Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.
Sound Bites: Sydney Mancasola
Photographed by Dario Acosta in New York
Makeup and hair by Affan Malik / gown by Carmen Marc Valvo
© Dario Acosta 2014
Sydney Mancasola has been putting her full-bodied soprano to good use in a number of high-profile voice competitions; in 2013, she won first prize in the prestigious Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition and was a winner in the Met's National Council Auditions. "When you go into an audition for a company," she says, "you're starting a relationship with that company — whether or not they hire you. When you go into a competition, there are of course the high stakes of money and attention. But mostly it feels like a competition with myself — how can I put forth my most captivating performance? I think that what sometimes distinguishes 'competition singers' is the sense that it's the only time you're going to sing the aria. It has to have all of the drama. Last year I seemed to be in a room singing for competitions about two times a week for a whole year! I got into this zone where I felt it could be the first time every time — having that spontaneity and responding to how your voice feels on that particular day. I think that's where you want to get. Doing it over and over gives you security."
Born and raised in Redding, California, Mancasola studied violin and modern dance and began voice lessons at fourteen. After undergraduate work with Daune Mahy at Oberlin, she went on to Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts, where she currently studies with William Stone. Recently, she sang in the conservatory's production of Manon. It was her first time out in the role, and for her its most challenging component is "Adieu, notre petite table." "Whenever I've seen the opera, that moment always strikes me as not being Manon. It feels like this super-introspective woman, and I don't think she's that — she's spontaneous and vivacious. I just don't see her as that reflective. I think that's why the aria is difficult for me. You have to find a way to deliver it that is true to her."
This summer, Mancasola makes her debut at Des Moines Metro Opera, as Countess Adèle in Rossini's Comte Ory. She feels that the key to a healthy future is keeping a certain balance to her performing life. "It's easy for me to give 110 percent of myself to opera singing," she admits. "But then, I think you start to feel the lack of balance, and your body isn't in as good shape. I like to take a day just to go to a bookstore and read something I never would have read. There's something about doing something unrelated to singing that renews your creativity. I'm hoping I'm at the beginning of a major international career. It's not always about the contract in five months. It's about the long term."
Send feedback to OPERA NEWS.