Where I Last Got Paid to Sing : Learning the Ropes with Tenor Ricardo Mota

Described as “a powerful and expressive singer with an exceptional rich timbre,” tenor Ricardo Mota is making his mark as an up-and-coming singer in Los Angeles. He recently relocated to Los Angeles from Mexico, and this month he shares his experience in performing with Opera by the Glass.

Where did you last sing and get paid?
I sang in a production of Anna Bolena in Ventura, California, with a new company called Opera by the Glass. I was cast as Sir Hervey, in addition to being the cover for the lead role, Lord Percy. I was able to sing the lead role with orchestra during the cover’s run.

How much were you paid?
I was paid $300 dollars, which is not a lot. But since I have recently moved to the U.S. from Mexico, I have accepted jobs even if the pay is low in order to build my résumé and gain experience.

In Mexico, I studied at a conservatory that did not present any opera productions, so gaining any type of operatic stage experience right now is crucial for my career. I cannot skip this stage—no one will hire a singer without any experience. As a young artist, you have to pay your dues. There are things that are worth more than money, and I felt that this gig offered a lot, despite the low pay.

Where and when was the gig?
The gig was at the Museum of Ventura County, and we had three performances.

How long did it last?
We had two days of musical rehearsals and approximately two weeks of staging rehearsals, plus tech week. The company tried to be very flexible about scheduling conflicts and was very professional about the way they managed everyone’s time during the rehearsal process.

How did you get the job?
I auditioned for the company in Los Angeles. The audition was posted on YAP Tracker.

What was your overall experience like? What did you love about the gig?
It was a very positive experience. I worked with very professional singers like the artistic director, Zeffin Quinn Hollis, who also sang the role of Enrico. It has been one of the most enriching productions I have been a part of, and I also loved the fact that I got to learn both tenor roles. We nearly sold out all performances with the main cast and the cover’s run with orchestra.

What didn’t you love?
The only thing I didn´t love is that in smaller opera companies sometimes you have to multitask. But actually, even that turned out to be a great experience because I learned so much about the entire process.

When a company has a limited number of people they have hired for a production, you have to learn to take on additional roles and be responsible for yourself. Nobody will be there to call places because the stage manager is running supertitles, or nobody will help you with makeup because there is just one person to do hair and makeup.

Would you do this or a similar gig again?
Yes. If it is a role that is right for me and there are people who I can learn from, I would definitely do it again.

Anything else you would like to add?
A very curious detail, and one of the things I will never forget about this gig, is that one of Carol Neblett’s students was playing Giovanna Seymour in the cover’s run. She attended our performance just one week before her passing. She said the kindest things about our work, and this was the last live performance she saw. Her entire presence was warm and radiant, and I will always feel honored that I got to meet her that night.

We want to hear from you! What are you doing to expand your palette of musical genres? Where did you last sing and get paid? If you have recently performed and were paid for that performance, whether it was a traditional or nontraditional gig, we’d love to share your story with the Classical Singer community. Please e-mail Michelle Latour at thelatourvoicestudios.com about your experience. And tweet about it at @classicalsinger and @latourstudios. Also #mylastpaidgig, #neversingforfree, and #createopportunities.

Michelle Latour

Dr. Michelle Latour is active as a teacher, singer, writer, and adjudicator and lives in Las Vegas. She has been on the full-time faculties at several universities. She is currently a voice faculty member for the Italian-based summer program, The International Opera Performing Experience and owns a private studio, the LATOUR Voice Studios. You can visit her at www.thelatourvoicestudios.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.