Tomorrow I embark upon the largest and most ambitious journey of my fledgling operatic career: I fly halfway around the world to Prague, Czech Republic, to participate in a month-long opera festival for young artists. During this festival, I will be singing the role of Donna Anna in two performances of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, directed by legendary baritone Sherrill Milnes and presented at the Estates Theatre where Mozart himself conducted the premiere in 1787. I will also be covering (aka understudying) the title role in Puccini’s Suor Angelica as well as performing in the festival’s Gala Concert. (I’m also bringing my violin along in case I get a chance to play part of one of the other concerts!)
Each summer, there are tons of different opera workshops and training programs for aspiring opera singers like myself. However, many of them are closed to singers over the age of 32, and so I found myself eligible during last fall’s application season for only a handful, including the Prague Summer Nights Festival which thankfully has no age limit. (Seriously, thank you for not having an arbitrary age limit!!!)
The role of Donna Anna is one that I’ve been wanting to tackle since I successfully navigated Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata last fall, and the Prague Summer Nights Festival was near the top of my list out of all the applications I submitted. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the festival’s artistic director, Dr. John Nardolillo, conducting the auditions himself instead of delegating this responsibility to someone else. This meant I was able to chat with him during my audition and share the details of my rather unique background, which usually does not come across very strongly on paper. I, in turn, came away with the impression that even though this was a brand new venture, the maestro had a clear sense of what he wanted to accomplish through the festival program, and that this was not just some pipe dream being thrown together haphazardly. And, as it turns out, the company in charge of logistics, Classical Movements, was also the same company behind the 2009 YouTube Symphony Orchestra in New York City! I was one of the 2nd violinists for that epic (and very well organized) experience, which culminated in a concert at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas.
At any rate, I went away from the audition with high hopes, and my hopes were rewarded with an offer to sing Donna Anna a little over a month later. I did my happy dance, accepted the offer, then went off to dig up my old Schirmer score. On the advice of a few friends in the business, I also picked up a Barenreiter score for reference.
And now here I am, less than 48 hours away from arriving in Prague, ready to make new friends, learn new things and be totally immersed in opera – after a full night’s sleep of course to take the edge off the jet lag.
Here’s to the magic of opera: may it be everpresent throughout the inaugural Prague Summer Nights Festival!