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Crazy Horse Memorial. Foreground: What the completed monument will look like. Background: The work in progress.

My husband and I spend a lot of time on the road now. I mean literally on the road. We drove here to San Diego [from Pennsylvania] and we drove to Seattle last summer. We’ve driven all over the South. We drive whenever we can. I call it our QE2 time [Queen Elizabeth 2]. That’s really how singers used to keep themselves on the down-low. If they were singing “across the pond” they would have to get on a ship and then they would have a certain amount of time when they were not singing — a forced rest. For me, driving across the country is my QE2. I try to drive as often as I can. I love it. How many people can say they’ve been to Blue Earth Minnesota and seen the Jolly Green Giant?

There’s just something about driving through South Dakota and the Black Hills and seeing Mt. Rushmore and seeing the Crazy Horse Memorial. Seeing these monuments is unbelievable and it gives you a context for art. Travel gives you a context for art. Now people will argue with me and say that traveling in Europe will help your art more. That is absolutely true but the study of opera is, more or less, the study of human beings. You’re going to get that anywhere. Understanding what makes a character tick is just about understanding different kinds of people and different situations. It’s fascinating to see these places and meet the people and see how they interact with each other.

The interview continues in part 2.

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