TRENDS, PEOPLE, CULTURE & STYLE
[In the Spotlight]
Jessica Siena Opera Singer, Stockton
Opera singers perform with no microphones or amplifiers, using only the power of their highly-trained voices to tell a story. Local soprano Jessica Siena talks about this unique art form. —compiled by Katy Berry
Does performing put a lot of strain on your voice? Unlike Broadway where you can do eight shows a week, it would be extremely rare to even sing two days in a row with opera. I did a national tour of an opera a few years ago, and it was in my contract that I could not perform more than three times a week. So yes, you have to protect your voice. Very often if someone is in a run of performances they will literally not talk between shows just to rest their vocal chords. Is it difficult to have an opera career? When you’re in this business you’re up against a lot of competition, I have been up against a lot of it. It’s a
completely subjective career. It’s not like being a CPA where if you get your license and are good with numbers you can be successful. In any performing art there will be people who like you and people who don’t. There are very few opera singers who are making a living, have health insurance, or have a home. Even the most successful ones are very often living out of a suitcase because opera works primarily on a freelance basis. Even though you're singing at the MET (New York's Metropolitan Opera) in October, your next job may be in Germany. How should people be introduced to opera? I feel like opera is meant to be experienced live, and that almost all of the power of opera is from being in the theater with that person singing right there, with no microphone, with their imperfections and all. It’s absolutely thrilling to be in that space. I think it’s significant that San Joaquin has its own opera company. Every year Stockton Opera puts on a full opera, a real opera. The tickets are something like $35 or $45, and you just can’t go to the opera for that amount of money, usually.
For more information on upcoming performances: Stockton Opera Association, www.stocktonopera.org
SAN JOAQUIN MAGAZINE
MATTHEW JAMES PHOTOGRAPHY
Do you think one is born with a great voice, or can it be created? I think that a true operatic voice is probably one you’re born with. The whole point of opera is to project in a big theater without amplification, not just the sound but also your personality. The opera houses in America are big. They’re two to three thousandseat houses and you have to have a big personality, a big stage presence, and a voice that carries.