotignon, an acclaimed jazz pianist. It’s a bit of a departure from her opera work, she acknowledged, but a happy diversion to be able to work with someone from a different side of the musical spectrum as they span the worlds of classical and Broadway in interpreting the works of Kurt Weill and other European composers who emigrated to the United States.
“We both have stretched ourselves in different directions and really out of our comfort zones to find a common ground,” she said. “It’s been really a liberating sort of journey to take together.”