Elizabeth the role of Edith with the other “Sisters” in The Pirates of Penzance.

Elizabeth Lewis – 2015 Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship Winner

 

The term “life changing experience” gets bandied about these days and is often used inappropriately. However, I can say, with complete honesty that winning the Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship in November 2015 really did change my life. To go from qualifying for the Final as a Mezzo-Soprano, to changing Fach to Soprano four months later and winning in my new Fach was no mean feat. It gave me great confidence that my vocal transition was the right decision. It also allowed me the opportunity to reach for goals which previously seemed unattainable.

Upon arriving in New York I wasted no time in beginning vocal, drama and language coaching. The highlight of these coachings was working with Corradina Caporello at The Juilliard School. Not only is she an absolutely delightful human being but she is an incredible Italian language and diction coach. She is also extremely well versed in the drama and thrust of the scene and finding textual evidence for character choices and then using the text to colour and shape meaning. I learnt so much from her but about singing in general.

Whilst in New York, I also took advantage of being able to see several Broadway shows and plays as well as many opera performances at both The Metropolitan Opera and The Juilliard School. I found watching the performances not only entertaining but also extremely educational.

Another aspect of my trip was auditioning for Young Artist Programs to continue my study, one such program was the Gate City Bank Young Artist Program for the Fargo-Moorhead Opera. The program consisted of an SATB quartet of singers who, for 10 weeks, worked at the company in a mainstage production, Young Artist production and the company’s outreach program. This would be followed by a 2 week stint as Resident Artists of the Twin Cities Opera Guild in Minneapolis. Out of 200 applicants, I was chosen as the Soprano for the program. Had it not been for winning the Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship I would never have been able to be in New York studying when this Young Artists Program came up.

I have completed my time now in Fargo and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it. Over the 10 weeks, we sang at over 40 schools to a total of over 6,000 children. We also staged a production of Michael Ching’s Speed Dating Tonight! in two local bars to sell out houses. Speed Dating Tonight! was a relatively new work specifically written for Young Artist Programs and Universities as it allows a great deal of mixing and matching to accommodate each company’s unique casting needs. I was involved in the mainstage production of Pirates of Penzance, in which I played the supporting role of Edith and was the cover for Mabel. The production was set in the 1960’s and was as bright and exuberant as one might expect.

Following Pirates, the Young Artists travelled to Minneapolis to start our 2 week Residency. During our two weeks in Minneapolis we sang to over 1500 school children and performed a Gala concert in the historic Landmark Centre in St Paul. This concert exceeded the venues audience record with about 150 people. My experience in the Mid-West of America was wonderful not only due to the work I was doing but because of the warmth and kindness of the people I was working with both on stage and behind-the-scenes. You can understand my delight when the Director of Company, David Hamilton, asked if I would be interested in performing my first Rosalinda in the company’s October production of Die Fledermaus. I am thrilled to be performing this wonderful role and in a place which hold such significance for me.

I have experienced so much in the short time since the winning the Lady Fairfax New York Scholarship. Things which once seemed unattainable are now possible. I have grown as a person and a performer and I believe this is all due to the experiences I have had as a result of this scholarship. I can’t thank The Opera Foundation for young Australians enough for their help, support and professional development in continuing to nurture and support me as an artist.