Musician and vocalist Christina Siemens, familiar to audiences for her work with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Tudor Choir, Seattle Symphony and soundtrack work, will play two key parts in PNB’s “Carmina Burana.”
Christina Siemens might not have to actually race from the orchestra pit to the stage at McCaw Hall, but timing will nevertheless be tricky when she does double duty during Pacific Northwest Ballet’s pairing of Alexei Ratmansky’s “Concerto DSCH” and Kent Stowell’s “Carmina Burana.”
PNB’s performances of its season-ending program begin Friday (May 29).
Siemens, PNB’s longtime pianist, will handle the solo on Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto — the score to Ratmansky’s popular choreography.
May 29-June 7 at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$184 (206-441-2424 or pnb.org).
“Then I’ll change into my costume during intermission, and get ready to sing the soprano solo during ‘Carmina,’ ” she says. “It’s a bit of a marathon, but, luckily, the soprano doesn’t enter until what could be considered the third act.”
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Siemens will play piano at every “Concerto DSCH,” but sing during four of the 70-minute “Carmina” performances. (Maria Mannisto will perform the others.) While she is used to singing and playing for the same ballet programs from the pit, this is the first time those split responsibilities involve any staging.
“It won’t be that different from my everyday rehearsals in the studio, because I’m the full-time company pianist,” she says. “When we put on a production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ which has a chorus part, often when we were rehearsing I would play and sing at the same time. I’m hoping that preparation will make me feel comfortable up there.”
The word “joyous” is not typically associated with Dmitri Shostakovich. But that’s one of Siemens’ adjectives for the composer’s 1957 Piano Concerto No. 2, which was written for his 19-year-old son.
“It’s a wonderful, infectiously joyous, beautiful piece, with a lyrical second movement, just about as moving and tender as you can get. I was acquainted with it as a child. Like a lot of people, I grew up watching Disney’s ‘Fantasia,’ and the music is actually used in one of the small, animated features. I remember responding to it.”
Stowell’s “Carmina Burana” debuted at PNB in 1993, and has been praised as “sumptuous” and “primal,” set to Carl Orff’s 1935-36 cantata.
“ ‘Carmina’ is a big spectacle ballet, with lots of different musical forces,” says Siemens. “There’s a chorus onstage, including many members of the Tudor Choir, with whom I’ve sung for years.”
Siemens’ association with PNB came through her involvement with the Tudor Choir. The choir — which recently went on an indefinite hiatus — was founded and directed by Doug Fullington, assistant to PNB’s artistic director.
In 2003, Siemens says, “we were singing Bach, and one of [PNB’s] company pianists at the time was there. They were looking for another, part-time pianist. Doug knew I had some piano skills and he introduced us.”
Siemens was promoted to full time in 2008, and has performed piano solos in PNB productions of Hindemith’s “The Four Temperaments,” Wagner’s “Remembrances,” and Mendelssohn’s “Variations Sérieuses.”
Her vocal work for the company has included the role of first fairy in Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and she has provided both keyboard and vocal solos in the Stowell and Sendak “Nutcracker.”
Raised in Bellevue and a self-described homebody, Siemens is a ubiquitous figure in Seattle’s music scene. She has sung with Seattle Symphony for its own “Carmina Burana” as well as Mozart’s Requiem. She has also appeared with Seattle Pro Musica and the Byrd Ensemble, and appears on locally recorded movie and video-game soundtracks.
Has Siemens ever felt the need to choose between piano and voice?
“I’ve always approached them equally because I didn’t want to go the route of being a traveling soloist. As I reached adulthood, I realized doing both — though time-consuming — would be a nice way to make a living.”