Who better to toast legendary female singers like Aretha, Ella, and Dame Shirley Bassey than a young legend-in-the-making building her own platinum legacy? NSO Pops Conductor Steven Reineke seems to have exactly the right idea inviting back Cynthia Erivo for a concert celebrating some of music’s most cherished women.
Erivo made an indelible impression on Broadway with her Tony award-winning performance in the 2015 revival of The Color Purple, and she arrived on the big-screen last year in a big way, with a supporting role in the Viola Davis-led heist thriller Widows and as an aspiring singer who stopped at the wrong motel in Bad Times at the El Royale.
With her first major film lead coming soon — as abolitionist and all-around badass Harriet Tubman — Erivo is an artist currently experiencing the luxury of choice.
“I think it luxurious to be able to stand in front of a full orchestra and have that sound wash over everything that you do,” says Erivo. “The first time I did a concert with [the NSO Pops], I felt really special. The maestro was incredible, and I was there listening to Yo-Yo Ma. It’s just one of those ongoing dreams of mine…. I always want to be a part of an orchestra. I can’t help it. It’s something that I love.”
Like fans of the legendary women who will be paid tribute in the concert, Erivo has an affinity for these singers’ individual gifts — and their songs — which she aims to translate through her performance.
“My personal take and choice was to pick those women who have influenced the sound I make or the music that I love, and the way in which my voice has been influenced by those women, [and] that music,” she says. “And also, selfishly, the songs that I haven’t been able to sing with full orchestras before and wanted to. So I’ve picked both out of selfishness and out of inspiration.
“There are very few people — even those who are in the music industry — who have the opportunity to stand in front of a symphony orchestra and sing Aretha or Nina Simone or Ella Fitzgerald,” she continues. “You don’t get that opportunity very often, and I’m very glad to be able to have the chance to do it.”
NSO Pops: An Evening with Cynthia Erivo is April 5 and 6, at 8 p.m., in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $29-$109. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.