One of acting's most distinctive voices will make an unexpected Metropolitan Opera debut.
Kathleen Turner, known for words that smoke rather than simmer, is joining the cast of Gaetano Donizetti's "The Daughter of the Regiment" in the non-singing role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp, the Met said Thursday.
She received an unexpected email this summer from Met general manager Peter Gelb proposing the idea. Asked to describe her voice, Turner terms it "kind of baritone."
"Peter says I'm one of the few women he knows who can sing 'Ol' Man River' in the original key," she said during an interview Wednesday with her distinctive, throaty laugh.
An Academy Award- and Tony Award-nominated actress, the 64-year-old Turner will appear in seven performances of the comic opera from Feb. 7 to March 2, the last televised to movie theaters around the world in high definition.
"La Fille du Regiment" is sung in French and stars soprano Pretty Yende in the title role of Marie, tenor Javier Camarena as Tonio (who sings the famous aria "Ah! mes amis" with the nine high Cs) and mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as the Marquise of Berkenfield.
The Duchess enters imperiously at the start of the second act to arrange a marriage between her nephew and Marie.
"I was thinking of interesting, bigger-than-life personalities, and Kathleen came to mind, Gelb said.
"I don't understand. Why do you need me?" Turner recalled telling Gelb. "I said, 'Well, send the libretto. Let me read it out loud.' "
She went to the Met in August, walked the stage, fell in love with the acoustics and agreed. Gelb said it has not been determined whether she will speak in French, English or a combination. Turner doesn't think she will attempt to ad-lib.
"I don't think I would have that much courage," he said.