Every now and again we like to catch up with Alpena natives who are out there in the world. People making a name for themselves and making a difference.
Meet Alpena native and opera singer, Elise Eden. Elise grew up in Alpena and is a recent graduate of University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. After catching her appearance on WBKB’s segment that aired on April 30th, we decided to catch up with Elise and ask a few questions of our own!
You recently hosted a Leider Recital at AHS, could you tell us a little bit about that experience?
“The Leider Recital was a low-key recital where I performed selections from a Strauss set, and Gabriel Kahane’s Craigslistlieder. They’re on opposite ends of the spectrum, and it was really fun sharing that with an audience full of people I know. I’m really looking forward to the next recital this Friday!”
How did growing up in Alpena inspire you to seek this career path?
“I received a lot of encouragement and guidance from my music teachers and mentors. I had the opportunity to sing in community choir, and a smaller choir immediately out of high school. Those experiences were enriching.”
What do you miss about Alpena the most?
“I really miss the summer weather, running through the woods, seeing the stars at night, and community events such as Brown Trout and the Fair.”
What are some things that surprised you about traveling or living in different areas?
“Being out of Alpena was a big eye-opener to me in regards to diversity. I’ve met a lot of people who don’t look like me, or come from a place or life experience like mine. It widened my perspectives, and helps me appreciate that people experience the world in different ways. I have found that each culture contributes to art and music in a very special way. Music as we know it would not exist without a diverse cultural heritage.”
Who was your biggest role model growing up? (Famous or Family)
“I have been blessed with a number of role models on my journey. Between educators, counselors, and friends I couldn’t possibly pick one! However, I can say my role models have all been tangible. I don’t really idolize celebrities…except maybe Chris Thile. He’s super-human.”
What kind of projects/operas are you currently working on?
“Besides the PEERS projects in Alpena, I am taking this summer off. I’m going to do some role study and try to get in shape over the summer for fall auditions. With my doctorate starting in the fall, I thought it might be better to take it easy for a few months!”
Can you give us a brief “Opera 101” on your vocal range and your voice type (description)? Any challenges that come with this?
“Most operas are a lot more saucy than they look at first glance. They’re full of scandal, drama, and humor. Opera is just musical theater on steroids. No microphones, and a giant theater in some cases. Operas usually have much larger orchestras than a musical and the budget for an opera is much higher because of that.
Most operas in foreign languages have projected translations in a screen over the stage. It’s really helpful to the audience, but sometimes the person making the translations will change the way a phrase is worded because it can be pretty racy.
As far as voice type, I’m a soprano. I’ve been told recently that I’m probably a dramatic coloratura. This basically means I have a larger voice that can move quickly. Usually a larger voice struggles in coloratura (fast changing notes), but in my case it has become my super power. (We all have one!) The biggest challenge with a voice in the large category is the amount of time it takes to develop.
I just turned 30 in December and I finally feel like my instrument stopped changing! Hormones can change so much, and even the way certain parts of your larynx form and harden as you mature. It’s kind of nerdy, but super fascinating to learn about how the voice works. That is something I have really enjoyed during my time at Michigan.”
Do you have a favorite opera and/or a favorite composer?
“I am a big fan of American Opera. Some of my favorites are Susannah, Vanessa, Porgy and Bess, and Wuthering Heights. I can’t pick a favorite composer because I love so many of them and all for different reasons!”
If you could star in any famous opera, which would it be?
“I have three. Vanessa in Samuel Barber’s Vanessa, Tosca in Puccini’s Tosca, and Senta in Wagner’s Flying Dutchman. The common theme with these characters is that they meet their demise due to unhealthy obsessions with their objects of affection. I think it’s kind of fun to play crazy, because there is so much humanity in those moments.”
It sounds like you have experienced some unique challenges while growing into the person you are today. What advice do you have for young people in similar situations who may be wondering what their future could be like?
“Listen to the people who encourage you and use the negativity to fuel you when you’re most challenged. It’s easy to let negative self-talk absorb your energy, but in the end you will never get the time back you wasted letting those things get to you. Most of all, if you work and stay humble, you can accomplish almost anything. Be patient. Live in an authentic way, because nobody is better at being you, than you!
On behalf of the community of Alpena, we would like to thank Elise for sharing her story and for inspiring the next generation in the performing arts! And we say, “Toi, toi, toi!” and “In bocca al lupo” for all of your future endeavors!