The American soprano reflects on the dangers of typecasting and the status of Gershwin’s opera today.

Where do you stand on the question of is it an opera, a musical or something in between?

Of course, people know Summertimeand I Got Plenty of Nothing, but learning the rest of the piece convinces me, it’s an opera. It’s very tough, and it definitely requires a voice that would get drowned out if you were to sing it in another style. So I’m definitely of the opinion that this is an opera – one of the greatest American operas – and it requires genuine operatic singing in order for us to do justice to it.

So how did you first come to know the music?

I knew it the way a lot of people know it, which is through jazz. I listened to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald when I was a teenager and so I was familiar with how she and Louis Armstrong interpreted this music, but I didn’t start listening to the opera until I studied music seriously. I touched on it a little bit through singing portions of  Catfish Row – that’s the reduced orchestral version – when I was at...