You are one of the most engaged sopranos at The Metropolitan Opera. When did you begin singing there?
Engaged or ENGAGING? I hope for the later, of course. I never would have imagined that I would be lucky enough to be at The Met for so many years. My first engagement was for the 2007-2008 season.
How many roles and cover contracts have you done?
I have covered and/or sung 13 roles at the Met.
How did this opportunity arise?
I was lucky enough to make it all the way to the finals of the national competition in 2006 and even luckier to have been declared a winner along with another one of our divas, Marjorie Owens. It feels like a lifetime ago. Through that, I was contacted shortly thereafter for my first contract to cover First Lady in Flute and Ortlinde in Die Walküre. It has been a sea of German, French, Czech, Russian, English and Italian since then.
What are some things that make you stand out from your colleagues that you’ve learned from working at one of the most important opera houses in the world?
I will first and foremost always be a student. A student of singing, life, business, psyche…you name it. One of the things I have always said about working at a higher level is that you not only learn what to do, but what NOT to do. Being around stunning singers and watching them work their craft is such a gift. You quickly realize that the really great singers are almost always really great humans and colleagues as well. I would like to think that what makes me stand out is that I make a conscious effort the moment I walk in those doors to be FULLY prepared musically, gracious, positive, supportive, kind and an overall good colleague. No matter how glorious the voice, no one wants to work with a difficult and rude person.
What are some of your favorite roles that you have performed?
Although a small role (and quite challenging), I loved working on Aksinya in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Met. Getting my head and tongue around some crazy high Russian while also navigating a spinning crane situation was the kind of stuff I enjoy. Challenging in the moment, yes. Satisfying after you figure it all out? 100%. I also have loved singing the Walküre because of the sisterhood you develop with some ridiculously talented ladies. Donna Elvira is such a complex and meaty lady as well.
What are your favorite brands to wear?
As a curvy lady, it’s always a challenge to find amazing designs and cuts so you don’t look like a mother of the bride or Mrs. Roper from “Three’s Company,” wandering around in your muumuu. (Although, I happily admit to having and loving my muumuu because there is a time and place for everything.) Not having the budget all the time for the designers that DO cut for 14+, I look for the affordable ones that although I may not love everything they do, there is almost always a gem in there.
Adrianna Papell almost always does right by me with gowns and dresses. She cuts close to the body in really flattering materials. Tahari, Dana Buchmann and Marina Rinaldi are always divine for special items. I’m much more of a quality over quantity person so while I may not have a ton of clothes, I try and spend on the ones that will last and are worth the investment. And if you’re wearing a great skinny black pant, slimline sweater with a gorgeous necklace and pair of Manolos, doesn’t everyone win?? Elloqui is one of my faves right now for some trendy pieces on occasion – they make a killer pencil skirt!
For those more expensive stores and brands, make a friend out of the lady that works in the Encore section of Saks. I did this years ago in Houston when I found a KILLER Gianfranco Ferre gown that was sooooo out of my price range. I made a friend who tucked said gown away until it went on sale and then called me. I will always cherish this amazing piece as my first real designer item.
What cities have been your favorite that you’ve performed in and why?
I love being at the Met, because NYC. I called it home for many years and it will always feel that way I think. Aspen and Santa Barbara win for just overall weather and beauty glory. Any time I get the chance to be in Texas is a win for me, because of so many dear friends in the area. I think this world we work in is so small; once you’re really in it, finding joys and people everywhere is what makes it doable– considering it usually takes us away from our loved ones for sometimes months at a time.
Where do you call home and why did you decide to settle there?
I am from Chattanooga, TN originally and after living in Houston, Pittsburgh and NYC for years, I came back to TN and settled in Nashville in 2014. There were a few deciding factors for me. I lost my mom in 2013 and it was just me, my sister and nieces at that point and it felt like time to circle the wagons a bit and be closer to them and also, I didn’t *need* to be in NYC full time anymore for auditions and whatnot. I knew what kind of life I wanted for myself and realized that it wasn’t something I couldn’t see being able to have in NYC. I get the best of both worlds now splitting my time mostly between NYC and Nashville.
How do you budget on gigs and during your downtime?
The eternal struggle. I will always be looking for the cheapest housing situation I can find if it is not provided. NYC can nearly break you so find your friends who will be out of town and stay at their places. One, it helps another singer out and two, they hopefully won’t try and make money off you, because they get it! Much like ODDC/Shoperatic, it’s such a gift to keep our money in the family! I also make an effort to put limits on all the going out for food and drinks that can happen on gigs. When you are in a new city and you don’t know anyone but your cast, it is easy to follow everyone out for lunch and dinner together. Having people over and cooking for each other is a great way to save some huggies and still bond. One thing I learned from one of our super star divas, Christine Goerke, is to treat yourself to ONE thing to mark that gig. You decide on what you will spend – 5% of your contract, 10%, but if you know that you can treat yourself to something special at the end, it makes all the easy-to-do buying throughout not worth it.
What do you pack when you have an extended stay (for instance when you are on Met contracts) where you are in NYC for longer periods of time?
I have the blessed curse of driving to most of my contracts due to having two pups that travel with me. This allows me to bring usually more than I need or should. That said, I have started to stream line things a bit.
I think layers are your friend especially if you’re going to be somewhere during a seasonal transition. Also, staying in a similar color palette helps. My go-to will almost ALWAYS be jewelry. Keep the wardrobe simple and take some really amazing statement pieces to mix it up. A stunning scarf takes up less room than another sweater you may wear once! Always take a great cocktail dress and gown (if you can manage) so you are prepared for that inevitable donor dinner OR reach out to our ladies in the group and see who is in that city that you might be able to rent from and avoid the packing issue and have something new to wear for the night!
Any travel hacks?
Pack at least two things that are creature comforts. I am a candle addict and love my almond milk steamed in my coffee. If I’m gone for more than a week, I pack a fave candle and my milk frother.
Also, TSA pre-check.