Spotlight on: Sarah VautourInterview
American soprano Sarah Vautour is spending her summer in beautiful Colorado, as a New Horizons fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and School. A young singer based in Houston, Vautour’s varied repertoire already includes Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Morgana in Alcina, Rose Maurrant in Street Scene, and the title role in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda.
For our latest Spotlight interivew, Vautour chats about her early love affair with music, and the magic that comes out of what she calls the “vulnerability factor”.
Why do you sing, and why are you doing it professionally?
Music was a huge part of life growing up in the Vautour household. My grandparents were devout choir members at their church, and I remember hearing my grandmother cantor one Sunday, and thinking, “this is something I have to try.” I pretty much fell in love with it right away.
Reflecting back, I realized that singing was the only time that I felt the most like myself, the most confident. After participating in a few music programs throughout high school and college, I realized what power music and singing had over me, and how it could make me feel the raw emotions of the human condition unlike any other art form. Singing makes me feel a connection to others and myself, and I feel called to give that the gift of connection to others. So, in a way, I would say that singing is my humanitarian project.
What does “good singing” mean to you? What does it feel like when you achieve it?
Good singing. Wow. Well, I definitely feel like the definition of “good singing” has changed for me every year that I get older. Today, I would argue that good singing is accomplished when vocal technique and emotional vulnerability meet. In fact, I believe that diligent technical work helps unlock the “vulnerability factor.” This what makes watching live singing so thrilling, and is what makes the “greats” great.
What this feels like for me is a balance of ease and effort. This means nothing is impeding the sound (tongue, jaw, tension, etc.), and air is flowing just enough to match a brilliant and round sound. When achieved, I feel a complete sensation of suspension, as if everything is active and inactive at the same time. It’s like flying.
What do young singers need to do more of? What should they do less of?
Stop worrying about where everyone else is, and as my teacher would say, “be where your feet are.” Young singers need time. Everything these days is about how soon you can be good, and get out there working. And sure while that’s important (and the eventual end goal), trying to control the steps on the way there can work against you in the long run. Do the work, and you will reap a benefit. I truly believe that.
Do you have any “bucket list” roles you’d like to sing (realistically or otherwise)?
Of course! While I am a lyric coloratura, I have always felt like a Tosca or a Mimì on the inside, so here’s to hoping.
No, but all joking aside, I would definitely love to sing Lucia and Gilda one day. I remember the first time I saw Lucia, Georgia Jarman was singing the title role and I thought, “it really doesn’t get much better than singing in a blood stained wedding dress rolling around on the floor like a crazy person.”
There’s something so intoxicating about how dramatic it is. That’s what I love about Gilda as well. These women are so overcome with grief over lost love. It’s so tragic and beautiful.
What have you learned about your career as a singer, solely through professional experience?
It’s important to find the perfect balance between being professional, and not taking yourself too seriously. We are all human. What this means in the professional world is that its okay to make a mistake, but important to learn from it. On the same token, I have learned to take more seriously the role of servant to my art. The only way that we can be truly fulfilled as artists is by serving people and the music with passion and fervor. The music will continue to give back to us as long as we allow a sense of selflessness into our work.
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