I’m excited to share the first guest blog post with you! Katy and I met in college when she first began studying voice and from there, I had a front row seat to watch her opera career start and grow as well as listen to her voice expand in range and volume over the years. She is my touchstone on all things singing and I hope you enjoy and learn from her contributions here as well.
When Annelies first asked me to contribute about opera and life, how one informs the other, I wasn’t sure where to begin. But then I started thinking about how *I* got into opera and classical music, and decided that perhaps that was as good as place as any to start.
My first operatic memory is from elementary school, when a friend’s mom invited me along to a Central City Opera production of Madama Butterfly. I was seven or eight at the time, and remember being entranced by the colors, the costumes, the sets, and the music. I didn’t understand everything that I was seeing, but I was engaged. I already listened to “classical” music on the radio, but up until that I didn’t know that there could be singing involved! Flash forward to high school, when my awareness of opera blossomed. I attended another production of Madama Butterfly, and a whoosh of familiarity swarmed over me. I was pleasantly drawn into the story with fresh – and more understanding – senses. After that, I went on to get my Bachelor’s and Master’s of Music in vocal performance, and started my professional singing career in 2005.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I’ve never seen an opera. I just don’t *get* what on earth you’re talking about…” Well, okay, how about this: Have you ever seen Apocalypse Now? Or Pretty Woman? Have you ever watched TV? Then you’ve been exposed to opera and its emotional power.
Don’t believe me?
The (in)famous flight of the helicopters from Coppola’s Apocalypse Now would be much less memorable if not set to “The Ride of the Valkyries” from Wagner’s Die Walküre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpvLCptAHT8
Julia Robert’s Pretty Woman character cries at her first exposure to opera, the scene in which Violetta dies at the end of Verdi’s La Traviata: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qteu01dLfm4
And Carmen’s Habanera tune has been featured in more commercials than operatic law should allow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0nliPWaCvA
Whether or not you realize it, opera (and “classical” music in general) provides a soundtrack to our modern life. It’s not an art form reserved for a snobby upper class, or grey-haired patrons. To experience live opera is to experience a breathing collaborative creature. Singers, orchestras, conductors, directors, costumers, diction and language coaches, stage managers, set and lighting designers, producers, theaters, rehearsal spaces . . . all combined to bring a composer’ s story and music to life. At its best, opera is an intense, emotionally moving experience. At its worst, it can be an inconceivable, expensive mess. And if it causes a scandal? Even better!
I hope this overture has wet your curiosity. Future posting will cover operatic FAQ’s (What’s Fach? Are all opera singers fat? Why is it so loud?), and exploring what it’s like to be a singer, from the importance of keeping one’s instrument in tune – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – to keeping life balanced as a working artist. If you have any particular thoughts, ideas, or questions, please leave them in the comments section!
Mezzo-soprano Katy Daniel recently moved home to her native Colorado after living and singing professionally in the San Francisco Bay Area for 10 years. When not traipsing about on stage as a mad woman, old lady or bloodthirsty ex-lover, she is most likely to be found out on a hiking trail, spending time with her family and boyfriend, or curled up with a good book.
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