Meeting Helena — A Chat About Opera Singing and Labels
So what brings you to Starbucks today?
Just waiting for work I guess.
Cool, what do you do for work?
I’m a bartender.
I see. How long have you been doing that?
Well I started this new job this summer, so like two months, three months now.
Cool. Do you like it or?
Yeah! Yeah I do. It’s busy which is really nice. It makes the day go by fast. The night I should say.
And aside from working in the bar do you go to school or?
Yeah I’m studying to be an opera singer.
Oh no way!
Yeah, so that’s what I’m doing now. We’ll see.
How long have you been into singing for?
Well I started studying seriously, about four years ago. And then now I go to USM and study there. But I’ve sung my whole life. Like, not opera obviously, but in children’s choruses and such.
That’s cool. How did you get started? Did you just like it or?
Yeah, I went with my grandmother to the opera. Just kind of to humor her and it was really… an experience I’ll tell you that much. The opera is great for just like… I don’t know everyone definitely needs to experience it. That’s for sure.
How would you describe it being on the singing end?
It’s just heightened human personality traits you know? Everything is kind of to the point of ridiculous and it’s all expressed through this music that somebody took years to write. It’s just, heightened human emotion at it’s grandest I’d say.
I see. And once you finish school in terms of like a career, how does that work out for opera singers?
You can do it many different ways. You can go to graduate school and get a Master’s or you can study with someone privately for a while. And then you do an audition circuit and you try and get into a young artist’s program and then just network, and audition and audition and audition and hopefully something comes with it. It’s a long process though. It takes as long to become an opera singer as it does to become a doctor. Like, that much education is required.
It’s a long road but we end up with longer careers than say an actress or a movie star. So that’s nice.
I see. So aside from school and working what else do you do in your free time?
Well, I like to read. I like to… Free time? [Laughs] That’s a good question. I like to hangout in Portland, it’s a great city. City… well, town. But yeah.
Have you lived in the area for a long time or?
Yeah I moved to Portland a year ago from Gorham, which is where I was in school. And before that I grew up in Brunswick.
Oh cool. Do you have any favorites in mind for the books that you read?
Good question. I basically read like anything from classics to thrillers and politician mysteries: for some reason I really like those. To, I don’t know, Devil Wears Prada or something like that. Not really anything specific.
Have you ever read, I forgot what it’s called, Eat, Pray, Love or something like that?
No but I did see the movie. I was at camp or something and they made us watch the movie but I’ve never read that book.
Oh, did you like the movie?
I don’t remember. I don’t remember it very well.
I was just curious because, I forgot what book you mentioned it, but it reminded of that.
Yeah. I couldn’t tell you. I don’t really remember it that well. I know it was a wicked popular book though.
Some people, or reviewers, I was reading about the other day didn’t like it because they felt like she was trying to bring all of these ideas about enlightenment and commercialize them.
What do you think about people, when they do that? Maybe someone that goes to the gym, they’re no longer someone who wants to be fit, but they’re a gym rat. Somebody who’s well educated, isn’t smart, they’re a nerd. Someone who dresses well isn’t good looking, they’re a metrosexual. What do you personally think about that?
I don’t know. I don’t really believe in labels. The nice part about being in an artistic field, for the most part, is that there are countless types of people and whatever you would think about somebody completely doesn’t matter.
“All that matters is what they like to do and how they do it, and why they do it, and if they work hard at it and such, I don’t know.”
Do you ever find yourself making those sort of assumptions about people?
Sure, I mean it’s hard not to but I don’t stick to it you know? I prefer to have a conversation with somebody before I make some kind of blip assumption that is arbitrary based on appearance or my first impression.
Do you have any assumptions that people have made of you before?
Not that I’m aware of. I’m sure that people do make assumptions about me. I’m not exactly a super warm person when you meet me so I’m sure people do.
Why would you say that you’re not super warm?
I just don’t, I don’t know, I don’t like… I’m not really. I want to say I’m not friendly when you first meet me but like, I’m not “yey!!! Let’s-”
So you’re not warm because there are some people that you meet that don’t excite you and all of a sudden…
I don’t know. That’s a good question. I think it’s just like a personality trait of mine. I don’t think… I don’t know. That would be my guess as to what people assume about me, is that I’m like a bitch or whatever.
So what if that’s an assumption you’re making about yourself?
I mean, that could be it too. The thing I don’t know is if anybody’s made that assumption about me, but if I had to guess what people would say it would be that. I don’t think somebody would say, you know, “she’s dumb,” or “she’s a nerd.” I don’t think would say that about me. I think it would be that I’m not forthcoming when they first meet me or whatever: passive is the word I’m looking for.
That’s just really funny to me in this whole situation: sitting down and you being completely warm and forthcoming.
[Laughs] You know, I don’t know.
But yeah, I don’t mean to hold you from work. Do you mind if I get a photo of you? I usually put it at the top of the article.
Cool. I’ll go ahead and pick the best one. And what was your name by the way?
Helena? Cool, I’m Octavian. Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you.