This week I flew to New York City to participate in the live auditions for a Young Artist Program. I was elated to receive the invitation, during the application season I have to send out applications to Opera companies all over Europe and North America. This is a lengthy process requiring references, audition repertoire to master, CVs to produce and videos to record. These applications are sifted through by the Opera Houses and if you are fortunate, they invite you to a live audition. Each Opera house will receive several hundred applications each season for between four to eight places, so to get an invitation is a big step forward for me.
I arrived in New York the day before my audition so I had time to acclimatise and give my body a healthy chance of singing well. I arrived at Newark airport in the evening, which was the afternoon in New York time and after a super long queue at immigration/passport control which made me too late to meet my booked shuttle transport. I was gasping for a cup of tea – but unable to get an English Breakfast Tea at the airport I would need to wait until I hit the big city lights to quench my thirst, with my excitement rising I boarded the Air Train and then NJ Transit and travelled in to New York Penn Station which is underneath Madison Square Garden.
I stayed nearby at the Chelsea Cabins, a cosy affordable single bed cabin in Manhattan, 3 minutes from Penn station. When I arrived, I found out that the accommodation was a vegetarian and non-smoking premise with quiet rules (no noise between 9pm-9am), which resulted in a few good nights sleep, so that I had plenty of energy to meet each day head on. The staff were friendly and the premises were kept very clean, I would recommend it to a single traveler looking to make their money go a little further in New York
In my downtime I explored the city, refreshing my memories from my trip in April/May this year and noticing the changes to the city and loving the fantastic decorations which adorned the buildings and public spaces ready for the Festive season.
To make the most of the trip, I got in touch with friends I have in the city and organised some catch ups. I saw my wonderful friend Addy, who is an amazing collaborative pianist, that I knew from my time at the RCM, for a delicious Mexican meal at El Centro. Addy now works at the Steinway Factory in Queens. I was fascinated to learn about her job and how she helps renowned pianists from all over the world choose which Model D Steinway concert grand they wanted to perform on at venues around the City such as Carnegie Hall.
I also met up with my friend Victoria, who is talented mezzo-soprano that I performed with at the Berlin Opera Academy, for a fantastic American Brunch at Smiths in Nomads. There I ate a new culinary surprise for me, a delicious concoction, a breakfast pot pie!
Straight after my audition, I went to the Metropolitan Opera House to see my friends and colleagues in the Education Department. I was overjoyed to learn that I visited just in time to attend the MET’s annual Holiday Bake Off competition to raise money for charity: God’s Love We Deliver (@godslovenyc). The truly amazing Soprano Anna Netrebko was judging alongside the charming Tenor, Piotr Beczala, industry expect and Pastry Chef Natasha Pickowicz, Tshombe Selby (Tenor), Elisa Iberti (Head of Costume), and Camille LaBarre (Met Patron). I was thrilled to be able to meet my idols up close, Anna and Piotr were very humble and kindly agreed to pose for a picture with me, which I will treasure for a long time. The Bake Off raised £1,000 and the cakes/cookies/pies tasted delicious. My header photo for this post was taken by Jenny Gorman of the Met Opera.
The cherry on the cake for me was that I was fortunate enough to to get a ticket to watch La Traviata with the renowned soprano Diana Damrau. I adore Damrau and watch her performances regularly on YouTube and DVD, so I was over the moon to be able to watch her live. I attended the fantastic pre-show event for under 40’s where you could mingle, eat light refreshments and dress up in masquerade masks. It was a night I will remember for a long time.
Unfortunately, though I did not gain a place on the Young Artist program this year, I was so thrilled that I made the journey and squeezed as much joy and delight into the trip that I could. I believe that every cloud has a silver lining and I am so thankful I could take a risk on myself at this moment in my life and who knows what the Universe has in store for me next!!