A few years ago William Suit welcomed a new student to his studio. She was six years old and said she wanted to be an opera star. She looked at Will and never batted an eye. She was serious. Over the next few weeks Will came to understand that he had a serious singer on his hands. Elishka Baer was tackling everything he threw at her with enthusiasm. Will would leave the studio after her lessons inspired to teach and write. She appreciated every ounce of knowledge he would share. Week after week she improved and grew as a musician.
One day, Will shared some music he was toying with. It was in the early stages, but it would become Il Gufo Il Topo. (The Owl & The Mouse) Elishka was enamored. She asked about it regularly. So, Will let her sing a couple of the songs. As soon as he heard her, he thought she sounded like the little mouse, Zita. Elishka soon learned “The Dark Forest,” and declared that if he ever produced this, she wanted to be the mouse.
Here we are a few years later and the role of Zita on the recording is none other than Elishka Baer. We asked Elishka about playing this role and her thoughts about the opera.
How did you feel about being a part of this project?
Elishka: It was really an honor to get to work with William Suit again. This project has been a long time in the making, and I was so excited when I was asked to record the part of Zita. The other artists were so wonderfully talented and supportive.
Who is Zita?
Elishka: To me, Zita is a sort of metaphor and her character teaches a lesson. I feel that she shows that even when times get tough and things are uncertain, we can find our way back home. The story as a whole really is metaphorical for this, at least for me.
What drew you to this part?
In my opinion, the story is very real and true to life, which drew me in. Zita is a wonderful character and she truly is very symbolic to me, as I mentioned before. I really love the way this work was written, and it just immediately captivated me from the first time I heard it a few years ago.
How did you get into character for the part?
To get into character, I tried to put myself in Zita’s shoes. I imagined being a little mouse who had only ever seen the inside of a shop, and then she is going out into these beautiful woods, seeing, and experiencing everything for the first time. The lyrics and music really helped put me in that place as well.
I love “The Dark Forest”. It is an incredibly determined song, and the music to it is rather enchanting. All the songs are truly charming, but this one holds a special place in my heart. I think it might have also been the first or one of the first songs I heard from the opera.
What can we all learn from Il Gufo Il Topo?
To me, we are all Zitas in many ways. We are all small “mice” trying to navigate our way through a forest – life. We have people there ready to guide us and help us reach the stars, and our path is not always easy. Sometimes things get dark and the way forward is not clear. But in the end, we all can find our way back home, in whatever form that comes.
So, what about you, Elishka? What are your goals and accomplishments so far?
Music is a great passion of mine, and I can see myself pursuing it into the future. Singing in particular is something I really enjoy and am considering working towards having a career in it. This is now the second CD that I have recorded parts in with William Suit. I performed quite regularly before the pandemic. I have done many fundraiser concerts, including the annual Tower of Talent fundraiser for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. I will continue to take lessons and seek more opportunities to perform. Additionally, I record my own tracks using my violin, piano, and voice combined. I plan to do more of this, and at some point in the future I hope to start creating my own covers of songs.
Do you study privately?
I do take private lessons in voice. I started out working with William Suit about six years ago. I was so fortunate to have had a teacher like him who made sure that all technique and song choices were always appropriate for my voice. Then I transitioned to another teacher just short of two years ago to focus on classical training. In addition to voice, I take private violin and piano lessons.
I have cherished my collaboration with Will and I hope that we can work together in the future again.
You can download or stream IL GUFO IL TOPO on your favorite music service. Find the list by clicking here.