Karin Wolverton's soaring soprano has worked both sides of the Twin Cities. With the St. Paul-based Minnesota Opera she's tackled Rusalka, Don Giovanni and La Bohème, while in Minneapolis she's shared the stage with the Minnesota Orchestra for Dvorak's Te Deum and Amahl and the Night Visitors. Which raises the question: When your voice is your meal ticket, how careful do you have to be about what goes down the hatch?
1. How do you keep a healthy diet when you are traveling for the opera? This is very difficult, but the first thing I do when I reach my destination is find the grocery store. I usually have a fridge in my room, so I can stock up on the essentials: milk, coffee, bananas, and my favorite on-the-road breakfast staple: instant oatmeal. I have a sweet tooth, so I also try to choose a few less disastrous snack options like Fig Newtons. If I get a craving and I don't have those around, the vending machine is usually my only other option.
2. Do you have a special diet for performance days, or doesn't it matter what you eat? I am lucky in that most foods don't bother me. I'm not a big milk drinker to begin with but usually avoid most dairy because that can thicken the mucous and make singing more difficult. On the day of the performance, more ritual than anything else, I like to eat broccoli with some type of meat; steak, chicken breast, pork chop. Just as long as it's not fried I'm happy. The simpler things are cooked or prepared the better. I will always ask for sauce on the side (usually cream based) and prefer my potato naked. Anything highly acidic can be iffy too. Tomato sauces, pizza, lemonade, chocolate, caffeine, etc... all can inflame the vocal membranes, making it more difficult to sing.
3. Are there foods you avoid entirely because of how they affect your voice? I've noticed lately that MSG really affects me, but other than that I'm an equal opportunity eater.
4. Similarly, are there certain foods you turn to in order to pamper your throat/voice? Pampering my voice includes plenty of sleep, humidity, and hot water. The voice likes to be well hydrated, and if I'm feeling phlegmy I will take a steamy shower. I stay away from adding oils like eucalyptus or menthol; these can feel like they open up the sinus passages but are more drying than helpful. One of my favorite teas to drink is Throat Coat. It is a medicinal tea that has Slippery Elm and feels wonderful on a scratchy or phlegmy voice. Often during a performance I will have an electric kettle in my dressing room and will heat up some water and just drink it plain and hot to keep the mucous thin, but that may be more like a security blanket.
5. When you're traveling with a show how do you find the best local places to eat out? Often the best places to eat out are the closest to the theater. During tech week, the week right before opening, our schedule can become very busy, and typically we have to find someplace close by to eat. Even better is when the restaurant will deliver right to the theater. The company usually will give recommendations on where to eat, and often the opera chorus members have their favorite local places, but sometimes you just have to explore on your own. That's how I found the best barbecue I've ever eaten in South Carolina. I just saw this place on the side of the road and said 'Why not?'