This year has been full of firsts for me: my first time singing at Carnegie Hall, first time living in Arkansas, and much more!
Another first that I still pinch myself to believe it really happened: being in a new opera production with some of my idols! On March 18th and 20th I had the honor and joy of helping to bring to life “The Hours” by Kevin Putsin the opera chorus. This new opera is based on the Michael Cunningham novel of the same name that was turned into the movie featuring Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore. The opera featured Renée Fleming, Kelli O’Hara and Jennifer Johnson-Cano as the leading ladies. Ever since I was a child I admired Renée Fleming. I bought her CDs and read her book and always dreamed of hearing her live. I never imagined that the first time I would hear her singing live we would be on the same stage! In college, Kelli O’Hara captured my interest when studying musical theater pedagogy. She’s a terrific example of a crossover artist: someone who can sing proficiently in both operatic and musical theater genres (or more generally, someone who sings in 2 different techniques: classical and contemporary, etc. ).
This production was a semi-staged production, meaning the artists were allowed to use music and the set was minimal. The chorus was placed behind the orchestra in the loft while the orchestra and soloists were on the main stage floor below. The soloists were costumed, and there were supertitles so the audience could follow along. This production is heading to the Metropolitan Opera in November where it will be fully realized and staged! I hope I will get the chance to go see it, as I have fallen in love with the music and the story.
Being able to sing and workshop a new opera with the composer was thrilling. Composer Kevin Puts came to our rehearsals and would periodically ask us to make small changes to our scores: a note, dynamic marking, or rhythm here and there. The function of the chorus is to at times narrate the action, echo a character’s inner thoughts, or serve as background “mood” music. Workshopping this opera hopefully helped illuminate what works and what doesn’t work before it moves to the Met in the fall. I hope the person who receives my score appreciates all of the markings I made for them!
Singing on the same stage as Renée Fleming and Kelli O’Hara is a memory I’ll not soon forget. Watching them work, there’s no doubt in my mind how they rose to fame. Their work ethic, calm under pressure, and rich, soaring voices captivated and inspired me. I will take these lessons into each and everything I sing from now on. I am incredibly grateful and humbled by this experience.
Maria Palombo is the founder of Finely Tuned Voice Lessons, a private voice studio. Her studio is open to all regardless of age or ability.