Youth Choir Member Now Sings Opera
Performance at the Paramount to Raise Funds for Trip to Italy
By Dottie Havlik | May 27, 2008Mezzo-soprano Hilary Ginther is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Ginther of Bristol. She will appear in concert Thursday, June 12 at 7 p.m. at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol. Donations will be accepted as admission, with proceeds going to help Ginther travel to Rome, Italy, where she will perform in the Opera Festival di Roma this summer.
She recently chatted with A! Magazine for the Arts via email from Mississippi where she recently earned her bachelor's in voice performance with an emphasis on opera from the University of Southern Mississippi and has performed with the Southern Opera and Musical Theatre Company.
You have exciting news?
I'm traveling to Rome to sing the role of the 3rd Lady in Mozart's Die Zauberflote. I'll be there all of July taking voice lessons, Italian language class, acting and coaching. I'll sing with an international orchestra, under the direction of an Italian conductor. When I return, I have a job with the Mississippi Opera in Verdi's Rigoletto. Then I'll go back to Italy, and do an eight-month Italian language study in Florence while auditioning for opera companies all over Europe. Then I'll either go to graduate school at a major conservatory or work as a resident artist for an opera company in the U.S., which is like an apprenticeship.
When did you begin singing?
I began as a soloist at St. Anne Catholic Church, where Richard Davis recognized my talent. I joined the East Tennessee Children's Choir under Beth McCoy and began taking voice with her. When I was in high school, she referred me to Mark Davis at Emory and Henry College. I was drawn to classical music because I had a classical/operatic sounding voice. It was just kind of there naturally.
How did you realize you had real talent?
I enjoyed learning classical singing when I was in the 8th grade at Virginia Middle School, and I wanted to be in some kind of competition to get my feet wet in performing. So I entered the Bland Memorial Music Scholarship competition hosted by the Lions Club. I was too young to enter, but I convinced the committee to allow me to compete just for experience. I won over all the high school students. I, and everyone else, realized I had something special to offer.
When did you decide you wanted a career in opera?
I've always wanted to be a singer, and I've never looked back. I feel like if you are passionate about something, and good at it to boot, why not pursue it until the cows come home?! I don't really think I knew I wanted to do opera specifically until my freshman year in college — not because I didn't like it, but because I didn't know much about it. Coincidentally, the first opera I ever did is the opera I'm doing this summer in Rome!
What have you had to give up to concentrate on opera?
The only thing is one of my best friend's weddings. She forgave me, of course!
What have you gained in return?
I've gained everything. I love every day of my life because I get to focus on the next character to become or the next opera to learn. It's so fun to play dress-up, put make up on, become someone else, and sing while I do it! The last opera I did was The Marriage of Figaro with the Mississippi Opera, and I got to play a 15-year-old boy who was chasing all the girls! How fun is that!
Tell about your greatest joys and challenges.
The greatest joys are the people I get to meet — some of the best, most talented people — and we become a support group and get each other jobs if we can! The greatest challenges are always the rejections. I spent a week in New York City auditioning for apprentice programs, and was not hired by any. It's humbling and keeps me in check with how many talented singers are out there, and how competitive it really is. A program I auditioned for heard 650 singers, and could only fill 24 spots. Nonetheless, it's never fun to lose.
Talk about why you're going to Rome.
This trip means a couple of things. For one, I'll continue to expand my network in this business. A lot of important people will listen to the opera, and that's what it's all about: connections. It will also feed my passion to travel. I sang in Italy in 2005, and have wanted to go back ever since. The performance of the opera I'll be singing will also be broadcast on Italian public radio and TV, so that's also great!
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Dottie Havlik is President of the Board of Directors of Arts Alliance Mountain Empire (AAME) and chair of AAME's Arts for Youth Committee.
Ginther performing in "Carmen."
She also performed in "West Side Story."