Think you know everything about the Wolf Trap Opera Company? Think again. Here to shed some light on five opera truths is Lee Anne Myslewski, Administrative Director, Wolf Trap Opera and Classical Programming.
We have a sense of humor.
Q: “How many tenors does it take to change a lightbulb?”
A: “One… to hold it while the world revolves around him.”
Q: “What’s the difference between a soprano and a pit bull?”
Opera is usually seen, and rightfully so, as serious: big emotions, big drama, big voices surfing over big orchestras. But we’ve commissioned two comedies – Volpone (which was nominated for a Grammy – not too shabby for our first commission!), and The Inspector. You can sometimes find us improvising comic Mad Libs for discerning elementary-school students. And, if you’re really lucky? You can see us singing things that are totally ridiculous at our (thankfully private) Inappropriate Aria Nights.
We work out.
Our bodies are our instruments, and we do our best to keep them healthy. If we don’t sing, often we don’t get paid…so the incentive to stay healthy is very real, and the myth of a singer as wide as they are tall simply doesn’t stick anymore. We work out, because stage directors like to make us do crazy things physically while we’re simultaneously trying to do insane things vocally. Flexibility, stamina, stress-reduction…we’re at the gym, doing yoga, eating healthily, drinking water like it’s going out of style. Because we can’t go to work when we have the sniffles – performing with a stuffy nose or a sore throat can do us serious damage, and it’s not the sound you’ve paid to hear.
We listen to a crazily/weirdly/amazingly wide range of music.
While we love opera, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we love it to the exclusion of all else. You’ll be able to see gangs (opera gangs…like scooter gangs but way louder) of us at the Filene Center for any number of shows. A Prairie Home Companion, Riverdance, Steve Miller Band, Barenaked Ladies, k.d. lang…if they’ll let us out of rehearsal, we’ll be there! (Because nothing enriches our performing like watching others at the top of their game, regardless of genre.)
We’re not in it for the glamour.
There are pretty dresses and parties, to be sure. But there are long months spent away from loved ones, wardrobes and keepsakes locked in storage units in towns that we might not see for calendar years. Some of us are married, some have children, and all of us are trying to figure out how to work in this crazy career while caring for our families – it can be tough! And while we make intense friendships during shows, once the show is over – or in this case, the summer – it could be years before we see any of these folks again. It can be really lonely.
We’re “Young Artists” because we’re just starting out.
In some ways that’s true – our average age hovers in the early 30s. But most of us have spent almost all of that time in training: undergrad degrees, Master’s degrees, Artist Diplomas, Doctorates. We’ve worked for summer training programs, and large house (The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco, Lyric Opera of Chicago) year-long programs. (Rather than thinking of us as students, we’re closer to medical Residents at a teaching hospital.) In many ways, this is our first chance at walking away from that “training” security net, and it makes this opportunity all the more special.