Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 7th 2014 Contents September 7, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
WOW MAGAZINE | 5
| PROFILE |
By: Onika Nkrumah Lakhan
A YOUNG GIRL IS ORPHANED. Abused. Rescued and falls in love. Set in 19th Cen-
tury France, this is the epic tale of Cosette in Les Miserables, as played by Danielle
Kamilah Williams. "I fell in love with opera... when I was awakened to its power for
storytelling through the orchestration". This twenty-seven-year-old medical sales
representative has been singing professionally since the age of three and is a mem-
ber of the award-winning Marionettes Chorale. Playing the lead in what is reportedly
the world's longest running musical and the greatest novel of its era, is no small feat
for Danielle. Now in her final year of a Music Performance Diploma at UTT and a
member of the distinguished Kashu-Do Studios based in New York and Berlin, this
former party clown is proving that her opera career is no laughing matter!
WOW: Tell us about your lead role in Les Miserables.
Danielle: I played Cosette. It was a great honour to be selected to bring her to life;
she goes through so much transition and upheaval. She was played by two actresses,
Annalise Emmanuel --- as young Cosette --- and myself.
WOW: What's the most difficult thing about the lead role?
Danielle: -- Oddly enough, it's the character herself. Adult Cosette is a little dull. At
first, I didn't like her very much. She is usually portrayed as yielding and dutiful. So, I
decided to paint her more vividly and with more depth, closer to Victor Hugo's inter-
WOW: How do you maintain your singing voice?
Danielle: I do vocal exercises regularly, breathing and stretching exercises, Yoga and
WOW: Have you ever forgotten your lines mid performance?
Danielle: Yes! (laughs out loud) In a recent recital, I missed a cue. I just
improvise...create new lyrics because you don't ever stop, you keep going.
WOW: Your fach (range) is mezzo soprano, what exactly is that and how is it differ-
ent from the other voice types?
Danielle: A mezzo soprano has a richer, darker sound or colour. The voice is more
comfortable in the middle range and is more vibrant.
WOW: How do voice lessons help, and what exercises are involved?
Danielle: Your vocal chords need to be strengthened to avoid strain. An opera singer
must do exercises for fluidity and flexibility; this will assist in career longevity and a
healthy voice. We exercise the abdominals and core muscles; it is important because
your entire body is your instrument.
WOW: Which operatic legend would you love to perform with and why?
Danielle:- This is a tough one...Jessye Norman, I can learn a lot from her, she has a
spirituality that transcends music. She is a genuine, humble and lovely person.
WOW: Does a great singer need to have a background in drama to really do justice to
Danielle: Absolutely! We are singing actors. We sing in a foreign language; the audi-
ence may not always understand, so compelling acting is a key aspect in the story-
telling. The stories and images are so relevant, so vivid and vibrant --- using the
orchestra, the voice, the body, to express the gamut of human emotion and capture
the intensity of our experiences.
WOW: How do you prepare for a role?
Danielle: Research! I get into the character, I try to understand the musical intent of
the composer. Often, songs are responses to situations or events. So, I examine my
own responses or other people's reactions to similar events to find something truth-
ful. Then, I step back from all of that information to cultivate my own opinion of the
character, I fine tune my portrayal based on that.
WOW: What impact did this production of Les Miserables have on the audience?
Danielle: It was really extraordinary to witness. Every night, without fail, a patron or
two would somehow arrive in our dressing room in tears, profoundly moved by the
production. The audience really seemed to get it and it meant something to them.
I fell in love with opera...
when I was awakened to
its power for storytelling
through the orchestration.
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