My former highschool classmate, Jaclyn Kleier, is living her dream by singing professionally for the Cincinnati Opera. I asked her a few questions to learn more about what it’s like to be an opera singer.
How long have you been singing for the Cincinnati Opera?
My first season with Cincinnati Opera was in 2000. At the time I was the youngest singer they had ever hired. That began my career as a professional singer. This season marks my tenth with Cincinnati Opera (I took 3 seasons off to sing on cruise ships).
How did you get started?
I have been singing since I was young. My mother was music minister for two Catholic churches and I sang in the adult choir rather than the children’s choir because my voice was maturing much faster. I went on to take private lessons and eventually won the Kentucky All-State High School singing competition my senior year. Several colleges approached me about music scholarships after I won.
What challenges did you have to overcome to live your dream?
The expression “starving artist” is not a myth. It is real both figuratively and literally. Traveling all over the country for auditions, paying for vocal coaching and music, and singing as many resume building roles as possible for free, all the while sacrificing time that could be spent working a job that pays money, often makes for a very down-and-out existence as a young professional singer.
What are your favorite parts about your job?
The costumes and wigs!
What are some misconceptions about the opera?
That it’s only for the wealthy or affluent class. We have patrons from all walks of life. In fact, once a year we hold a community open dress rehearsal in which many inner city schools and youth programs come to see their first opera.
Do you have any tips for learning a foreign language?
No. I don’t know how I did it myself. I had to take 4 semesters each of French, German, and Italian as part of my undergrad degree as well as Lyric Diction. It just took lots of studying and repetition to get it down. I’m not fluent in any of the languages now, but I am able to sit down and translate my music and pronounce each word of the language precisely.
Why should someone check the opera out?
Because it’s not just people standing on stage screaming. The music is beautiful and often ignites a huge emotional response to its listeners. Seeing the opera in person rather than just listening to it on a CD or something allows you to put the story together.
What advice would you give to someone who dreams of a career that involves singing?
Work hard and learn to take rejection as an opportunity to grow as an artist. Also, have a backup plan…a singer’s career is often very short. There is lots of competition out there!
I got to watch Jaclyn perform in the community performance of “Aida” and was really impressed by the amazing singers, elaborate costumes and stage set.
Check out the Cincinnati Opera’s website for more information on upcoming operas.
Have you been to an opera before? I would love to hear about your experience.