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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 14, No. 10

Angela Meade: Made for Opera

by Wah Keung Chan / July 8, 2009

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Discovering opera was the most important thing to happen to the 2009 Montreal International Music Competition Grand Prize and People’s Choice Award winner Angela Meade. Although the large-voiced American soprano sang in elementary school, high school, and church choirs, taking up solos all the while, opera and classical music was far from her culture. “My mom had always wanted to be a Christian music singer and was even offered a contract,” said the ever-smiling Meade. “Singing pop didn’t fit my life and singing country and western didn’t fit my voice.”

While attending community college, Meade’s musicology teacher suggested voice lessons, and her first teacher assigned her Susanna’s aria from Marriage of Figaro. Meade was finally in her element, and she quickly enrolled in a four-year music program, where she was given more lyric arias. During her master’s at the University of Southern California, her teacher thought she was a dramatic coloratura and she began singing the “Queen of the Night” and “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s Norma, this later aria being crucial to her success. Meade started a doctorate at USC before leaving for Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, where she has appeared regularly in the school’s productions. “It’s like an opera finishing school, and I’ve learned to be comfortable on stage.” Her favourite singers include Montserrat Caballé (for the bel canto) and Margaret Price.

Meade’s success has primarily come in competitions; Montreal represents her 24th win. One of her secrets is to not wear her contact lenses on stage. “I just prefer to be in my own zone and not be accidentally distracted by anybody,” said Meade, who has a matter-of-fact attitude about competing. “I realize that if something happens [and I make a mistake], nobody is going to die.” In the Metropolitan Opera’s HD documentary The Audition, one of the judges remarked that her large weight is going to hinder her career. Ironically, the day after winning the 2007 Met Auditions on the strength of her “Casta Diva”, Meade was offered the cover for the role of Elvira in the Met’s 2008 production of Verdi’s Ernani. For the production’s third performance, international soprano Sondra Radvanovsky cancelled with one day’s notice due to illness, and Meade made a triumphant debut. She flew her parents from Seattle and could finally tell them that she could earn a living from singing. “I had been in rehearsals with the rest of the covers, so I felt prepared,” explains Meade. She admitted to being a bit nervous just before going on stage. “Peter Gelb stopped by during intermission to say that I looked gorgeous,” she said. Meade has been reengaged by the Met until 2012 for roles such as the Countess in Marriage of Figaro in December 2009. Despite the Met’s support, she acknowledges that weight is one of her concerns in getting hired, “I’m working to change it. You don’t want to lose weight too quickly, otherwise it would affect the voice.”

The MIMC prize comes with a recording on the Analekta label, which will be Meade’s first. “I consider myself fortunate to have found something I love to do that I excel in and that doesn’t feel like work.” n


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