Mastering the operatic art
Published 4:21 pm, Thursday, July 14, 2011
Each year, some 1,500 aspiring opera singers enter the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in regional competitions all over the country. Only a handful make it to the Met stage in New York for a final concert.
This year, one of those finalists was Nick Masters, a New Canaan native who is beginning to make his way in the operatic world.
On Sunday, July 17, he will return to his hometown for a recital at First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan to show just what the Met judges heard.
Masters said he got his start in singing at an early age and spent grades five through seven at the renowned St. Thomas Choir School in New York City.
"I was inundated with music, two hours a day, seven services a week," he said.
The inevitable change happened and his soaring soprano voice sank like a stone. It was back to public school, and when he showed up for high school chorus tryouts, he was a full-fledged bass.
Masters said New Canaan High School choral director Arthur Sjogren "took me under his wing. He was really generous with his time, giving me free voice lessons. He said I had something special and I should pursue it."
Masters sang with the High School Madrigal Singers, touring Iceland and Australia, and he got the idea that music could take him places. Masters sang in the choir at Christ Church in Greenwich, but it was a summer program at Tanglewood that convinced him that a life in music was what he wanted.
Now he has graduated with an artist's diploma from the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, a distinguished opera training program.
A bass in an opera is typically a grave old man who comes out to utter some solemn pronouncement -- a bit of a stretch for a 26-year-old like Masters. A bass voice also takes longer to mature than that of a tenor or a soprano.
"Fortunately," he said, "basses can often keep singing much later in life."
Masters first took part in the Met auditions last year and got an encouragement award, and this year made it to New York (yes, it's been called "American Idol" for opera).
There's prize money and exposure, along with the thrill of performing with an orchestra on the Met stage.
This fall, he'll be joining the Houston Grand Opera Studio training program for young singers, a contact that came out of the auditions. He was a soloist for the Greenwich Choral Society in the spring and is appearing at Caramoor in "H.M.S. Pinafore" and Rossini's "Guillaume Tell" this summer.
His recital of arias, art songs and show tunes at the church is sponsored by the Pro Arte Singers, the professional chorus conducted by Sjogren, Masters' old teacher. It's a chance to say thanks to a mentor and show the folks at home how far he has come.
Eric Trudel will accompany Masters on piano.