Women of the Northwest

Saori de Bruyn-Harmonious Voices: Behind the Curtains of Opera

August 27, 2023 Jan Johnson Episode 76
Women of the Northwest
Saori de Bruyn-Harmonious Voices: Behind the Curtains of Opera
Show Notes Transcript

Performances of Don Giovanni at the Larsen Center for the Performing Arts, Astoria, Oregon. Saturday, September 1 at 7 pm and Sunday September 3 @ 3 pm.

Join host Jan Johnson in this captivating episode of "Women of the Northwest" as she delves into the enchanting world of opera with guest Sayori de Bruyne. Discover the journey of a young singer who transformed her love for singing into a powerful art form. From the magic of melodies to the challenges of perfecting technique, explore the inner workings of an operatic career. Listen in as Sayori shares her experiences, anecdotes from the stage, and her role in the upcoming production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni." Prepare to be inspired by the transformative power of music, as Sayori's mesmerizing voice leaves an indelible mark. Whether you're a seasoned opera enthusiast or a curious newcomer, this episode promises a symphony of insights and emotions.

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Find me on my website: jan-johnson.com

[00:02] Jan: Are you looking for? An inspiring listen, something to motivate you. You've come to the right place. I'm Jan Johnson, your host. Welcome to Women of the Northwest, where we have conversations with ordinary women leading extraordinary lives. Women telling their stories and sharing their passions. Motivating, inspiring, compelling you. Hey, and welcome, everyone. If this is your first time listening, you are in for a treat. Have you ever been to an opera? I've been to exactly two. I really didn't know how fun they could be. Barinas Jones Centeno. An interview, number 14 on Women of the Northwest introduced me to this avenue of entertainment. Barinas is the manager of the Larson Performing Arts Center in Astoria, Oregon, and also the founder of the Cascadia Chamber Opera. We're very fortunate to have this form of entertainment here locally. She has put together a two-week opera event which is going on right now. And so today's interview is with Sayori de Bruyne, a singer with Don Giovanni, which is playing in Astoria at the Pac this Saturday and Sunday at seven and 03:00 P.m.. More information is in the show notes. You'll want to listen to the end to hear more about the story of the show.

[01:28] Saori: People would always say, like, oh, you're good at singing. The way you sing really touches people's hearts or perform well, or, you just have such great stage presence. And I loved that feeling of, like, oh, there's something that I can do. Just me. Not everybody else can do it's. Like, it makes me feel, like, special.

[01:57] Jan: Well, hello, everyone. We're here. Women in the Northwest sitting outside on my deck. So you may hear some birds or the dog barking, maybe some sheep or some construction. I don't know. Anyway, it's all ambient, it's all good. So I am welcoming today. Sayori de brun.

[02:17] Saori: Yes. Hello.

[02:19] Jan: She's been staying with me for a week, working with the Cascadia Opera and singing there, and I just thought we could have a great conversation about that.

[02:29] Saori: Yeah, we've already had great conversations over coffee in the morning.

[02:34] Jan: I know. It's just been great having you here and interesting to me because I, up until a year ago, had never been to an opera before. My mother loved opera. When she was a little girl, she went to an opera and she just fell in love with it.

[02:50] Saori: Really?

[02:51] Jan: Her favorite was Madame Butterfly.

[02:53] Saori: Oh, I love that one. Yeah.

[02:55] Jan: So she would play a record of that over and over. So that one I've got in my mind.

[02:59] Saori: I know, that's a great one. Yeah. Heartbreaking.

[03:03] Jan: Yeah. But to have them in English, too, that's kind of fun. I did theater for so long. Just seeing theater aspect of it is really interesting.

[03:14] Saori: Yeah, absolutely.

[03:16] Jan: How'd you get started doing this?

[03:18] Saori: I loved singing as a kid, and I didn't do opera when I was a kid. I was singing pop songs, and I loved classic rock, actually, like a couple of those School of Rock programs as a kid, where we all write our own songs and play guitar, and I played bass, bass guitar, because it was relatively easy to do while singing. And I also sang jazz. And then I think, yeah, in high school, I was in band. I was playing flute. I wasn't in the choir. And then my junior year, I auditioned for the choir because one year the musical did Sweetie Todd, and I was playing flute in the pit orchestra, and it just looked so fun. It just looked so fun. And I was like, I could do that, I could do that. And so I auditioned for the choir, got in, one of my teachers said, hey, you have a really big voice. Why don't you do opera? And as a joke would sometimes to my friends, and I was like, oh, okay. And then I started taking private voice lessons. And sometimes it happens early on in your life where it feels so good when someone says, hey, you're good at that. Oh, my God, that's the best feeling. And yeah, growing up, people would always say, like, oh, you're good at singing. The way you sing really touches people's hearts, or, you really perform well. You just have such great stage presence. And I loved that feeling of like, oh, there's something that I can do, just me. Not everybody else can do it's. Like, it makes me feel like, yeah. And then high school started doing classical voice. Studied with Valerie. Saul was my first official voice teacher, and she introduced me to opera, and I just really fell in love with it. It's usually in a foreign language, and there was something about almost unlocking a song. I would sing a song and I would learn the translation and learn the words, and then it's set to music, and so the music would make the words come to life. And it just was such a beautiful experience to learn and sing a song for an operatic aria or a song by set to German or French, and I really liked that, too.

[06:07] Jan: That would almost be magical, I think.

[06:09] Saori: Yeah, it was. It was like finding treasure, because you would learn the poetry of the music and the song and how it would all fit together, and then you would sing it. And even when it's in a foreign language, when you sing a song, if somebody hears it, you can tell if it's sad. You can tell if it's romantic or if it's a love song, even if it's in the language you don't understand. And I loved that about it, too. And then finally in college, I was kind of on the fence. I wasn't sure if I should pursue music because it's a challenging career path. Very much so, yeah. And then in college, I finally decided, go for it. As long as the doors keep opening, I'm going to keep going through them. And I've had the most amazing life, most amazing experiences because of opera. And I always say it's a privilege to do music and to do opera, and I'm so fortunate to have the voice to be able to do it. And so thankful to companies like Cascadia Chamber Opera for hiring me to sing. Yeah. Just really privileged to be here and to be yeah. Yeah.

[07:28] Jan: Because they've probably I mean, you have to be a certain locale to be able to have those opportunities.

[07:36] Saori: Yeah.

[07:36] Jan: Because it's not available everywhere.

[07:39] Saori: Yes.

[07:41] Jan: And you've probably met some incredible people.

[07:43] Saori: Yeah, absolutely. When you're doing a show, you get really close with your castmates and you make really great friends. Yeah.

[07:56] Jan: What's been your favorite show?

[07:59] Saori: Oh, gosh. Oh, you know what? Yeah, so I love which is perfect, because there's so much of that in opera. There was this opera that I did in my undergrad, actually, called Swar angelica, sister Angelica. And it's about a nun who is living in a convent. And throughout the opera, you learn that she sort of has a troubled past. She was sort of sent there by her family, and she comes from a rich family of royalty, and no one knows why she was sent there. And so in the opera, you find out that she was sent there because she had an illegitimate son. And one of the family members, the aunt, the principesa, the princess, comes and visits her. And it's been years since she's seen this aunt, and she asks about her son, and then the aunt says he's dead. And so sore, Angelica just loses all because that was the only thing she was living for, was the possibility of seeing her son again. And so then in the opera, she commits suicide, drinks poison because she's also an herbalist. Herbalist? Yeah, medicine. But then in the Catholic faith, committing suicide is a sin. So in the end of the opera, she's drank the poison and she sings asundanata, which means, I'm damned, I'm damned. I didn't mean to. It was because I love my son. And she begs the Virgin Mary for forgiveness, and she's on her knees and she's dying. And then sometimes in the opera, depending on how the director does it, the Virgin Mary appears. And in the Virgin that we did, the Virgin Mary appears with her son, and she gets taken up to heaven, and the Virgin Mary forgives her on behalf of the boss, she forgives her. And it's just the most I mean, going through that I was, like, 22 at the time, I think, or 23 or something. But going through that journey, being able to find out about her son's death and then deciding to commit suicide, who gets to do that or who gets to go through that through their mind. I do love the tragic roles. I loved doing that. And every time I would sing, if I saw these white silhouettes in the audience, I was like, I did my job because it was tissues. I did my job. If I can make everyone cry, I did my job.

[10:41] Jan: Yeah, well, and when you are acting in any form, to really do it well, you have to become that character. And so you have to go deep and analyzing what would they really be feeling or thinking or whatever, besides just the word on the page.

[10:59] Saori: Yeah, maybe I'm a bit of a masochist, but I just love that. I just love going there. And every night I would cry on stage. And some people say in opera, oh, you shouldn't cry because it'll affect your voice. But I feel like it adds more to when someone sings and you can hear, like, they're choking back tears.

[11:23] Jan: Yeah. Because how could you sing it just flat out and then you're not real?

[11:28] Saori: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I was feeling it every night. Yeah. I was definitely not just phoning it in, like, yeah, loved it. That was probably my favorite show, for sure.

[11:40] Jan: Do you feel like as you're going through each performance, you get better, or do you, toward the end, feel tired of a show, or do you perform.

[11:50] Saori: That often enough to be that's a very interesting question, because I think it's different for everyone, obviously. For me, I have had the thought of, we finally get to the performance and the curtain rises, and I'm thinking, okay, I'm about to do this whole show, and I've had the thought of, okay, when's the next one? What's the new project that I get to do? Because it's like, okay, done, conquered, finished, checked off the list. So I have had that thought, but it's not like, I'm tired of this, or, oh, I don't want to do this anymore. It's kind of like, When's the next one? When can I do the next one? What's the next discovery? The next journey? Yeah, I have had that feeling.

[12:35] Jan: And I do think, too, there is an element, too, to any performer that does it often, like, the same show often, but to still make it fresh, because that audience, that's their time to see it and to determine their take on it and what they enjoyed about it or didn't.

[12:57] Saori: Yeah. That is very important to do as the performers. Like a lot of people in the audience, they're seeing it for the first time, but it might be our third show. And so how do you keep the energy? How do you keep the momentum going in the show and not just phone it in and do the lines and do the jokes and do the bits? Yeah, absolutely.

[13:20] Jan: Do you have any interesting stories about rehearsals or funny things that might have bloopers?

[13:28] Saori: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I had a first time experience in a show recently. We were doing Asus and Galatea, which is a Handel opera with Eugene Opera, my colleague. We were in the chorus, and there's this scene where he kind of gets thrown to the ground by the evil polyphemus, the evil giant in the show. And the first night, he fell on his knee and got, like, a matte burn. He skinned his knee and it healed. But then the second night, he fell the same exact way and his scab ripped open.

[14:10] Jan: Oh, no.

[14:11] Saori: During the show. And he gets up and we're sitting together in these chairs and he's bleeding. And in the middle of the show, I just turned to him, I'm like, Are you okay? And he's like, yeah. And I kept trying to think, well, maybe during this scene I can go off stage and get him abandoned. No, that won't quite work, because I have to do this. And maybe during this moment I could run off stage really quick and get a band. No, I have to do this other part. I didn't know what to do. And so there he was. But I don't think anyone noticed. I don't think anyone noticed. Yeah. Because in the show he was wearing shorts and so he actually bled on my costume. But what are we going to do?

[14:54] Jan: Go on.

[14:55] Saori: Yeah. And I was telling that story to a colleague and they told me that they had a colleague break their wrist on stage. One of their colleagues fell and just fell on their hand wrong. And kept going. Performed the rest of the show.

[15:12] Jan: That's when you needed.

[15:13] Saori: We performers.

[15:14] Jan: You can cry in the middle.

[15:16] Saori: We artists are not weak pansies. We are warriors. We are athletes. The show must go on. The show must go on. So, yeah, that was my first time for that. For sure. Yeah.

[15:33] Jan: Next time you just have to have some bandaids or whatever in my pocket. In your pocket? Or under a chair or under a good idea.

[15:42] Saori: Yeah. And maybe some deodorant. Maybe a couple of breath mints, too, while you're at it. Have, like, supplies.

[15:48] Jan: A little kind of reach behind.

[15:50] Saori: Not a bad idea.

[15:51] Jan: Behind the curtain.

[15:53] Saori: That's not a bad idea. Yeah.

[15:57] Jan: Oh, my goodness. If you were a kid who was thinking about doing this or just interested, and they had a good voice, what would you recommend for?

[16:10] Saori: You know, there's actually a girl here in Astoria who sings her name's Minta. I'll just shout out minta. She reminds me so much of me growing up and know, just seeing her perform for her community and everyone's just so proud of her. And she, at this moment, doesn't really want to go into opera. Fully Operatic Singing the operatic voice takes a very long time to develop. I mean, I'm 29. I'm turning 30 next year. And every year I get older, my voice gets better. I cannot wait till I'm 35. In what career do people say that? I can't wait, because the voice just takes a really long time to develop. And it takes such a long time to perfect the technique, the languages the maturity on stage to portray these characters. It just takes such a long time. And so when you're 1918, going into college, first of all, you don't know who you are, right, let alone what you want to do with your life. There are lots of music schools who have programs, and they're wonderful. And then the trajectory for an opera singer is you get your undergrad somewhere, and then you get your master's, and then you're a working professional at that point, right? But you're like, 24, 25, you still don't know your voice, and you're competing against 30 plus year olds who do know their voice, and that's five, six years where you might not really be working that much. Now, some people are lucky, and they get into some people are just prodigies and they get into programs or they start doing jobs somewhere, and there's not that many jobs, and there's actually a lot of opera singers out there, believe it or not, there's a lot of people doing it. So, yeah, honestly, my advice would be to wait to do the operatic repertoire. It can be sometimes harmful to try to sing the big operatic repertoire as a 19 year old. Like, you should not be singing just not ready. Yeah, you shouldn't be singing Puccini Mimi when you're 19. The professionals working in the field who are singing that are, like, 35, sometimes 40. They're older. So, yeah, my advice is to wait to learn song and do musical theater and work on your languages. I think song, there's a whole genre of sort of like classical music or operatic repertoire that's song, it's not in the context of an opera, it's just a poem set to music. And there's tons of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Mozart wrote a bunch of songs, too. So starting with that and unlocking the puzzle of the song and how to make it understandable to the audience and conveying the emotions to the audience. And working on acting, do straight theater rather than going right into opera. Yeah. Waiting. Waiting and finding a good teacher. Yeah, that would be my suggestion. Then also, like, just speaking, practically get a job, start saving money, don't go to an expensive conservatory and be $100,000 in student loan debt. If I could go back, that's what I would do. I would have not gone to I mean, I had a wonderful experience at my conservatory and my undergrad, but I wish I would have waited and just took lessons and just kept building my voice and had a real job and maybe bought a house and you know what I mean? That's what I wish I could have done, but I wouldn't change it, really.

[20:19] Jan: Talk to me about your voice. How do people I mean, most of us don't think about our voice, so how do you develop a voice or what's involved in that? Learning about your vocal cords or the care of them or when you're taking singing lessons, what happens?

[20:40] Saori: Describe some of that. Yeah. You mean like now? What's the work that I do? I think the goal of, like, okay, what's the perfect technique, what's the perfect way to sing is? How do I sing? Effortlessly. How do I just sing? It like I'm walking to the park. I think that's the ultimate goal that we singers want to achieve, because we want the singing to just be there, and then we want to be able to act and move and connect with the audience. I've been doing these exercises, actually, recently I've been doing these vocal exercises. It's a book called the Marquezi Singing Technique. And they're just all these scales, all these scales and different musical patterns. And it's been great because you sing the musical patterns and scales, and they're just scales, right. It's not in the context of an opera. You're not performing them. No pressure, right? So you're just singing, singing, singing. And then I work on my actual repertoire with words that I have to perform or whatnot, right? And I just in my head, I turned on this switch of, oh, this is just Marquesi. This is just Marquez. This scale is the same scale that I did a hundred times, you know, up to super high notes, no problem. And that's helped me so much. It's helped me so much because sometimes when I'm singing, there's the nerves and the pressure of doing well on stage, and you want to impress the director or you want to impress your colleagues and all that stuff sometimes puts a strain on the voice. And our instruments are our bodies. And so if you're nervous, if you're stressed, if you're tired, if you drank a beer last night, it's going to show in your voice. And so that's been really helpful. And then I take voice lessons and my teacher, Pamela South, who's fabulous, that's what we work on is how do I sing this effortlessly? How do I just then just sing this scale or this high note? Know, how do I set up my breath so that I can project and support the sound?

[23:05] Jan: Right?

[23:06] Saori: And your posture, it's all like, how do I take the strain and stress off of the vocal cords and just put them in my body? Yeah.

[23:22] Jan: Do you drink something before you sing? Or is there something that helps us water, drinking water?

[23:34] Saori: There are singers who do lots of things. Lots of things. I definitely huge believer in my body is my instrument. And so if I take care of my body, then my instrument will be good to go. So I like to exercise before I sing. I like to make sure I stretch and make sure my rib cage is relaxed and expanded. And so I'll do a lot of breathing exercises, but water is so important. Oh, my gosh, hydration so important. Yeah. I haven't been drinking that much water because I've just been so busy, and my voice was kind of starting to hurt. And so, like, three or four days ago, I was like, oh, I'm not drinking any water. I'm just drinking coffee. And then I drank, like, 324 ounce bottles. It was like, I'm going to drink three of these today. And then my voice was like it was so fresh. I was like, oh, yeah, water, right. Hydration.

[24:42] Jan: Of course, there's always a danger if you do too much beforehand. Then you've got to go to the bathroom you're seeing, and you can't leave.

[24:54] Saori: Whenever you come off stage, you're like, okay, I have about ten minutes. Don Octavio has got an aria, and then Donna Anna is going to sing an aria, too, so I have time to go to the bathroom. Or, oh, I could totally have a snack right now. I don't have to sing for another 1520 minutes.

[25:11] Jan: What would be a beginner's guide to opera? Like, people who haven't been to them? What are interesting, fun ones or things?

[25:21] Saori: Okay. I think seeing opera, especially if you're an English speaker, watch an opera in English. I would recommend, for a first time, super fun opera. I think I actually would recommend deflator mouse. It's a German opera written by Johann Strauss. But find, like, an English version. Oh, that's just a hoot. And the melodies are so catchy, and it's just a funny show. That's a great first opera. Another great first opera, I think, is The Marriage of Figuro. And it's in one you can find a production on YouTube with subtitles.

[26:08] Jan: With subtitles.

[26:11] Saori: Yeah. And there's a great movie version of it with some really great, fantastic singers that was made in, like, the 70s or eighty s, I believe. But yeah, that's one of my favorite operas was The Marriage of Figuero. Yeah, anything my Mozart any of the Mozart operas are so fun, and the music is just so beautiful. And some of his operas that he wrote with Ponte, which is the librettist who wrote the words, those operas are more about regular people. They're about the aristocracy, but also there's characters in the show that are regular servants and just regular townsfolk. And so that was kind of a time in opera where opera was being viewed by the common folk, not just royalty or the court, because that's kind of where opera came from. So, yeah, all those operas are great. And start with start if you're totally new to everything, watch, like, musical theater. If you really like old theater, probably like opera. It's kind of like the Think. So yeah, yeah, start with that. And I'm at a higher level now, so I can maybe conquer opera and watch opera. Yeah, very good. Yeah.

[27:37] Jan: So while you're here, what show are you in?

[27:39] Saori: I am in Don Giovanni by Mozart with Cascaded Chamber Opera, and I'm playing Tolina.

[27:49] Jan: Okay, tell us the story.

[27:51] Saori: Okay, I will try to tell it in the short form because these operas are complicated. Basically, the main character of the show is Don Giovanni, the titular role. And it's based off of the story of Don Juan, which some people, I'm sure, will be familiar with. He's a womanizer. He's just an all around jerk. He murders somebody in the first scene of the show. He attempts to rape my character. This is a family friendly show, everybody. And yeah, he's just a bad dude. And all the characters in the show, they've had some sort of interaction with him has been really bad. And so they all are sort of trying to get vengeance. But in the end, Don Giovanni is sort of judged by, you could say, God. One of the characters comes back as a ghost and drags him down to hell. And so in the end, he's sort of judged by truth and by justice, and then he gets dragged down to hell. And then all the characters sort of learn from his story because the characters in the show, they're not completely virtuous. My character, Carolina, she's a little bit naughty. The show is on her wedding day, and there's a scene in the show where Don Giovanni sort of starts to flirt with her and he kind of bribes her with, oh, you're not meant to live like a peasant. You should come with me and let's be married. And he proposes to her, and Charlina is just like, oh, my know, she sees, oh like this man. He's very romantic, he's very suave, and he's rich, and he has power. And so she's totally taken over by him on the day of her wedding to Mazetto. But then luckily, one of the other characters that has been scorned by Don Giovanni steps in and sort of rescues her. And so Serolina realizes her mistake and that she should stay with this good man that loves her and treats her well and isn't going to deceive. Not all the characters have a little bit of weakness, but then in the end of the show, they realize, oh, looking at his example, we're going to change our ways. Yeah.

[30:29] Jan: Very fun. So that'll be this coming weekend. Saturday and Sunday.

[30:33] Saori: Yes. September 1 and third.

[30:36] Jan: First and third.

[30:36] Saori: Yeah. The September 1 show is at 07:00 p.m.. And then the third will be the Sunday matinee at three.

[30:44] Jan: Okay.

[30:44] Saori: Yeah. And it's going to be a great show. Yeah, it's very funny. We've made a very funny Don Giovanni. All the cast all have great comedic timing. They're all pros and really fun to work with. Work with. We've had a lot of yeah, we've had a lot of fun.

[31:05] Jan: Good. That makes it so much better.

[31:06] Saori: The singing too. I will say, I didn't know many of these people who are local. They're from the Portland area. I live in Springfield, Eugene. But I didn't know them. But many, so many great singers in this area.

[31:22] Jan: Really nice. Nice to have well, Ciora, thank you so much for this.

[31:27] Saori: Thank you.

[31:28] Jan: Thank you, Jan. Thank you.

[31:29] Saori: And it's been a joy talking to you and staying with you and it's just been wonderful.

[31:36] Jan: Hey, don't go away because we have a treat for you. After the interview, I've included a clip of Sayori I've included a clip of Sayori singing I have included a clip of Sayori singing that you won't want to miss.

[32:57] Saori: Jesus would be if you don't if you know you Jesus.

[37:32] Jan: Ray podcast Episodes it would be amazing if you would take few minutes to leave a review so others can find it. Transcripts are available on my website@janjohnson.com. Please join me again next week.