OPINION: Introducing a new generation to timeless opera

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Caroline Chirichella Brody lives in Forest Hills.


Everybody loves good singing - that's obvious when you look at the popularity of shows like "American Idol" and "Glee." But that's popular music. The music I love - and love to sing - is opera. Unfortunately, opera isn't readily available to the public, and as a result, a whole generation of potential fans may be missing out. That's where I'd like to come in.

Six years ago, I saw Broadway veteran Lisa Vroman perform at New York's Majestic Theatre as the female lead in "The Phantom of the Opera." A year ago, I saw Marcello Giordani, lead tenor at the Metropolitan Opera, in "Adrianna Lecouvrer."

Then, this past spring, I saw them both perform together at a concert. But this time, instead of sitting in the audience, I was onstage, singing with both.

The event was "A Sunday Afternoon at the Opera," a fundraiser for Giordani's foundation. Its goal is to help young opera singers by providing master classes, career assistance and financial aid.

I was lucky to get this break. My voice coach, Kathy Olsen, is Giordani's and Vroman's agent. Never did I think that coaching with Kathy would lead to sharing a stage with a star of the Metropolitan Opera.

For the concert, I sang "Adele's Laughing Song" from "Die Fledermaus." I also performed with Vroman, sharing a dressing room with the very singer I'd asked an autograph for when I was 14. And I sang with Giordani, whom I also grew up admiring.

It was a day I will never forget. Everything was beautiful - the church where we sang, the flowers I received along with the other female singers. People even asked for my autograph. I've studied voice privately for more than 10 years. I sang backup for the operatic pop group Il Divo on "The Today Show." I've sung with many opera companies, including Opera of The Hamptons, Amato Opera and Dicapo Opera. But this was special. I felt like Cinderella at the ball.

And so sometimes dreams do come true. As a child, I always knew I wanted to sing. I would sit in school and all I could think about was singing. I always felt off in my own world, and for that I got picked on. Kids would make fun of me because I liked opera, musical theater, had a really high voice and am very petite. I felt like an outsider. Now I have the confidence I lacked back then.

Among the artists who have inspired me is Lady Gaga. When I heard her say how she, too, was picked on and felt like a freak, it felt like she was talking to me. She's proof that if you have enough determination and fight, anything is possible. I can relate to her as a fellow petite, Italian NYC girl with a big voice.

But, obviously, the reason for the concert wasn't to give me my first big break. Opera is a very competitive career. It requires years of studying music, language and technique - not to mention sheer determination. It can also be expensive, and that's why Giordani started his foundation.

Kathy Olsen and Marcello Giordani had enough faith in my talent to believe I could do it. The opera community would like to help other young, aspiring opera singers, too. I am lucky, and now I want others to be lucky, too.

I'd love for other young singers to love opera as much as I do. It's one of my dreams to be able to accomplish what Luciano Pavarotti did, and bring opera to more people by singing with popular artists that I admire. It's a wonderful way for people to experience this beautiful, timeless music in a new way.


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