A night at the opera (finally).
April 12, 2006 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Dinner? No, a show. "For most of her adult life, Erika Sunnegardh was the epitome of a frustrated performer in New York City. Her artistic vocation was singing, but to make ends meet she endured the usual drudgery - waiting on tables in the Bronx where she lives and working as a tour guide...If Ms Sunnegardh, who is 40, awoke yesterday wondering if she was in the middle of a wonderful dream, who could blame her? On Saturday, the unimaginable had happened: she had sung the starring role in Beethoven's Fidelio at the Metropolitan Opera." (via Waiter Rant)
posted by melissa may (15 comments total)
I'm glad it was worth it for her. If someone told me I would have to wait tables for 18 years before getting my big break, I think I would rather change my vocation.

Good for her, though.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:36 PM on April 12, 2006

posted by ericb at 4:38 PM on April 12, 2006

Great story.

Is 40 old for an opera singer?
posted by bardic at 4:52 PM on April 12, 2006

Is 40 old for an opera singer?

Yeah. Not too old to be singing, but old to be starting a career. Sort of like being called up to the majors at 30 (if baseball is more your line).
posted by languagehat at 5:29 PM on April 12, 2006

Oh, and nice post!
posted by languagehat at 5:29 PM on April 12, 2006

This brings to mind the "Opera Idol" reality program which BBC-TV filmed three years ago. It profiled people whose hobby/avocation is singing opera. The winner was chosen to perform at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2003 contest alongside professionals.
posted by ericb at 5:42 PM on April 12, 2006

Ha! I just tried to picture an opera version of American Idol and my head almost popped off.
posted by bardic at 5:55 PM on April 12, 2006

Opera-as-real-life filter:
And, this weekend, the moment that every understudy prays for came to be: Mattila fell ill and the waitress was summoned.

Most of us would probably phone a doctor....
posted by rob511 at 5:58 PM on April 12, 2006

This was the top emailed story from nytimes.com about a week ago (just before her performance). Lots written there, unfortunately nearly all of it is behind the TimesSelect wall.
posted by intermod at 7:36 PM on April 12, 2006

And there are those who say things aren't as fairytale as they seem.
posted by bunglin jones at 8:58 PM on April 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Excellent post, melissa may. Delayed gratification to the max, but at least she attained her very ambitious dream.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:39 PM on April 12, 2006

funnilly enough I was just listening to Furtwängler's Fidelio. this is a very good story, it reminds of something.

thanks for the post,melissa may
posted by matteo at 1:02 AM on April 13, 2006

The Times article mentioned that fact that her mother was a well-regarded performer for the Royal Swedish Opera and a prominent vocal coach. Erika had finally agreed to ask for her assistance with training, etc. which set off the chain of events which led to this "miracle." The family connection (which was there all along) takes a bit of the shine off the story (which may be why it's downplayed in the less extensive reports) but it's still a great tale.
posted by availablelight at 6:04 AM on April 13, 2006

Hmm...that last part sort of dulled the excitement by mentioning that she would've been onstage at the Met two weeks later anyway. Still, it probably wouldn't have been such a meaty role. Cool story!

Soprano Erika Sunnegardh greets a friend in her dressing room after making her debut as Leonore in Beethoven's 'Fidelio' Saturday, April 1, 2006 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
posted by ktoad at 4:32 PM on April 13, 2006

I'm sorry, but the MET publicity machine (aka Joseph Volpe, MET GM) really milked this story shamelessly.

MET debuts of minor singers subbing for international opera singers (and making an imprint) is not a new thing at all...and goes back at least 100 years. Te Kanawa at ROH, Florez in Pesaro, Domingo for Corelli at the MET, etc...

This is not a big story when you realize that Sunnegardh had already been signed by the MET for next season anyway as Turandot, the First Lady in Die Zauberflote, and Elettra in Idomeneo (not small roles). And for the rest of this season already, she was also slated for Elsa in Lohengrin, and as a Valkyrie in the MET's Japan tour this summer.

Even worse, she's been singing Fidelio already this season with the Milwaukee Florentine Opera!

I wish her all luck...but we have seen at the MET singers who make the most impressive debuts (I will never forget American soprano Susan Neves who made a last minute substitution as Abigaille in Nabucco 2004, who was the most phenomenal soprano i had heard, and we all knew it...she was waaay superior to Guleghina...but we have yet to hear from her again at the MET.)

So you really never know...but with Sunnegardh's father as the last teacher of Birgit Nilsson, and a touring accompanist for the tenor Jussi Bjoerling, as well as her mother a popular swedish vocal coach, it was really just a matter of time...
posted by naxosaxur at 7:37 AM on April 14, 2006

« Older Guantanamo Bay for kids?   |   Bioprinting Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments