Artist Name: Michaela Chiste
Voice type: soprano
Role you’re singing this year: Jennie Hildebrand in Street Scene
How did you first get interested in opera or musical theatre?
There weren’t any really opera enthusiasts in my family, but we really liked musical theatre. I basically grew up with Phantom of the Opera. Our copy of the score is actually how I learned to read music!
When did you start studying voice? Where are you studying now?
My first voice lesson wasn’t until my first year of university, so I was definitely an underdog coming into the music program. I had previously just learned singing techniques from choir directors and my own research. It was there that I fully discovered that world of opera and fell in love with it! I am currently still studying there at the University of Alberta in the vocal performance program.
What came first for you, theatre or music?
I was definitely a theatre kid. It was my childhood dream to be an actor, and I was trained in both theatre and screen acting. I had always loved music, but for a long time singing was merely a skill to have on the side for me. Once my focus became centered on musical theatre, I started to place more and more importance on it, until it eventually became more important to me than acting was!
What are your dream roles?
I don’t really have specific dream roles, but I’ve never died on stage, so that might be fun. I wouldn’t mind doing a mad scene either!
What roles belonging to another voice type would you love to sing?
I’m dying to sing pretty much anything by Puccini, but alas, my voice still needs to grow a bit before I can.
Who are your favourite performing artists?
For opera, I love Diana Damrau: every piece she sings is performed with such an elegant attention to detail. She has an amazing ability to create such a wide array of vocal colours and it is just impossible to be bored when listening to her. For musical theatre, I’m a big fan of Ruthie Henshall. She always hits the nail on the head with every character she plays, in terms of both acting and singing.
How can we keep opera a relevant art form for young people? What is the future of opera?
I’m actually really excited about the direction opera is taking to cater to younger audiences. It seems to me that the drama and flair of opera has been kicked up even more, and more and more companies are exploring new ways to re-vamp beloved operas. Sets and costumes are getting more colourful and operas are being twisted into new settings and environments, and movement and dance are beginning to be utilized more. These changes keep it exciting for young people, but don’t push too far so as to disregard the integrity of the traditional performance of the operas.
What are you most looking forward to about this summer?
I can’t wait to see what the process of building an operatic production is like. I am excited to watch how the operas grow and evolve from their beginning phases to being performance-ready. I am looking forward to seeing how my character and performance will develop along with the opera!
This has been my first summer doing summer opera programs, and I am so grateful and so thrilled to be taking part in such an exciting experience!
Thanks, Michaela! Are you a participant or staff member this year? Why not submit your own answers to our questionnaire!