In September of last year I began what was intended to be a series of articles about wonderful singers who are not media superstars. Well, I'm finally getting around to the second featured singer.
Last January I responded to a desperate plea for help--Opera Manhattan was doing Dido and Aeneas and the chorus was down to one tenor--who was also singing the Sailor. (Yes, gentle readers, desperation is almost always involved somehow when I am engaged to sing.) Of course I agreed to join the chorus. Imagine my delight, at the first rehearsal I attended, upon watching Sharin Apostolou rehearsing Belinda. Here was a lovely young woman, singing beautifully, acting as though goading Dido into admitting she has a crush on that hunky sailor Aeneas were part of her daily routine. Since that Dido production we've kept in touch, and it was only natural I should ask her to allow me write a profile about her. I submitted some questions to Sharin and she was quite loquacious in her replies.
What is your background and training? I grew up in New Jersey, right outside of NYC. My public school had a really strong arts program and almost everyone was involved in either Choir or Band. I switched to private school for high school and the music department would take us to the dress rehearsals at the Metropolitan Opera. That’s when I fell in love with it and decided to try to a career in Music. I went to Carnegie Mellon for undergrad and then straight to Manhattan School of Music for my Masters.
Many singers have overcome bad training or other obstacles to have a career. Have you had any kind of roadblocks to success? I feel like a big sloppy cliché when I say this, but my only roadblock is myself. I’m very hard on myself. I’ve always been a vicious overachiever and perfectionist, which was great when I was in academia. Sadly, there isn’t perfection when it comes to something as subjective as art.
How much time every year do you spend away from home? What are the best and worst parts of singing in so many different places? Oof. The travel is my favorite and least favorite part of the job, all at the same time. I love seeing new places and meeting different kinds of people. This business affords me the luxury of really experiencing different parts of the country and world in a way that as a tourist I never could.
I spent just over 100 days away from home in 2010. Mind you, I was lucky enough that three of my gigs were in New York City (Caramoor Festival and two sets of concerts with the National Chorale,) so I got to spend 10 weeks working from home. If by some unfortunate incident I don’t add any other travel to my calendar for 2011, I’ll be gone about 170 days. That’s two weeks shy of half a year, for all those playing along at home.
Loneliness is the hardest part of the travel. Thankfully, the cast and crew of a show often become fast friends in production. I think we naturally do this to help cope with the loneliness. You eat, sleep, breathe, and experience everything almost as a family. The industry is pretty small. I find that we very rarely go to an Opera gig where we don’t know a single other person there.
Talk about singing Belinda in China. China is by far the most exotic place I’ve ever sung. I sang Belinda in Dido and Aeneas as part of the Macao International Music Festival. The group we had for the show (American cast, Australian conductor, Italian director, costume and lighting designers; Hair and makeup from mainland China and a production crew from Hong Kong) was spectacular and made the experience even more crazy and special.
Have you sung elsewhere outside the US? I’ve actually sung quite a bit over seas. 2010 was a marathon for my passport. In March, I joined the European tour of the The Opera Show (its hard to explain what exactly it is, so just click on the link.) I did the last week in Barcelona and the two weeks in Lisbon and now have a deep love for Vinho Verde. I was able to do the first round of the Competizione dell’Opera in New York, which subsequently sent me to Dresden and Bremen, Germany. I was a finalist and spent two weeks performing in a series of concerts with the Bremen Philharmoniker, which included the finals of the competition on the stage of the Semperoper in Dresden. I was glad we got a sound check, because stepping onto that stage took my breath away. Ten days after I returned home from Germany, I was on a plane to Hong Kong.
How do you handle having a relationship with extended periods apart? I won’t lie--it’s not easy. It takes a lot of time, understanding and patience to spend most of a relationship in different time zones. Skype and other forms of video chat are incredibly useful. It really makes a difference being able to see the other person with whom you’re talking. We try not to go more than six weeks without a visit. Any more than six and I get very cranky. We have a cell phone plans with lots of minutes and text messages. We use various forms of social media (mostly twitter and foursquare) to keep in touch throughout the day and we chat whenever we get the time. I think the main thing is you really need to want to make it work. I would rather be in a relationship with him away all the time, than with anyone else who would be around more. ☺ He also does a killer Donald Duck voice.
How old are you? [optional, of course] How has your voice changed over the years? I just turned 29! I’m not sure how much my voice is changing based on age (and hormones, lets call a spade a spade here) or my figuring out how to use it properly. My voice seems to be getting higher. I have the ability to finesse notes I never thought possible. How much of that is age and how much of that is actually moving my air and not supporting with my neck, I’m not sure. My voice teacher and I have short-term goals (“I need to sing this in 3 weeks. Help me not sound like a chicken being plucked alive,”) and we have long term goals. We’ll see where my body takes me.
Are there roles you'd love to sing that are outside of your fach? Are there roles within your fach you don't want to ever sing [again]? I’ve always wanted to be a Queen of the Night. Magic Flute was the first opera I ever went to and the reason I crossed over to the dark side. Sadly, even with my ever-ascending voce, it most likely will never fit. I’d love to sing a Turandot or a Salome. I think I’d perish even attempting it with a piano. What a way to go though, right?
My favorite question from "Inside the Actor's Studio": What's your favorite swear word? I’m from New Jersey- I only get one? F***********ck. It’s usually drawn out with an air of exasperation.