Preparing for a career often takes a musician halfway around the world. It took soprano Theresa Santiago across town. True, it was not just an ordinary town, but New York City.
“I grew up in the Bronx,” Santiago says. “Neither of my parents played or sang. I was always singing as a young girl, and it was a junior high chorus teacher who suggested I audition for Music and Art High School in Manhattan.”
Now, 10 years later, the 25-year-old Santiago, a graduate of Juilliard and winner of the 1994 Naumburg International Vocal Competition, is in Spokane to perform at The Met with the Spokane Symphony.
The program Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening will feature her singing Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” and the Countess’ aria, “Dove sono,” from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro.” Orchestral works on the program include Carl Nielsen’s “Little Suite for Orchestra,” and Mozart’s “Linz” symphony. Patricia Handy will conduct.
Santiago had no classical music training as a child. “When I auditioned for the Music and Art,” she says, “I sang ‘Memories’ from ‘Cats.’ I was accepted and began seriously studying classical music. I really fell in love with opera on a class trip we took to see ‘Madame Butterfly.’ I knew that was for me when I saw Butterfly there on the stage singing all by herself.”
At 18, Santiago was accepted at Juilliard, where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She spent the year following graduation studying in the Opera Music Theater International program with Jerome Hines and his wife Lucia.
In addition to winning the Naumburg Competition, which sponsored her New York debut at Alice Tully Hall last season, Santiago won the 1993 D’Angelo Competition, was a second-place winner in the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation Competition and was a finalist in the 1994 Metropolitan auditions.
Santiago’s repertoire includes a wide range of works, from Bach and Handel to Schoenberg and Barber. She sang the role of Pamina in Mozart’s “Magic Flute” with the Juilliard Opera Theater. She repeated the role this summer in a Hollywood Bowl performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, singing to a capacity audience of some 18,000. Later this season she will perform a Christmas program with the London Symphony.
The featured work Santiago will sing in Spokane, “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” is a setting by Samuel Barber of an autobiographical fragment by James Agee.
“I love Barber’s music,” Santiago says. “He writes so beautifully for the voice, and I’ve enjoyed very much singing his ‘Hermit Songs’ on my recital programs. I’m really looking forward to doing ‘Knoxville.’ The performance of it in Spokane will be my first.”
This will not be the first time Spokane audiences have had a chance to hear guest conductor Patricia Handy lead the Spokane Symphony. In addition to a Met performance in 1994, Handy conducted an Opera House classics program earlier this season, as well as two performances of ‘Peter vs. The Wolf’ earlier this week.
Handy is artistic director of New York’s Goliard Chorale and Chamber Orchestra, and she serves as associate conductor of the Greenwich (Conn.) Symphony.
Conductor Handy will give spoken program notes about the music at Sunday’s and Tuesday’s performances.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SPOKANE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Location and time: The Met, Sunday at 3 p.m., repeated Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $8-$18, available at the Symphony box office on the skywalk level of the Seafirst Building, 624-1200, and at G&B; outlets