Southeast Missouri State University junior Brittany Moleski of St. Louis, Missouri, has spent her summer perfecting her voice for a larger stage, performing at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the National Opera Center along the way.
Moleski, who is pursuing degrees in vocal performance and music education, was one of the youngest of 25 students in the month-long New York Lyric Opera Theatre’s (NYLOT) Summer Music Program. There she participated in lessons, coachings, master classes and countless rehearsals while working with NYLOT’s impressive faculty members who included Metropolitan Opera singers, well-known conductors and coaches from New York City music schools.
“I auditioned for the program because I wanted to get some real world experience, and I wanted to work with singers and coaches from other schools and other areas of the county and world,” said Moleski. “I had to come to the first rehearsal with my music learned, but it was amazing how we were able to work on so much music and staging in just a month.”
Moleski was involved in six different performances and worked on seven different characters as part of the program’s 13 performances including full operas, scenes performances and recitals.
“My favorite opera that I worked on was ‘Suor Angelica,’” she said. “Giacomo Puccini’s writing just makes my heart melt.”
Her favorite character and piece that she worked on was a scene as the title character in ‘Manon,’ a character she got a little taste of during Southeast’s spring 2016 opera scenes performance, said Moleski. She was very excited to work on a different scene from the same character.
“As a young opera singer, you usually begin working on characters by learning bits and pieces of their music over a few years,” she said. “The piece was very fun to learn, and my character got to end on a high ‘C.’ It was much different than the ‘Manon’ scene that I performed at Southeast, which was a much more dramatic side of her.”
Moleski performed her ‘Manon’ scene at Carnegie Hall and at the National Opera Center.
“I loved performing in such famous venues,” she said. “It was like being a part of music history. At Carnegie, they have pictures and autographs of the most famous musicians that have performed there, and it is cool to think about how I walked through the same stage door that they did.”
Along with her stage performances, the program helped develop her personal and professional skills, preparing her for the life of an artist on and off stage, said Moleski. Lessons included performance and audition attire, meditation and stress, role preparation and auditioning, and great opera singers of the past.
One of her favorite sessions was a mock audition and consultation with New York City opera agent, Peter Randsman.
“It was very intimidating to perform for him because he is so knowledgeable and experienced, but I took a lot of valuable information from him,” said Moleski.
Additionally, having the one-on-one time with vocal coaches and teachers gave her the opportunity to grow as an artist and performer, whether it was new understandings about recitative and language to new concepts for her own voice, and even her future in the opera world, she said.
“It was absolutely amazing working with Australian conductor, Kynan Johns, and Canadian conductor, Giovanni Longo,” she said. “You could feel their passion for the music, and it was very inspiring to work under their direction.”
Gaining experiences outside of Southeast’s traditional academic year was important for her to learn what areas of opera performance she needed to work on before auditioning for graduate schools, Moleski said.
“Opera is not easy, and it involves many little details from character to foreign language to the actual music and working as a ensemble with the other singers, the conductor, and the orchestra or pianist,” she said. “I learned a lot about what I still need to work on in the next few years of my undergraduate degree in order to be a more polished and confident performer.”
She said she hopes to move to New York City after graduating from Southeast, adding NYLOT’s summer program was a great opportunity for her to gain more confidence and networking opportunities.
“I now have coaches, teachers, conductors, directors, opera company owners and fellow singers that could possibly help get me a job one day,” Moleski said. “I think I have a better idea of what it is like living and performing in New York, how opera companies work, and steps I can take to be successful in an art form that is very difficult to pursue.”