Center Stage : Megan Hart, Soprano

Megan Hart
Seattle, Wash.

Please tell our readers about your career highlights so far.

I studied at Oberlin Conservatory with Richard Miller and at Manhattan School of Music with Mignon Dunn.

I am a resident of the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program and am currently performing Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m gearing up to sing Almirena in Rinaldo at Central City Opera (Colo.) this summer. I was a Young Artist there last year, and I’m terribly excited to be returning to sing on the main stage. Next year, in Seattle, I’ll be singing Despina in “Così” and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos.

I had the great honor to sing as the soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the Dalai Lama when he came to Seattle last spring. Being so close to him was probably the most significant moment in my life thus far. I didn’t know whether to cry, faint, or laugh. It was totally exhilarating.

What are your goals for the next five years? The next 10 years?

During the next five years I want to continue honing my skills as an artist and allowing myself to grow vocally. I’d like to begin establishing myself professionally and have the chance to show what I can do with a juicy role. I imagine myself working mostly in the Bel Canto repertoire and lots of Mozart and French music.

In 10 years I’d like to be secure in my career and branching out into slightly heavier roles. I’d also like to do recital work. There are so many songs I’ve always wanted to sing, especially those that have complex and interesting piano scores. I love working with pianists as a team.

What is your dream role, and why?

I would have to say Violetta in La traviata. I have always been fascinated by La Dame aux Camélias, and wrote my master’s thesis on La traviata. I feel the role really requires something unique of the singer in that there are three distinct “voices” present in the score, and very few people truly have the ability to master all three. Sopranos who sing the first act well have difficulty with the second and third, and vice versa. I think it takes a special voice, but also an enormous amount of guts to unite these disparate voices and distinguish them, not only from a theatrical perspective but also vocally. My favorite Violetta is Anna Moffo. In my opinion, she completely embodies La traviata. And she’s awfully pretty.

How do you handle the inevitable rejection that is part of a singer’s life?

Wow. Good question. When I get a rejection letter, I usually go home, pout or rant and rave depending on the circumstances, play with my puppy, and eat a whole lot of fattening food. Then I get over it. By allowing myself the time to be sad, I can be more proactive in the end and pursue other paths.

How do you balance career and family?

I made the decision this winter to get a puppy. People kept telling me it would be too difficult, but I knew I would be happier, and she’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. I definitely spend a lot of money and time carting her around with me (she’s 5 pounds), and I’m always running home to feed and walk her, but she’s worth every minute. I thought people would stop hanging out with me, but the opposite has happened. Having a puppy makes you automatically popular! Everyone comes to see us, and we’re so grateful for how accommodating people are.

What is your favorite article you’ve read in Classical Singer and why?

I loved “Distant Voices: Listening to Singers of the Past,” by Dean Southern [Oct., Nov., and Dec. 2008]. At Oberlin there is a retired professor who has a huge collection of old 78s and LPs, and he even has a record from the 1890s. Every week or so, I’d get to sit in his living room and listen to this glorious music, and from these experiences I learned to listen to acoustic-era recordings. There is so much to be gleaned artistically from these singers. They were individualistic and each had their own personal idiosyncrasies. The attention to detail and knowledge of varying styles is just incredible.

Who is your favorite singer and why?

Claudia Muzio. Her vocal color and control is exquisite. I think she is one of the most expressive singers of all time. I think her “Traviata” Letter Scene is the greatest of all. I am so inspired by her artistry and hope someday I can have that kind of control and power.

What is your favorite tech tool you use as a singer?

I probably use my laptop iTunes more than my actual iPod. Before an audition or concert, I’ll play my favorite singers in hopes that some of their greatness will be imparted to me through osmosis. Sometimes I’ll even listen to rock or heavy metal, just trying to capture that passion and free spirit.

Do you have a saying that you live by?

I do. It’s a short poem by Walt Whitman [in Leaves of Grass]: “The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted, Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.” The words evoke a spiritual passage, and a sense of “being” and “doing” in the world. By sailing forth into the unknown—by seeking knowledge, truth, wisdom, art—I am ultimately seeking to find myself, my true calling, and my highest self. I am reminded that the journey never ends, and am thus inspired to strive and grow.

Anything else you’d like to say during your moment in Center Stage?

Singing is the greatest gift. Being able to make music and work with so many brilliant and kind people makes every day fun and worth living. There’s simply nothing more fabulous than getting up in the morning and realizing that you’ll be doing what you love most. Singing is one of those things that gives back in an emotional and spiritual way, whether you are a professional or just a music lover. I can think of no better way to spend my life.