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Short Talks


Marianne MontonenBarista atCaffiEspoo, Finland

My whole family is quite musically oriented. Both my sisters sing, my dad plays guitar and we have a complete band setup in our summer house. Why opera for me? I guess everybody wants to feel like they’re good at something. In school, I tried singing pop and was told that I had too hard a vibrato. But one of my singing instructors told me that my voice would be perfect for classical singing. His words stuck with me, and here I am.

I’ve been told that I have what they call an “Italian voice,” which is not common for Finnish singers. I’ve taken this into consideration, and one day I would like to see myself singing Italian pieces like Puccini and Verdi. Of course, as an opera singer you really need to sing all kinds of styles, but it’s good for me to know my goals. In opera, nothing is improvised. Everything that happens on stage is carefully practiced. Sometimes when I’m having a night out with my friends and family, they ask me to sing something. I hate singing unprepared! I mean, if you’re a wood artisan, no one expects you to build a fucking table when you’re out having fun!

In opera, nothing is improvised. Everything that happens on stage is carefully practiced.

I got in to Sibelius Academy two years ago to study Classical Vocal Studies. The first time I applied was six years ago and I got eliminated in the final phase. It’s the most prestigious music school in Finland and only a handful of applicants are accepted annually. The judges told me to work on the issues I had with singing and come back some day, but it was very disappointing to me.

I ended up studying for a Music Teacher’s Degree that year instead. There, my vocal teacher took my feedback from Sibelius Academy and focused all of our trainings during my five years of Teacher Studies into the weak points of my singing. Thanks to her, I finally got in to the program as the only soprano singer that year. With her help, I’m going to become a professional opera singer.

Will I ever get a job? If I do, will I get another one?

Like in many performance arts, it’s important to put yourself out there. I spend a lot of my time practicing in singing competitions. Singers who succeed in these competitions are more likely to be hired into the best productions, and before you get into a production, competition is the most natural choice. It’s also a great way to develop skills and to see where you’re at.

The hardest thing about this career is the constant uncertainty. Will I ever get a job? If I do, will I get another one? Is there going to be someone younger and better than me? You pour yourself into every single role but someone might think you don’t look or sound right for the part. I think it doesn’t matter as long as you sing from your heart.

With all this uncertainty, I sometimes wonder if it’s fair to my husband that I may end up unemployed. Is it fair that I got into this super demanding 5-6 year program that will inevitably postpone starting our family? I’m very lucky that he’s so supportive of me wanting to do this for a living.