10 Questions with Sarah Shafer


When you look at Soprano Sarah Shafer's diverse performance resume, it's hard to find a better example of a successful artist in 2018. Her unique ability to sing a variety of vocal and operatic repertoire keeps her busy. In the midst of singing as a soloist for chamber music concerts around North America, and less than a year after her debut at the MET, she is making her San Diego Opera as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro (opening October 20th). We're excited to meet Sarah next week when rehearsals start, but she answered some casual questions so we could all get to know her better before then:

1. What was your last gig before coming to San Diego?
I was singing Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 in Norway with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. It was very rainy and very beautiful!

2. How do you relate to/feel about your character (Susanna) in The Marriage of Figaro?
I love Susanna — she is maybe the character I relate most to in all of opera. I love that she is a matter of fact, practical person; but has a sense of fun and humor, and also has true depth of feeling and a strong moral compass. 

3. Are there any dream roles that you would love to sing and why? And since we're dreaming it doesn't even need to be in your fach.
Two big dream roles are Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, and Anne Truelove in The Rake’s Progress. I’m very content to be a soprano and don’t really dream much of singing in another fach!! Haha!

4. What was your introduction to opera and how did you decide this was the path you wanted to pursue.
The first opera I ever attended was La Cenerentola at the Met — the tickets were a present from my parents for my 14th birthday. Juan Diego Flórez was singing Don Ramiro, and I remember being blown away with the beauty and agility of his voice. I hadn’t been a huge opera fan growing up, but started taking voice lessons around that time, and listening to a lot of Kathleen Battle. I was also a serious pianist, so when it was time to audition for colleges, I auditioned in both piano and in voice. I happened to be accepted into the Curtis Institute in voice, which is how I decided to go the singing route.  

5. Name a singer you loved working with in the last year.
There are so many people I could name, but I got to sing Bach with a lovely tenor named Jimmy Reese last spring and had the amazing experience of instant friendship, in knowing he was a musical kindred spirit. Doesn’t happen often!

6. What are your hobbies that keep you busy outside of music?
I love reading, watching movies, visiting my sisters, riding my bike, and swimming.  

7. Fill in the blank: "If I was not an opera singer, I would be ____.”  
Probably a high school choral director.

8. If you could trade lives with one person for an entire day who would it be and why? 
This is hard! Maybe a kindergarten teacher?

9. Name three artists, bands, or composers on a current playlist that aren't opera related. 
Ricky Skaggs, Ella Fitzgerald, and Barbra Streisand.

10. What are you most looking forward to doing in San Diego while you’re in town?
Going to the BEACH!

(Bonus) 11.What’s next for you after your gig in San Diego?
I am singing a chamber piece called Talking to Aphrodite for soprano, strings, and horn by Richard Danielpour at UCLA.

Photo by Vanessa Briceño

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