Along with being a talented opera singer, Clayton also has a Masters of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She currently combines her performance experience with the Total Mental Wellness platform in a private practice geared towards the specific needs of performing artists but also those of the LGBTQ community and beyond.
Patricia Racette (left) and his wife Beth Clayton (right)Tim Trumble
Racette and Clayton met OUTvoices ahead of their upcoming roles in A little night music.
Your casting in these roles is delightful. And of course, for those in the know, there’s now an added layer of meaning. But how do you approach each of your characters and what is it like to live, love and be on the same stage together?
Racette: We think so too, and we’re so glad Arizona Opera came up with the idea! Our two particular characters do not like each other, shall we say! Desiree is having an affair with Charlotte’s husband (Beth), and Charlotte is painfully aware of it. There are a few moments on stage where Charlotte and Désirée exchange zingers, which is great fun to play! Due to the nature of each of our repertoires, we didn’t have many opportunities to share the stage while we were both actively singing. We met singing La Traviata in Santa Fe, where the plot took a turn when Violetta returned home with Flora instead…! We also had the chance to sing Eugene Onegin in which we played sisters, Tatiana and Olga. While doing this opening duet in Jonathan Miller’s Santa Fe production, we faced backstage and held hands as we stared up into the Santa Fe desert sky. Those in the know particularly enjoyed our “fraternal” relationship!
Clayton: For me, approaching Charlotte is both specific and general in that the goal is always to bring authenticity and life to the character. In this case, Charlotte is ironic and wry and quick-witted, but she’s also hurt and, despite herself, in love with her husband, Carl-Magnus. Its lines are incredibly dry, which allows such latitude to take the humor over the precipice without jumping over the cliff!
Racette: I approach this character as I have approached all my characters: my approach is to always flesh out the person in the most authentic and viscerally connected way possible. That being said, playing a character who is at the “twilight” of their career has a unique resonance! As I approach this new chapter of my professional life in terms of involvement in the profession and explore my evolving repertoire, I find a particular resonance with Désirée.
Clayton and RacetteTim Trumble
Patricia, “Send In the Clowns” seems like a challenge to me if not for another reason that it’s a standard – Sinatra, Collins. But how are you going to do it?
Racette: I don’t see that as a challenge, I find it a privilege to infuse a song that has the ability to allow the performer to express so much nuance and authentic connection to the text and the the context of this text in the scene. How am I going to do ? Come and see!
What is your history with the State of Arizona and with the Arizona Opera?
Racette: This is my debut with Arizona Opera! I have a great affinity with General Manager Joe Specter and have a long-standing musical relationship with Chris Cano. I think this company is really making its mark in the world of opera, and I’m happy to be part of this trajectory!
Clayton: As far as Arizona in general goes, we have a “neighborhood” relationship as we have called Santa Fe, NM home for over 20 years. We LOVE the desert! As for AZ Opera, I made my debut here in 2010 singing the title role of Carmen, a role I’ve sung more than any other. Unfortunately, I found myself in a vocal challenge at this point – most singers have these moments at one time or another. One of mine just happened then. I share this because, as Frederick Egerman says to Desiree in A Little night music“You could say that my motivations for coming here were… mixed.”
I wanted to come back here and “come out” of my so-called singing retirement to: a) revisit a musical that was a highlight of my early career 25 years ago for a live appearance from Lincoln Center ; b) be on stage with my wife in a full production in a year that also marks our 25th anniversary; c) have a moment of ‘re-do’ on these two AZ Opera stages; d) to have fun doing this art form that is still a part of me, regardless of my new path in the world of mental wellness.
Racette and Clayton on their wedding dayCourtesy of Racette and Clayton
Married to each other three times and together for 25 years. What is your secret!?
Racette: The secret? Lots of laughs, a ton of confidence, and a love and respect that’s deeper than you can express.
Beth, the pandemic has been tough on everyone’s mental health. But mostly about LGBTQ people and artists. What have you tried to offer your clients during this time and what have you also discovered about your own well-being?
Clayton: Difficult, yes! And I wish the pandemic could be mentioned in the past tense, but we are definitely dealing with it and its wake. One thing I continue to remind clients (and myself) throughout this time is to remember that we have skills as rich as performers beyond what our literal instrument might dictate – singers. , for example, possess the ability to communicate, to memorize huge amounts of music and librettos, to speak other languages, to organize, to be disciplined in carrying out tasks. All of these skills have multifunctionality in life, even when we have been restricted from doing our craft for a live audience.
In some ways, creativity has come to the fore, and I can’t think of a more creative demographic than the LGBTQ+ community! We know adversity and we know resilience.
Get your tickets for A little night music here.