Melanie Shank , Soprano
Soprano Melanie Shank will sing Janthe in Der Vampyr on October 29 with OCB. She moved to NYC after graduating in May 2016 with her MM in Vocal Performance from the Crane School of Music. A fan of both opera and musical theater, favorite performances include Sister Constance (Dialogues of the Carmelites), Daughter #3 (Quilters the Musical), and Marguerite (Faust). No stranger to oratorio, she has served as soprano soloist with the Burnt Hills Oratorio Society, Octavo Singers, and the University at Albany Chorale. Melanie is excited to be making her Opera Company of Brooklyn debut! Read below as she shares her experiences with us.
How did you get into Opera?
I’ve always loved singing and although I started with show tunes my first teacher had me work on a book of art songs as well- which at first I hated but then I realized how much I could do with my voice and how thrilling it was to hear the human voice reach the extent it does in opera and I was hooked!
What, in your opinion, makes OCB unique?
I really admire the focus on outreach and making opera accessible which OCB embraces – and I think it’s exactly what opera needs. By making it BYOB and doing intimate staged readings, opera becomes much more approachable and can seem more to the outsider as something to be enjoyed, not endured, and could especially appeal to a younger audience which opera desperately needs.
How do you relax when not on stage?
I’m a huge stress baker-usually every cast I work with gets to benefit at least once! I love experimenting with healthier options including vegan and gluten-free, although I’m neither myself. I also love thrifting- I find the search and sorting very soothing.
Do you have any advice for other singers?
I think one of my biggest struggles has been remembering the joy. It’s hard, but try not to get bogged down in the rejections, the difficulty, and uncertainty and remember you do this for a reason- you love it and you have a story to share. Also do your homework! Translate, practice, coach- there is always a new level to be reached!
What are your dream roles?
I would love to do Kate in Rakes Progress, Rose in Street Scene, Adina in L’eliser d’amore, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Therese in Les Mamelles. . . I’m also a big fan of contemporary American opera- and generally I fall in love with whatever I’m singing at the moment!
Which colleagues do you admire?
Again the list is huge–of those I don’t know personally I’ve always been a huge fan of Diana Damrau and Renee Fleming, and especially after having met her in person and heard her sing up close, Stephanie Blythe. I’ve also worked with so many singers- in particular mezzo Kara Cornell, aside from being one of the best actresses I’ve ever seen on the opera stage and having a gorgeous voice, has been a huge support, answering questions as I went through undergrad and grad and giving advice. I hope to be a resource to other singers too someday, to pay back all the help she’s given me.
Oh gosh, that’s too hard to answer- and it’s why I’m glad I don’t have to pick just one to perform! Each composer has things that make them special and fun- Bellini with his beautiful melodies, Rossini with his fun florid trills, Weill with his heart and jazz elements- I definitely can’t pick one!
Which character (not in your voice range) would you most like sing and why?
Wotan in the Ring Cycle- it’s basically about as far as I can get from my current voice and to play such a powerful character and to feel the power of a Wagnerian voice thundering through you would be pretty amazing!
What other music do you listen to?
I’ve recently been on an electro-swing kick, but I have pretty varied tastes, although general a little more on the alternative side- euro pop, classic rock, jazz, and of course show tunes!
Do you read books/watch movies to prepare for a role?
I definitely try to do all the research I can and look at a variety so I don’t just end up mimicking one singer’s interpretation. The first thing I always do is go through and translate word for word- poetic translations are helpful, but if you’re saying “death” or “love” you really need to know that, and it also gets me more familiar with the score.
How do you balance a career with a life offstage?
I just moved to NYC in July so I’m still figuring that out somewhat, but at the moment I have a full-time day job at a hedgefund and sing and take lessons and coachings in all my free time. There will likely come a time when a more flexible job is necessary, but for now it’s working. Generally for me I have to remind myself to make time for non-singing fun too- but usually I enjoy it so it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.
How do you unwind after singing?
I’m usually pretty pumped up so I love getting a low key dinner/glass of wine or coffee with friends. Or sometimes I just head home and either bake or watch some Netflix with popcorn- I probably have popcorn almost every other day.
The dreaded question: Have you ever appeared in Phantom of the Opera?
I have not, although I’d be open to it- although really the Yeston version not the Webber. But I wouldn’t want to be Christine- Carlotta is the way to go- when else do you have license to have a huge onstage temper tantrum?
Opera Company of Brooklyn Presents: Der Vampyr on Saturday, October 29 from 7 PM to 9:45 PM at 600 W 218th Street, 1 G, NY, NY 10034. Tickets are a suggested donation of $20 in advance, $40 day of and can be reserved online here. For more information about the production and cast, click here.