When I graduated from college I stepped away from music for a year to search my heart and see what direction I wanted my life to take. Through a series of events, I discovered that (for lack of an adequate verbal rationale) I simply had to sing. Shortly after that epiphany, I moved to Milwaukee to continue my vocal training with Dr. Connie Haas.
After a few months of studying, I decided to audition for the Florentine Opera Chorus. Things went well in my audition and the company offered me a contract to sing a chorus role in their upcoming production of Rigoletto and a comprimario role in Elmer Gantry.
When the time came for me to sing in Elmer Gantry (Click her for MP3 audio) I was extremely nervous. Though I only had to sing about ten measures by myself, I felt out of my depth as a performer. I had very little professional musical experience, and I didn’t know what to expect. Much to my relief, I had kind and supportive colleagues and the performance was an overall success.
A few weeks after the 2009-10 opera season closed, I signed on to audition for the following season in the Florentine Opera chorus. I was happy with how I sang at my audition, but I didn’t think that anything extraordinary would come of it. A few hours later, Mr. Florescu, the General Director of the Florentine Opera Company, called me and asked me if I was interested in auditioning for their studio artist program. Apparently they had an opening for a tenor, and Mr. Florescu thought I might be a good candidate for the program. I was taken aback; I really didn’t think of myself as a talent worthy of such a prominent position.
At my studio audition, Mr. Florescu and Mr. Stewart (the Florentine Opera’s Chorus Master) asked me to sing six arias in their entirety. As is sometimes the case after I have auditioned for someone, I was convinced that I had totally failed. This particular audition was difficult for me to process because it seemed like the sort of experience I have read about in books. I didn’t think that the General Director of any company would ever call me and ask me to audition for anything. Since I didn’t know how to stop the voice in my head telling me I had just blown a huge opportunity – I decided to have a few beers and watch TV.
As providence would have it, Mr. Florescu called me the next day and offered me the position as the 2010-11 Studio Artist tenor. Goodness me – I thought I had been insecure singing ten measures in Elmer Gantry that were intentionally written to sound like I was shouting out of tempo; now I really felt insecure! Understanding that the expectations audiences would have for me (and the expectations that I had for myself) were continuing to grow, I accepted the position.
In my first season as a Florentine Opera Studio Artist, I learned far more than I can adequately describe with words. Perhaps the one ‘eureka moment’ that has stayed with me more than any other would be that I have to perform simply because I love it, not to try to win the approval or respect of the audience or my colleagues
Halfway through my second year as a studio artist, I still enjoy the challenges and opportunities this program affords me. Every chance that I have to sing in front of an audience, I use to refine my craft a little more. As several people have pointed out (some in kinder ways than others) I still have progress to make. But who doesn’t, really? It certainly is much more exciting to me to think that my best performances are still in front of me, rather than worrying about living up to something I did in the past.
As I look forward to Isn’t it Romantic?, the Grammy Awards, performing with the Milwaukee Ballet, singing for the MSO youth concert series, experiencing the main-stage productions of Susannah and Idomeneo, and dressing up as a misguided pig for another eight weeks of our touring production of The Three Little Pigs, I can’t help but be amazed by the tremendous way the Florentine Opera has shaped my life. There are many lessons that an artist can only learn by performing. I feel honored to have been given the chance to learn the lessons I have over these past few years as a member of the Florentine Opera Company†
Click on the following links to find out where you can catch Matthew Richardson and the rest of the 2011-2012 Florentine Opera Studio Artists as they perform in mainstage productions and thoughout the Milwaukee community.