Funsherpa NY features Antoni Mendezona, a rising star who just got accepted into the Dicapo Opera Young Artist Program. Antoni moved to NYC soon after finishing her studies at the Westminster Choir College at Rider University. She has performed in a variety of Operas and Concerts in California and tonight will be her New York debut in Tobias Picker’s Emmeline at the DiCapo Theatre. Antoni currently resides in Washington Heights where she enjoys quiets walks and the rich Dominican culture.
F: Why did you move to New York?
I moved to New York to continue studying with my voice teacher and to be a Resident Artist with Dicapo Opera Theatre. Plus New York is the hub for auditions and it makes sense to be in the center of where everything’s happening.
F: What has been your most defining ‘welcome to new york’ experience so far?
Well… I have this neighbor who lives in the building across from mine and he apparently likes to hang out of his window and watch people. My roommates and I nicknamed him “Peeping Pablo” when he decided to choose our apartment as his new found interest. Every now and then he puts on a cowboy hat, or a wrestling mask or plays with animal balloons. It’s always entertaining to come home and guess what he’s up to next!
F: When and how were you first drawn to opera / classical vocals? Were you always musical as a child?
Piano was my first instrument and I took lessons for about 8 years in the Philippines. I always sang at church and in school – it just came naturally to me. So when it came time to decide what to major in for college, music was the only thing that made sense to me! The first time I saw an opera, it was La Boheme with Anna Netrebko at the San Francisco Opera. I immediately fell in love with it and auditioned for my college’s opera program as soon as I could!
F: How do you prepare for your roles ?
First I try to see what literary piece the opera is based on. It’s really important to me to know the historical aspect of the role I’m prepping. Then if it’s in another language, I first do a literal translation and then a poetic translation. Then I speak what I need to sing for a while to get the language in my head and flowing easier off my tongue. After I do all of that, then I learn the music. Since I play the piano, I like to learn the accompaniment first to understand the music aside from the vocal line and then I sing! I try to do all of this before I take the music to my teacher and coaches. It’s a lot of work but worth it in the end!
F: What’s been your favorite role to date?
I sang “Elisa” from Il Re Pastore last December and fell in love with her character. Not only was Mozart’s writing absolutely stunning, the strong personality appointed to Elisa made it so much easier to commit to the performance.
F: Tell us about your upcoming performance in Emmeline ?
Emmeline (written by American composer Tobias Picker), is a story about a young girl from Maine who was sent to work in a factory in New Hampshire. She is seduced by the boss’s son-in-law and actually ends up having his child. The child was taken away from her and adopted and Emmeline never knows who her child is. She returns to Maine and lives with her family and falls in love with a young man new to the area. They marry and live happily until the truth about his identity is revealed in an extremely dramatic scene. It turns out that he is actually her child!
I am covering one of the leads and singing in the chorus as well. Our stage director is Hungarian and is a genius! We are taking the show to Hungary in November as participants of this competition and I hope we win!
F: How would you make opera appeal more to the younger generations? What do you think of an American Opera Idol?
That’s a really tough question, one which has been asked and discussed at length at most of the parties I go to with musicians! I think if we try and market opera the way the MET is doing right now, more drama, more mainstream advertising, then maybe it will appeal more to younger generations. The most important way I think to get younger generations to even begin to appreciate opera is music education and exposure at an early age.
I think an American opera Idol would be really cool!
F: Tell us about what “non-opera” jobs you have had or are currenty doing? What has been your favorite? Which one sucked the most?
Well, I do LOTS of things. I temp, baby-sit, dog-sit, sometimes sing at a church …. what else?
I really can’t say which one has been my favorite and which one sucked the most. I am very grateful for all the jobs that I have! Some days are harder than others but I do enjoy them most of the time.
F: When not rehearsing, auditioning, performing or working you non opera jobs, how do you unwind and relax in the city?
I barely have any time to unwind! But when I do, I like to go for walks. The city is so beautiful in so many different ways that it is always interesting to me.
F: What are your top 3 songs you would choose when you go to karaoke?
That’s easy! Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, Eternal Flame by the Bangles, and Yesterday by the Beatles. I know…I’m sappy.
F: Have you thought about what you might do when you stop singing?
I hope that the only reason why I would stop singing is because I decided to retire! (I’m not joking either!). When that happens, I think I’d like to direct some shows, maybe do some work with young artists.
F: How do you like living in Washington Heights ? Any spots you recommend in your neighborhood?
I love Washington Heights. I like the fact that when I get out of the subway, the air feels cleaner and I can actually breathe and hear my own thoughts! I would definitely recommend a restaurant called Plum Pomidor. They make most of their pastas at the restaurant and their duck confit is delicious and super inexpensive!