Young singers in Santa Fe: Carlos Enrique Santelli

Young singers in Santa Fe: Carlos Enrique Santelli

Jenna Simeonov

Orlando-born tenor and current LA Opera Young Artist Carlos Enrique Santelli is spending his summer as an Apprentice Singer with The Santa Fe Opera. He’ll sing the role of Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor (onstage until August 24), and he’ll spend his time between shows immersed in one of the world’s highest-profile summer opera festivals.

Santelli offers up a day-in-the-life of a SFO Apprentic Singer, and the fun of planning his upcoming nuptials via wi-fi.

(Sidebar & moment of pride: I first met and worked with Carlos back when he was a first-year undergrad student at Oberlin Conservatory. Time does fly, & singers grow up quickly!)

Can you describe a day in the life of an apprentice singer at Santa Fe Opera?

As an apprentice artist we share the responsibility of singing chorus for the season but also for singing small roles. Our days are typically formed of rehearsal any time between 9:30AM or 10AM to about 5PM. We split that time as choristers and soloists in small roles or as covers for larger roles. It’s quite exciting to go from watching top notch / seasoned opera singers rehearsing up close to leaving to coach a role one on one and get a taste of that artistic responsibility.

What appealed to you about the apprentice program?

I was drawn to Santa Fe because it really seems to be a company that invests in their former young artists. Many of the principal artists that they cast were former apprentice artists and they act as wonderful mentors and role models. There’s only so much we can learn in school without being thrown into a professional situation. Santa Fe is so wonderful at putting us into roles and covers that give us the opportunity to take on that new level of learning and transition into professional artists. It’s a perfect balance of being challenged but supported with the resources we need to excel.

What do you think is an important part of being a good understudy?

As an understudy, you’re expected to sing and act a role with a lot less stage time than the actual principal artist to work out the details. I think an ideal understudy is prepared musically and memorized from day one. You need to be at a point in your preparation where you can be hyper observant and take in as much direction that the principal is getting as possible. It’s your job to make it feel as though nothing drastic has changed and to be able to contribute artistically if you have to go on as an understudy.

How have you been spending your free time outside of rehearsals?

It’s kind of a blessing that Santa Fe is such a wonderful city for hiking because it’s also such a wonderful city for eating. I probably spend more time eating than hiking, but it’s good to know the option is there! The best part of my free time though has been my wedding preparations. I’m getting married a week after the program ends and my fiancée, Ashley, is singing at the Merola Opera Program this summer so we’ve been doing a lot of the wedding planning over the phone and the internet.

Are there any highlights of the summer you’re particularly looking forward to?

A huge highlight for me this year has been making my Santa Fe Opera debut as Arturo in Lucia! If you would have told my family or myself 2 or 3 years ago that I would be singing on this stage so soon, I don’t think we would have believed you. It gives me a great sense of pride to make them proud.

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