By Reba Wilson
Posted Oct 23 2013 – 11:04pm
Audrey Luna is a professional opera singer who has performed with Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and other notable companies. Luna’s powerful and enchanting coloratura soprano voice was on display in the Opéra de Montréal’s recent performance of Lakmé. Here, Luna mesmerized the audience with her vocal control and expression of feeling. Having myself taken opera lessons for 12 years, I was intrigued by the delightful Luna, who was kind enough to do a Q&A with me for Her Campus McGill.
Reba Wilson for HC McGill: As an opera singer you travel often. Do you have time to explore the cities you visit?
Audrey Luna: Yes, I do, and depending on the size of the role and how long the rehearsal period is, I’ll explore some more than others. It’s definitely a perk of the job. Recently I found a really exciting app on a blog called Frills and Trills, which is written by an opera singer. This app is called “TripAdvisor Offline City Guides”. It is a free app for your smart phone and has been extremely helpful when exploring new cities. The best thing about it is that you don’t need to be online to use maps or location features, which is great when I am sightseeing in a city without wifi access. (You can find he app here: http://www.frillsandtrills.com/?s=trip+advisor)
RW: I was fortunate enough to see you perform in the Opéra de Montréal’s recent production of Lakmé and you were wonderful! What were the joys and challenges of this performance?
AL: As soon as I landed in Montréal it was such a joy and I truly didn’t want this experience to end. This was my first time singing the role of Lakmé, so I guess you could say that that is a joy and a challenge in itself. Usually a job is booked out years in advance but as I was a replacement and only received the call five months before rehearsals started, I had less time to prepare this role than I normally would when preparing a new role. When I received the call I was in performances of Zerbinetta in Ft. Worth, TX and then went straight into rehearsals of another opera in New York, so it was challenging to find time to squeeze in work on the Lakmé. Thankfully, I had a month off this summer and was able to work on it then. This opera is not performed very often so I am very fortunate to have done it at all, but even more fantastic is that practically every artist I was working with spoke French so throughout the rehearsal process I could really work on perfecting the language and the style of the music through simply working with my colleagues.
RW: What was your favourite spot in Montréal while you were here for the performance? Was it your first time here?
AL: Yes, it was my first time in Montréal. I loved walking around Mount Royal. I’m a very outdoorsy person and about two years ago I got a dog because life started to get lonely being on the road 10 to 11 months out of the year. My dog’s name is Roxy and she is a five pound Chihuahua who loves to go on long walks and we were staying near the theatre so it was easy to get to the park.
RW: What languages do you speak? What languages do you prefer to sing in and why?
AL: I’d say my German is the best as I spent a year abroad in Vienna when I was in my undergrad studies. My Italian is passable and my French needs some work. Lakmé was only the third French role I’ve ever sung, so I haven’t had that much exposure to the language, but I love the French repertoire and find that it, along with bel canto sings very well in my voice.
RW: If you were an operatic character in real life, who would you be and why?
AL: That’s an interesting question. I’m trying to think of a character that doesn’t die of a broken heart or consumption or something else tragic. If you’re an operatic character then you are generally pretty dramatic, which isn’t at all appealing to me in real life. The pickings are pretty slim, but I guess Zerbinetta has it pretty good. She’s a singing actress and an independent woman who is very light hearted and fun, so yes, I’ll go with her.
RW: Who are your musical idols? Do you listen solely to classical music or are other genres in your music library?
AL: I hardly ever listen to music at all because my life is inundated with sound all the time in my work. If I do listen to any sort of music it’s to prepare a role. Silence can be a beautiful thing. In the car or on a plane, I’ll listen to podcasts. Lately I’m really into story telling podcasts like ‘This American Life’, ‘Risk’ and ‘The Moth’. Some of my musical idols are Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Beverly Sills.
RW: How did you get into opera as a career? At what age did you notice your aptitude for singing?
AL: My mother saw I had a musical talent early on and did everything she could to cultivate that talent. She enrolled me in private voice, piano and violin lessons when I was still in elementary school, but I didn’t connect to anything like I did with voice so I stuck with it. This soon led to community theatre and school musicals in middle and high school. Then I began studying with a voice teacher that had a good ear for what my voice was suited for. It was at 14 that I began to sing art songs and arias. I entered state-wide classical voice competitions throughout high school and knew by the age of 16 that this was the sort of music I loved to perform. I did my undergrad at Portland State University, majoring in music and my masters at CCM, majoring in voice. I worked very hard on the competition circuit, which is an entirely different kind of work that requires a tough skin, but doing that helped in so many ways. Financially of course, because this is not an inexpensive profession to fund when you are first starting out and it’s also how I got really good at auditioning, which is essential. I spent time as an apprentice with The Santa Fe [and] Pittsburgh Operas and shortly after graduating from those young artist programs I was able to acquire an agent and begin working full time.
RW: Do you ever sing other genres of music?
AL: I still love musical theater and have been fortunate to still be able to sing roles like Cunegonde in Candide and Anne in A Little Night Music every so often. I also do a handful of recital and concert work every year. I believe it is healthy for the mind and the voice to select your own repertoire and perform in intimate settings when you can.
RW: What advice would you give to young women intending to start a musical career?
AL: Take a business class and learn more about what your financial life would look like as a self-employed person working in multiple countries. Every year, when I get my taxes together for my accountant, I learn something new. And saving for retirement is a whole separate issue. As a self-employed person you are your company and only you and you alone have the responsibility of thinking about your financial future. Like I said before: life on the road can be lonely. As a single woman working as many months out of the year as I do, I can’t justify paying rent for a place I would never see or owning a home only to sublet it out most of the year, so I have a storage unit in New York and basically live out of my suitcase. I make it to NYC often enough so I can switch out my wardrobe for the changing seasons, but that is how my life works right now and I’m not really sure when things will change. It is an exciting life and I love what I do so much and can’t imagine doing anything else, but it can also be a logistic nightmare, so I have learned to become very detail oriented because when you travel to three or four different counties in a month you need to have everything planned out perfectly in advance. Sometimes I love being a wandering minstrel of sorts, but other times I wish I had my own bed instead of going on airbnb to find a place to call home when I have time off. They don’t teach you these things in school kids, so ask other musicians how they manage to make it work. I know opera singers that have homes, husbands and even children, so it’s not impossible, but this is how my life works right now and I wouldn’t want it any other way because I love what I do.