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St. Olaf alumna wins 2020 Grammy Award

Krista Dreyer River ’93 won the 2020 Grammy for Best Opera Recording for her work in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

At the 2020 Grammy Awards ceremony last month, pop stars Billie Eilish, Lizzo, and Lil Nas X went home with their first Grammy wins. So did St. Olaf College alumna Krista Dreyer River ’93.

As part of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Odyssey Opera’s production of Tobias Picker’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” River won the 2020 Grammy for Best Opera Recording. She played the role of Mrs. Fox in the opera, based off of the Roald Dahl children’s novel of the same name. Performed and recorded by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project under the direction of Gil Rose in 2014, the recording was released in June 2019.

Beginning her musical career as a cellist in the St. Olaf Orchestra and as a member of the Manitou Singers and St. Olaf Choir, River now performs as a mezzo-soprano soloist in operas, orchestral engagements, and contemporary music performances. A winner of the 2004 Concert Artists Guild International Competition, River has been praised by reviewers from publications such as the New York Times and the Boston Globe.

Krista Dreyer River ’93 accepting her award on stage during the biggest night in music — the 2020 Grammy Awards.

Here, the St. Olaf music major shares about her experience performing in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and what it was like to win a Grammy.

Can you tell us about your experience with “Fantastic Mr. Fox”? How long have you been working on this project?
I performed and recorded “Fantastic Mr. Fox” with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project back in 2014. I was contacted about the role only about six weeks before the performance/recording because the original Mrs. Fox (from the Opera San Antonio production) had a conflict with the Boston performance. I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time!

What are the demands of your role? 
Mrs. Fox opens the opera with a spoken introduction to the story, and then goes on to sing various arias, duets, and ensembles with Mr. Fox and the Fox cubs.

What do you love about the show and what about the experience has been rewarding?
The show is based on Roald Dahl’s wonderful children’s book, and Tobias Picker (the composer of the opera) really brings out the warmth, humor, and drama of the story.  Every character is unique and colorful, and the cast brought the characters to life with amazing artistry.

What about the experience has been challenging?
I was the only cast member (besides the Fox cubs) who had not performed the opera in San Antonio, so I had a steep learning curve!

What was it like to attend the Grammys?
It was so exciting! I’m not at all used to the lavish, over-the-top world of the Grammys, being a Boston-based singer who does a lot of early music, new music, and chamber music (those tend to be humble environments!). But it was a blast being in Los Angeles for the weekend and celebrating with so many amazing musicians.

What does being a Grammy award–winner mean for you?
It’s an incredible honor. I feel very lucky to have been involved in this project, and I was proud to be at the Grammys and accept the award on behalf of the whole orchestra and cast.

What St. Olaf experiences had a particular impact on your career path and development as a musician?
I had a wonderful experience at St. Olaf, particularly in the Music Department. I loved singing in the choir and playing in the orchestra and early music ensemble (I played cello and gamba). I had wonderful teachers and conductors at St. Olaf and feel like I got a fantastic beginning to my musical career there.

What are your upcoming projects/hopes for the future?
I flew home the day after the Grammys and went straight to a rehearsal for another new opera — “The Chronicle of Nine” by composer Arnold Rosner. The February 1 performance was a world premiere with Odyssey Opera (another BMOP/Gil Rose organization). No rest for the wicked!