Tag Archives: ‘sì sì sopranos

Meet Alison Trainer, ‘sparkling’ coloratura

Alison Trainer, coloratura soprano

Coloratura soprano Alison Trainer is rapidly claiming her place among the most important emerging singers today. A gifted singing actress, she has won first prize in several major vocal competitions, including the Liederkranz, Sullivan Foundation, Opera Index, and the Northeast Regional Metropolitan Opera competition. 

Recently, she received critical acclaim for her European debut as Fiakermilli in Arabella in St. Gallen, Switzerland: The St. Galler Nachrichten raved, “Completely amazing were the vocal acrobatics of Fiakermilli, sung by Alison Trainer with virtuosic and sparkling coloratura.” During the 2010-2011 season, she returned to St. Gallen to sing Adele in Die Fledermaus and Lisa in La sonnambula. She will be featured in upcoming seasons as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Gilda in Rigoletto, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, and Oscar in Un ballo in maschera

She has been a soloist with opera companies including New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera Center, New Jersey Opera, Cleveland Opera, Central City Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Tulsa Opera. A favorite soloist with many up-and-coming conductors, Alison has sung with the National Chorale at Avery Fisher Hall, Phoenix Symphony, Syracuse Symphony, Sinfonie St. Gallen, Annapolis Symphony, Erie Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, Dayton Symphony, Charlottesville Symphony, and the Pennsylvania Symphony at the Philadelphia Academy of Music.  

Originally from San Diego, California, she earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University, a Master of Music degree from Cincinnati Conservatory, an Artist Diploma from the Opera Institute at Boston University, and is currently a Doctoral Candidate at Stony Brook University. She has been an apprentice artist with Glimmerglass Opera and San Francisco Opera’s Merola program, and a vocal fellow at Tanglewood Music Festival and Aspen Music Festival. 

Hello, Alison! A pleasure to have you on “Operatoonity.” 

Where did you grow up, what was your home life like, and how did it affect your life choices?
I lived in San Diego until I was 11. I began playing the piano at age 4, and trained in acting, dance, and violin from age 5-11. At age 11, we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I happily spent two of my high school years at Interlochen Arts Academy, a boarding school for the arts in Michigan, studying singing, piano, and dance. After I graduated from high school, my parents moved around quite a bit, and they have now settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I am adopted, and neither of my parents are particularly musical or artistic, so my early natural ability and interest was perplexing to them, but they were very supportive of my desire to study music and the arts. 

When did you make the decision to pursue classical vocal performance as a career?
My mother says that I had a vast repertoire of children’s songs memorized by the time I was 3, and would perform them for any willing guest. By the time I was 5 or 6, I knew I wanted to be a singer and an actress. No one would give me voice lessons until I was 12, and my first teacher gave me the 24 Italian Art Songs. I fell in love with them instantly. At that point I sang pop and broadway music, and I was obsessed with Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Barbara Streisand. My voice teacher told me that I could sing anything I wanted, but that my voice was well suited for classical music and opera. I loved the linguistic and vocal challenge of classical music. By age 13, I knew I simply had to be an opera singer. 

Singing Mabel in 'The Pirates of Penzance'

How would you describe your voice? I am a lyric coloratura soprano. Roles in Strauss operas such as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Fiakermili in Arabella, or Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier fit me perfectly. I am also moving into slightly larger repertoire, such as Constanza in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, Lucia, Gilda in Rigoletto, and Pamina in Die Zauberfloete. I am comfortable singing in both the lyric soprano and coloratura fachs. 

You’ve done both opera performance and recitals? Do you prefer one over the other?
I need opera, recital, and symphony concerts in my life in order to feel fulfilled. I simply cannot live without any of these art forms. These genres fulfill entirely different aspects of my musical personality. Recitals are wonderfully intimate. I love being able to see my audience members and communicate with them directly. I love the poetry of song repertoire, and the close relationship one can explore with a pianist. Symphony concerts are also incredibly rewarding. When I sing with an orchestra, I feel like I am surfing on top of this enormous, lush wave of beautiful sound. There is no other feeling in the world quite like it. Repertoire like Carmina Burana, the Brahms Requiem, the Fauré Requiem, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, The Passion of St. Matthew (Bach) and Handel’s Messiah are the bread and butter of my concert work, and I will never tire of these incredible pieces. 

Alison singing Papagena

You’ve won lots of awards. Which of these means to most to you because it was the most difficult to attain or advanced you career (or for whatever reason)? I have been very fortunate with several vocal competitions, and I am immensely grateful for the support. The Sullivan Foundation has been especially helpful, because every year for their top winners they pledge not only a financial award upon winning, but continued support for the next five years. The Sullivan Foundation helped fund several audition tours for me, including the European tour that resulted in my fest contract here in St. Gallen. Being a singer is a terribly expensive endeavor, and this foundation has really made a huge difference to me. 

According to your resume, you’re going to be singing in Switzerland for a few years. What is your typical day like, living and working in another country?
I am almost finished with my first opera season as a fest singer here in St. Gallen, Switzerland. It was been quite a year. I have absolutely wonderful colleagues here in St. Gallen that have really made it feel like home. One of the biggest challenges here is that the language spoken on the street is Swiss German. Swiss German resembles high German very little, and I am completely lost trying to understand. It is my goal to become fluent in high German as soon as possible, but this goal has no doubt been slowed down by being surrounded by Swiss German. Also, there are many Americans and English speakers in the house, so it is all too easy to get by in English. I’ve had two German stage directors, and working with them advanced my German faster than any course could have. There really is no such thing as a typical day here. Rehearsals are from 10-2 and 6-10, and I often work seven days a week during the busy season. To make up for the long hours and relentless rehearsals, I have three full months free this summer, and two months where I have nothing other than a few scattered performances. During this time I will audition as much as I can. 

I will also work on my own musical projects, since there is no time for that during the busy part of the year. Perhaps the biggest challenge for me is getting used to living in a small city after having lived in New York City for the past ten years. The entire population of Switzerland is less than the population of New York City. I am a true city girl, and I don’t know if I’ll ever adjust fully. In the evenings, and on Sundays, when the entire town shuts down, I miss New York terribly. In my free time I hike, ski, and enjoy nearby Zurich. 

When did you develop a love of yoga? How frequently do you serve as a labor doula in Switzerland?
I trained as a dancer for many years, and when I gave it up, I missed it terribly. When I found yoga, it was like coming home. I began training in 1999, and because of my dance background, the physical part of the practice came relatively easily to me. What amazed me the most at first was how much yoga helped my singing. I saw an immediate effect, and from that point forward, yoga has been a part of my daily life. When I was a young artist at Glimmerglass Opera, several friends asked me to teach them. It never occurred to me that I would want to teach yoga, but after working with them three times a week for the summer, I was in love with teaching yoga. I became certified in 2003 in New York, and have taught ever since. I teach mostly privately, since my singing schedule is unpredictable. 

In 2006 I certified in pre-natal yoga, in response to several of my students’ pregnancies. This led to my interest in becoming a labor doula, which is yet another calling of mine. I worked very sporadically as a doula in New York, fitting it in between singing gigs whenever possible. When I came to Switzerland, I had to accept that my work as a doula and a yoga teacher would be on hold for a while. I did, however, coach an actress colleague through the natural childbirth of her baby boy in January. And now it looks as though I will be teaching yoga to the dance company here at Theater St. Gallen. As always, this work is tremendously rewarding, in a completely different way than singing can be. 

Alison singing Barbarina in 'Le nozze di Figaro'

What would you like to be doing in five years? Ten years?In five and ten years, I hope to still be singing. I want to perform at a world-class level in the world’s top opera houses and with the world’s best symphonies. That is not a goal I ever intend to give up. I will always be a singer. 

You’re on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. When did you embrace social media and how has it impacted your career or visibility?
To be honest, I embrace social media because it helps me feel connected to my friends and the world around me. Especially here in Europe, Facebook and Twitter keep me abreast of what is going on in my friends’ lives, allows me to see pictures of their children, etc. I hesitate to use Facebook or Twitter for career purposes, although I know that can be very helpful. The marketing end of this business is my least favorite part, but I am working on getting more comfortable in this area. 

What is something most people don’t know about you, something not on your resume?
Hmmm, well, most people wouldn’t know that I am adopted, or that I have a degree in Sociology and am finishing my Doctorate in Vocal Performance. I am also a writer, and I am working on a book about adoption, and a book of short stories. 

The Bodensee in Rorschach, Switzerland

Where can we expect to see/hear you in 2011?
Over the next couple of opera seasons, I will sing Adele in Die Fledermaus, Oscar in Un ballo in maschera, Gilda in Rigoletto, Rosina in Il barbieri di Siviglia, and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos. Some of my dream roles! I am really excited about what the next few years hold for me. 

Here’s a wonderful clip of Alison singing Edvard Grieg’s Med En Vandlilje: 

YouTube Preview Image

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More information on Alison’s career, including reviews and recordings, can be found at www.alisontrainer.com. You can friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @SopranoAlison.

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Filed under Interviews, Performers, profiles, sopranos

get to know Michelle Trovato, lyric coloratura

Michelle Trovato

“Spot-on.”  “A beautifully produced soprano.” “Already turning heads.” “A bundle of energy and vocal thrills.”   

 These are just some of the glowing comments reviewers have made about award-winning lyric coloratura soprano Michelle Trovato. Michelle received a bachelors of music in voice from the North Carolina School of the Arts School of Music in 2003. She trained with the New York Opera Studio, 2004-2005, and in 2008. She was a member of the Opera Colorado Outreach Ensemble in 2008, and performed with the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program during the 2008-2009 season.    

 A handful of Michelle’s recent honors include Grand Finalist  in the Concorso Internazionale di Canto Lirico, P. Cappuccili, Italy 2009; 3rd Prize in the Marie Kraja International Opera Competition in Tirana, Albania 2009; winner of the Opera Index, Inc Enouragement Grant Award 2009; and winner Concorso Lirico International Opera Competition, U.S. Division 2009.   

Welcome to “Operatoonity,” Michelle! So glad to have you.   

Lez Azuriales Competition Winner, France, 2007

Where did you grow up, what was your home life like, and how did it affect your life choices?
I grew up initially on Long Island, New York, which was very important because the arts are so active out there, and of course because of the close vicinity to NYC.  We were also bused into the city from school on a regular basis to see Broadway musicals, practice sessions with the NY Philharmonic….and operas!  I saw Aida at the Met when I was 13-years-old and cried during the tomb scene.  I had no idea what the opera was about, never saw a program, and there weren’t supertitles yet, so I had no idea what I was seeing or hearing! But I found it very moving, I just didn’t know why at the time.  And of course we were in the very last row, so I couldn’t believe the POWER of their voices!  I never thought that I could do that; it never even occurred to me.  But I was always singing and performing in musicals and plays both in school and in the community on Long Island.    

The big change came when I was 15-years-old, and my family relocated to Virginia, where I began immediately studying with a retired opera diva named Basel Landia Wowk.  We started out singing every legit soprano musical theatre song you can think of, and slowly she began introducing opera arias into my repertoire.  She would say: “You’re Italian, right?  Just TRY it!!” And she gave me books to read (most notably Bubbles, Beverly Sills’ autobiography), recordings to listen to and videos to watch.  The next thing I knew, I was hooked!   

When did you make the decision to pursue classical vocal performance as a career?
I pretty much decided to pursue singing as a career at around 18-years-old.    

singing Lucia for Center Stage Opera, CA / photo by vulia.com

How would you describe your voice? What repertoire do you sing best?   

I have that warm lyric sound with the upper extension and facility that works especially well in the bel canto repertoire.  I think this also helps in singing new music, which often calls for a large range and agility. Objectively speaking, I suppose that I sing Italian repertoire the best, especially works by Donizetti, Bellini, some Verdi, and Puccini (the lyric roles), but it is a big goal of mine to help promote new music.   

Favorite composer? Favorite opera? Favorite role?
I can’t even pick a favorite color!  I do have a dream of singing all the Donizetti Queens….I’ve already performed Anna Bolena in concert and really look forward to singing the others!  I would also love to play Baby Doe.  There is something about that role that really speaks to me…perhaps because she was an extraordinarily strong woman, just like the Queens.   

Do you have any opera role models?
Reading Sills’ autobiographies really gave me courage as a young singer, as did reading about Callas’ young life.  These women, coming from a poor background, who struggled for every bit of success that they achieved….amazing.  I would say that I identify with Sills’ brand of “good humor in the face of adversity” the best, but both women have inspired me a great deal.  My current voice teacher, Carol Kirkpatrick, is also a huge role model for me.  Not only as an artist, but as a human being, she is always striving to better herself. I admire her greatly for that and for many other reasons.   

“You’re Italian, right?  Just TRY it!!”
–Basel Landia Wowk, Michelle’s first voice teacher, encouraging her to sing operatic works

What was the single, most meaningful experience you’ve had as a performer or student of the classical arts?
Singing the Faure Requiem on the 1st Anniversary of 9/11 is something I will never forget.  There were thousands of people crammed into the sanctuary of a beautiful church, and even the basement, where they were piping in the concert, was full.  Singing the “Pie Jesu,” I had to remember that my job was to give comfort and to sing with joy, as we always should, even in the darkest times.  I can only imagine what 9/11/11 is going to be like, 10 years later.  I have hope that the event will be about honoring those who have died and bringing that same joy and comfort to those who are with us today.   

Michelle in 'La Traviata'

What would you like to be doing in five years? Ten years?
I would like to become more financially stable over the next 5 to 10 years by singing in larger and larger companies both nationally and internationally, but mostly I just want to keep SINGING.  Opera, of course, but I have already performed one recital program this year and am looking forward to a 2nd one in May.  There is a huge wealth of concert and recital repertoire out there and I have ideas for more programs than I can count!     

Do I have a dream to sing at the Met?  Yes, it would be wonderful.  But my goals are not focused that way.  I LOVE what I do and I just want to keep doing it and make enough money to live- not an easy task.  The way I view it, I want to continue to strive for artistic and vocal excellence and work with like-minded artists.  And pay my bills.  Beyond that, I am content.  (Even if I never make it to the “big house”!)   

When did you begin using social media to advance your platform and how has it impacted your career or visibility?
I developed a website back in 2007 after a big competition win.  (I finally had something to put online!)  Also, I was booked in YAPs for almost the following 2 years, so it was the perfect time to get my information on the web.  I also joined Facebook in 2007 to keep in touch with people I met at the competition (they couldn’t believe I’d never heard of it!) but I am quite new to Twitter.  I only joined Twitter a few months ago.  I am enjoying it so far, and am particularly glad to have made the connection with “Operatoonity!!”  Next is Youtube.  I have to learn how to edit video and get it up there; I am super technically unsavvy, sadly.  I WILL have more video online in the next few months, this is my Scarlett O’Hara “As God is my witness” declaration!    

As to how it’s impacted my career, of course it’s a huge help to be able to refer people to my website for further information about me and for sound clips, as well as production photos. I have definitely made some major connections on Facebook, and I have both gotten and helped others get work because I was able to connect with them there.  I have been contacted after performances from quite a few audience members who found me on Facebook (perhaps I should start a Fan page as well?) and have received numerous engagements from connecting with people online.  It’s amazing- you just never know.   

What is something most people don’t know about you, something not on your resume?
I’m on a pop album called “Incomplete Denial,” singing in the background on one track.  They paid me to go into the recording studio for an hour and sing the same phrase over and over.  I found the job on Craigslist!    

Michelle's Kennedy Center debut singing 'Mystic Odes' / photo by Robby Lamb

Where can we expect to see/hear you in 2011?
I have my 2nd recital of the year coming up, a program inspired by “Angels and Demons” at the Hudson Opera House in upstate New York on May 14th through Diamond Opera Theater.  This summer, I will be a member of the Caramoor Festival’s Bel Canto Young Artists program, the only program in the States (that I know of) that is focused on the bel canto repertoire, and then attend the International Vocal Arts Institute (IVAI) in Montreal.  And I’m fortunate that there are other engagements beyond that, which I can’t announce just yet.   

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You can follow Michelle on Twitter @michelletrovato or alternately friend her on Facebook  where she has posted some wonderful production photos. For more about her performances and for some wonderful audio clips, visit her website.


Filed under Bel canto opera, Interviews, Performers, sopranos, Sunday Best

don’t quote me . . . the soprano hall of fame

“I felt I could do any coloratura soprano role; I always knew what I was capable of doing. In the performing arts you need ego, a certain self-assurance, or else you’d never have the guts to face an audience.”
–Beverly Sills

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‘Sì, sì sopranos!’

I know T. S. Eliot said, “April is the cruelest month.”

But not on “Operatoonity.”

That’s because the ole editorial calendar turns to sopranos tomorrow, April 1, glorious sopranos, of every stripe, all month long, and that’s no foolin’.

Get ready! There will be polls to vote for your favorite sopranos and soprano roles. Quotes from famous sopranos. Anecdotes about sopranos. 

And last but not certainly not least, interviews with sopranos and mezzos, from all parts of the US and from across the pond–all different, all with important stories to tell as performers and/or students of the classical arts, all with unique life experiences and career paths.

Here’s a sneak preview of some the sopranos who’ll be profiled on “Operatoonity” this month:

If you love sopranos (and who doesn’t?), you won’t want to miss a post.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Classic Opera, Interviews, Performers, profiles, slideshow