Amy Owens on going from Opera to Pop, to the Podium & More.

Amy Owens is a wonderfully unique coloratura soprano who never stops creating. I love her positive energy and cheerful personality. She is bright, she is fierce and her love for music is contagious. To me, Amy stands out in the vast world of social media and I decided we should all get to know more about her and the brilliant things she is doing.

How did you fall in love with opera? What is your background and what led you to begin a career in opera?
I love classical music because of the discipline of it, most of all. The only thing that ever came naturally to me was practicing, and when it comes to opera, there is no end to the practice! There are always a hundred more ways to improve one’s art form: learn more languages, history, theory, repertoire, pedagogy, etc. When it comes to performing, the best thing about opera is the highly focused collaboration between everyone on and offstage. The audience is also a key player, and we all create the experience together. Opera is easily the most collaborative art form because it requires so many different creative minds to work together in real time. I love that.
You will be attending the Dallas Opera Hart Institute for Women Conductors this year, as an auditing conductor. Can you tell us more about what you will be doing there and your goals as a singer who also conducts?

I am so excited to be attending the Institute for Women Conductors! Two years ago, I was hired to sing in this institute, and I said to myself: Amy, in a few years, you will be coming here as a conductor. I’m so grateful for David Lomeli for believing in me and encouraging me to pursue this. I’ve loved conducting ever since I started choral conducting as a teenager, and it has always been a long-term goal. I love the sounds of the orchestra—so colorful, so expansive. Conducting is an intensive exercise in trust and vulnerability, so to me, it’s a microcosm of what I seek in life. Time will tell how conducting fits in my career, but for now I want to expand my musical life and learn everything I can.

You are an original recording artist with your indie-pop / electronica duo ‘Haethor’. How and when did that project begin? Are there any challenges in switching back and forth between that music style and your opera singing? What‘s next for ‘Haethor’?

 

Haethor (HAY-thor) is a project that I’ve been working on with my musical collaborator Howard Wulkan, a composer and producer who works out of Bokeelia, Florida. We started a dialogue after he heard me in Carmina Burana with the New Mexico Philharmonic back in 2016. By the time we started talking about making music together, I was ready to invest a huge part of my year into making it happen. The best part of making the album was that there were no expectations. We both came in to it with curiosity and open minds, and we were both overcome with how well the collaboration worked! I wrote the lyrics and melodies, and Howard is the master mind behind the musical textures. The music is really different, but we love it and we love sharing it. We have a lot of ideas for the future development of Haethor, but I don’t have any idea where it will actually go. That’s the fun of it!
There are a few challenges in switching back and forth between vocal approaches with pop and operatic music, but there are many more benefits. Sometimes I listen to young opera singers who sound overly affected and unnatural in their production, and then I hear them do karaoke and think “wow, that’s an amazing voice.” Sometimes when we strip away everything we think we’re supposed to do as singers, we find our true voice. Our true voice is always the most beautiful one. Through writing this album, I learned how to navigate my middle and low registers in an easier, more expressive way, discovered more colors of expression available to me, and best of all, developed a solid confidence in my musical choices across the board. I now approach all of my music with much more—for lack of a better word—flair. It’s a lot of fun.

 

You are a perfect example of our motto: “be more than one thing”. You are an artist who is constantly challenging herself and others through your art. We applaud you for that! How has collaborating with artists outside the standard opera singing world informed your own singing and what you have to offer as an opera singer yourself?

Thank you! In this age, I think most of us must be more than one thing. I haven’t been so deliberate about diversifying except to pursue things that are interesting to me. Leading with curiosity and love for the art works a lot better than leading with fear.  Collaborating with people who are different than me is a huge opportunity to learn and discover new perspectives. It challenges old paradigms and forces flexibility, but in the best possible way. I love people! One of the most important things I’ve learned is that audiences are moved by free expression. It goes without saying for pop music, but it’s so easy to get caught up in a staid, technical approach to classical repertoire. We need the technique, of course, but when I find a place of true freedom, both in my voice and in embracing imperfection, that’s when the magic happens in the concert hall.

Between all your projects you must travel a lot! What do you do to make yourself feel relatively at home wherever you go? Are there specific things you bring with you in your suitcase? Things you look for in every city as soon as you get there?
I have a love/hate relationship with travel. For me, the key is to simplify packing, because packing is objectively the worst. I end up wearing the same thing most days, simply because it’s easier. There are so many things to think about when traveling and constantly learning new repertoire, so less is more. Because I do a lot of concert work, my gigs are fast and furious. I spend a lot of time talking to friends and family, so a sense of “home” is only a phone call away. If I can find a good running route and a wifi password, I’m set.

You seem to be fearless and making your dreams happen! Do you have any word of advice for singers who are taking their first steps in the opera world?

I have my own insecurities and fears like anyone else, but curiosity and love always win out because I nurture those parts of myself. So maybe that would be my advice: to nurture curiosity and love. And remember that despite all the voices around you, at the end of the day there’s only one way forward: you do you. Also, practice. 🙂

To keep up with Amy and her adventures you can follow her on social media at @colorfulsoprano! We at #360ofopera really look forward to see what comes next for you, Amy!

PHOTOGRAPHY BY SUZANNE VINNIK

INTERVIEW BY EUGENIA FORTEZA