Behind the Mike: Barbara Rosenblat

LJ audio reviewer Lance Eaton, who has previously interviewed narrators Alan Sklar (LJ 3/1/09) and Scott Brick (LJ 10/15/09), talks to the multiple Audie Award winnerBy Lance Eaton -- Library Journal, 5/1/2010

Actress/singer Barbara Rosenblat, described by one audio reviewer as "a boundless vocal changeling" (LJ 2/15/06), is an enthusiastic narrator whose performances continue to impress listeners. She's won six Audie Awards to date—more than any other female narrator—and was nominated for several more this year. Her reading of Miep Gies's Anne Frank Remembered (Springwater: Oasis Audio) was an LJ Best Audio of 2009. Among her latest recordings are Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog (HighBridge Audio, Mar.) and Elizabeth Peters's A River in the Sky (Recorded Bks./HarperAudio, Apr.).

You've recorded over 400 audiobooks. What appeals to you about the medium?
It's the most wonderful, intimate, primal medium out there, which is why radio is still successful.

What do you mean by "primal"?
[Think of the experience of] being read to as a child. Those soothing voices that you learn to rely on for comfort, information, protection, and for being a part of something greater than yourself; that all translates into good audio.

Which has been your favorite book or series to narrate?
Why don't you ask me who my favorite child is! I've done it all over the years, in so many genres—great and fabulous pieces. Because I enjoy the process so much, each new project offers a different set of challenges.

For Zadie Smith's thoughtful essay collection Changing My Mind(Recorded Bks./Penguin Audio, 2009), for example, I had to channel her voice and intent in this extraordinary array of discussions about Nabokov, Obama, movie reviews, David Foster Wallace. Each new book…brings me that challenge, which I embrace most of all.

How do you prepare for that challenge?
I watch TV, go to the movies, listen to the radio. I need to hear all the voices, terminology, and conversations that are out there, swallow up as much information as I can [in order to] bring my A game [to the studio].

Anything else?
I try getting in touch with the author, to make a connection between myself as the recording artist and what the author's intent is, and I work at really absorbing the book, page after page.

[But] even once I've figured out my whole audio landscape and [think I] know what's going to happen, I get into the studio…that silent place with the machine recording, and another kind of magic kicks in that introduces [unexpected] little changes as I go.

What's currently on your agenda?
I just finished recording Neta Jackson's Where Do I Go? (Recorded Bks., May 19)—it's pulp fiction-Christian-chick lit. [Soon], I'll begin recording Eudora Welty's short stories for Audible and then will fly to L.A. to do [some] live audio drama. Then it's the Audies in May and the National Audio Theatre Festivals in June. And I shall get some sailing in along the way, I hope.

Any message to your many fans?
I am so thankful to all who write to and weigh in with their thoughts on my work. I might even consider Twitter, if I can figure it out!

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