Spotlight on: Marjorie Maltais

Spotlight on: Marjorie Maltais

Jenna Simeonov
Mezzo-soprano Marjorie Maltais first impressed me with her rich sound and feisty stage presence as Hermia in Opera on the Avalon’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Coveted mezzo roles like Rosina, Cenerentola and Carmen are also on Marjorie’s résumé, and she recently wrote me from Santa Barbara, where she’s enjoying her time with Marilyn Horne at the Music Academy of the West. She chats about trouser-role envy, and the huge rewards of hard work in this industry.

1. Why do you sing, and why are you pursuing it professionally?

I sing because I love the challenge of improving my technique. With each piece comes a new challenge, and I discover something new about my voice. It also allows me to go to places emotionally that I would not easily access otherwise. Music is a language of its own and it moves me in ways that words can’t. I’ve chosen to pursue it professionally because I love performing, and because there is nothing else I’d rather do!

2. What does “good singing” mean to you? What does it feel like when you achieve it?

Good singing for me means freedom of the voice. Physically, when I achieve it, it doesn’t feel like much, but I know I’ve gotten it when I can freely translate all my musical ideas with my voice.

3. What do young singers need to do more of?

Learn a new language! It can only help you. Young singers also need to play with their instrument to discover what it can do. We all want to sing arias, but it’s through simple exercises that we make progress. It takes lot discipline but it pays off.

4. Do you have a “bucket-list” role that you’d like to sing? Why?

Isabella from L’italiana in Algeri. I love Rossini’s strong female characters. I would also love to sing Sesto from La clemenza di Tito. I have never done a trouser role in a full production and the role of Sesto is one of my favorites.

5. How do you explain your job to non-music folks?

When I tell people that I am an opera singer, they usually ask questions about the training it requires. They are often amazed by the amount of sound we can produce and they are very curious about the art form. I usually say that performing is 10% of my job, and 90% is practicing!

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