I Am an Opera Singer!

November 25, 2007
By Lucy R. Albert, White Plains, NY

My name is Lucy and I am an opera singer. Ever since I was little I have loved to sing. When I was really young-3 or 4-I enjoyed singing show-tunes like “Annie” to my grandparents, and I was never shy. As I got older my mom and dad tried to find different singing and acting classes for me. Then one day my mom’s friend told us about a few free choruses that we could look into. One of the options was The New York City Children’s Chorus at Lincoln Center. My mom called up and made an audition date for me to meet the headmaster and sing to him. When we got there he had me sing “Happy Birthday” as my audition piece. I wasn’t very nervous when auditioned, because I don’t really get nervous about singing in front of people and I don’t think I quite understood why I was singing to the guy. Anyway, I made it in to the chorus and joined the beginner class the next season.
In the beginner class they teach you how to breathe properly, sing on your lips, and stand and sit so the breath goes into your head and stomach. It was hard at first because in opera the words are sung and pronounced in a specific way. To complicate things, operas are often sung in French or Italian, but even in English, opera singing sounds different because we must articulate our words. In the beginner class they don’t really teach you songs as much as prepare you for learning the music to operas in the advanced class.
After about one season, I graduated into the “advanced class”, which was much bigger than the beginner class. Instead of just five children there were thirty-five. In the advanced class they teach you the parts of the operas where the children sing. Even if the children only sing one word in an opera that is what is taught. After everyone has learned the music to the opera, the chorus master auditions us. He picks a group of children that he thinks auditioned the best to be in the opera.
Once cast in an opera you are now hired to do a job. This is a big responsibility! We must be on time, never forget a rehearsal, we can’t complain about our parts and we must be respectful to the people around us. No matter how small our part is we must take it seriously. Sometimes all we need to do is walk across the stage, but we need to know when and how fast to go, how to hold our hands, what expressions to have and how to exit the stage. There should be no mistakes, but accidents do happen, therefore we have to know what to do if we lose a hat or fall. This takes practice and concentration.

Once we are cast we start rehearsals. The director tells us where to stand, how to act and what to do. There are a lot of rehearsals, and sometimes they don’t tell you when the rehearsals are until three days before! (“3 days time”—do you mean “3 days before?” That’s not clear. Also—write out your numbers! Three, not 3!) Luckily I am home-schooled so my job doesn’t interfere with school at all. Most of the children, however, go to regular school and sometimes miss class. The New York City Opera tries to work around the children’s schedule whenever possible.
During the rehearsal and performance time we get to know our colleagues very well! Sometimes we are in the first act and then we have a long time until we go on stage again. We tell jokes in the wings and playing cards is a backstage favorite, but when we step onto the stage suddenly our silly nature fades and we become our part in the show. If something is suppose to be funny to our character, we laugh. Even if we are annoyed at a person in real life, but in the show they are our suppose to be our friend, we must forget about our annoyances and act!
It is really thrilling for me when I am on the stage! I get a wonderful feeling inside. Not at all a nervous feeling, but a warm feeling about everything. The props, the costumes, the sets, the music, the audience of 2550 people, everything! I think my favorite parts of the show are the costumes and the auditions. It is so exciting to get a phone call saying “ We have a part for Lucy in an opera.”
So that is my job! I am not sure any other one could take its place and I can’t imagine life without it! Even when I am a grandmother, I will always remember the amazing feeling of standing there on the New York State Theater Stage in my cute costume dancing around in Carmen, or jumping for toys in La Bohème, or limping up the steps in Sweeney Todd. I have had many great experiences there and no matter how many new experiences I have I will never forget working for the New York City Opera.

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