Behind the Scenes: SF Opera
We had the pleasure of interviewing 2 cast members from SFOpera’s The Magic Flute this past month! They share tips, tricks and advice for those interested in the Opera path! Learn from the professionals themselves, Efraín Solís & Maria Valdes. Learn more about them below!
Maria Valdes (Papagena)
Tell us about yourself?
I am from Atlanta and I have been living here for 2 years. I am part of the Opera fellowship which is a two year program where we have opportunities to participate in main stage production as well as receive educational training in the off season.
We work 6 days a week, so most of my life is opera but I really like to do yoga in my spare time. I am big into hiking and things like that.
It looks like you are performing in the play The Magic Flute. Could you describe your experience with us? Challenges? Hardships?
This production is specifically fun because it’s based on a comedy. It’s really fun and the cast is really nice. The conductor and producer were great. People don’t always have that experience in shows. It’s also great because it’s in english for the audience as well as a performance.
One of the hardest things about it was finding a 3rd voice as an old lady.. I kept trying things and the director would say ‘you know… it’s almost there.’ It’s a different technique, i think.
The other challenge is that i’m also an understudy for Pamina, which is the leading role. So I basically had to learn my role and Paminas role and make sure I knew her staging and dialogue. I had to make sure I was present anytime she had to be present.
We have a few users who are interested in becoming opera singers as their full time job, do you have any suggestions on what steps to get the ball rolling?
Sure. I can tell that some of these people are really good and they have had some classical training which is awesome.
I would start with, education-wise, start with a great teacher. Most singers obtain a masters degree, because it gives you a lot of stage presence. It also helps to know familiarize yourself with different languages. Most singers are good a few, like, I am good at French, Italian and German.
Before a performance, do you do anything that will help your voice be more strong?
- Getting a lot of sleep. Your voice is part of your body, so the more you can do to stay healthy, the better.
- Stick to routine. Stay
- Drink a lot of water
- Stick with physical activity
- and Study!
Do you have anything else you want to send to the community?
I do want to mention that we do have something called the BravoClub, for younger people in the Opera community, and they offer subscriptions packages!
Efraín Solís (Papageno)
Tell us about yourself?
I am from Southern California, Orange County. I lived here [SF] for four years, I went to the Conservatory of Music and when I finished, I got picked up by the Opera House and through the Opera Center for two years. So, that is kind of where I am at.
It looks like you are performing in the play The Opera Flute. Could you describe your experience with us? Challenges? Hardships?
I haven’t really dealt with any hardships with this production. It’s been a great time– it’s been smooth sailing! It is kind of nice to do a show and get the audience feedback and have them laughing.
So we have a lot of users on the app who have expressed interest in becoming an opera singer. Do you have any advice on what steps they should take?
It depends on where you are on your stage of singing. I remember when I was in high school I caught the bug on opera, so then after I kind of became a bit obsessed about it– just like anyone. You have to be practicing consistently and really learn everything about it. It’s kind the olympics of music– it’s the instruments, languages and voices. And on top of that there are 3,000 people watching. You really have to learn your stuff and work really good. Find good teachers and find people you trust.
Figuring out what makes your excited, then the audience will be excited.
What do you do to help before a show?
I have to make sure I have eaten, I also have to have a cup of coffee because I like to stay awake and drink lots of water. I’m pretty easy.
Would you say you could live a sustainable life in the opera field?
Yea, I mean it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of traveling. You have to work hard and go to where the work is. It’s very rare that you will find an opera singer who lives in one place.
Opera is one of the most difficult musical genres, what advice could you give our users?
Reading music is definitely one of the pluses. If you can read music, it makes learning music a lot easier. If you can’t read music, then listen to the recording.
I was like that a kid, I could look at something a repeat it back to, so that is kind of how I started singing. I could sing anything, so it’s been fun, but it takes a certain amount of patience.
Do you have anything else you want to share with the community? Any piece of advice?
Reach out to their local theaters and find their local opera companies!
It’s always fascinating it resonates you and you have to open your mind to that idea without staring at a phone for 3 hours. Not that that doesn’t have a time and place, I love my iPhone, my iPad, my Netflix and my Hulu, but it’s nice to sit back and give yourself over to another art form and go on a journey for 3 hours and watch people go on this journey live and feel every emotion. These people want you to go on this journey with them.