For an apprentice artist at Santa Fe Opera, being given a solo role in a world premiere is a feather in her cap — a big, boldfaced résumé entry — and a career-building honor.
Megan Moore, in her last semester of a postgrad vocal performance program at The Juilliard School, is a mezzo-soprano from Cincinnati. She plays Ino, one of the three sisters who serve as a sort of Greek chorus in The Lord of Cries. “I feel nervous talking about it,” she says. “I’m still learning the composer and director’s concept. It’s my first time being in a new opera.”
It’s not her first time being singled out for her vocal prowess, however. She recently won first prize at both the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and the Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition. She has also been honored by the Naumburg Foundation International Vocal Competition, the James Toland Vocal Arts Competition, and the Gerda Lissner Lieder & Art Song Competition.
Moore is clearly passionate about music and its connections to society. In 2015, she helped found Lynx, a Chicago-based program to revitalize art song. One Lynx program pairs the words of young nonverbal poets on the autism spectrum with composers. “The future of opera (and art song) is all about attracting new audiences by representing a wide variety of people and their lived experiences,” she says.
Being a part of Lord of Cries has given Moore an opportunity to move out of a period of pandemic isolation. Still, she takes with her the months of political turmoil, the loss of lives and livelihoods in New York City and the entire country. “As a society, there are things we don’t want to look at. ... This opera asks us to look at ourselves, to accept our deepest desires, and to discover our truest self.”
“Suddenly, there was nothing to do,” she says. There was so much time to reflect. Who am I as an artist, as a person? What do I need to do to become a better advocate for the art forms I love?” It was an opportunity to step away from the busy schedule, pressure, and expectations at Juilliard. “It felt like the industry was crashing down.”
There was the news of the church choir rehearsal where nearly everyone was sickened by the coronavirus, several dying after singing in a closed room for a few hours. “There was the thought that singing was lethal.” As live classes resumed at her school, everyone was masked, a policy that the Santa Fe Opera also enforces during rehearsals this summer.
“It’s really difficult,” she says. “Even now, with vaccinations, we have an extra hurdle other performers don’t have to face, which is making ourselves and our audiences feel safe.”
In the middle of the pandemic, she drew upon music and creativity to commemorate the experience. As part of Carnegie Hall’s 2021 SongStudio, Moore and pianist Francesco Barfoed conceived and produced a short film set to Berg’s “Nacht” from Sieben Frühe Lieder (youtube.com/watch?v=Z_XbE31CBjs) In the film, she leaves her New York apartment to walk the empty streets during a dark winter night. In the snow, in a deserted park, she takes off her mask.
And from the deep valley’s gloom
Lights twinkle in the silent night.
Drink soul! drink solitude!
O take heed! take heed!
(from the text by Carl Hauptmann)
In 6th grade, Moore auditioned to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” at school and was not selected. Her teacher, however, recommended voice lessons. “I asked my mom, and she says, ‘What? No!’ ” Moore recounted. “My parents are a banker and a computer scientist. They were probably thinking, What is she doing?” After they relented, and she had her first lesson, her teacher gave her a song in Italian. “I was totally hooked. Italian? That was so cool!” To this day, Moore feels perhaps happiest singing Rossini. Her signature roles include Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and the title role in La Cenerentola. Strauss and Mozart are also favorites.
“I could be totally happy in Figaro this summer, but being in a new opera is amazing.”
“There’s a synthesizer in the orchestra. The music is very fresh and original. There’s a huge chorus, and it is epic in scope. The mass of sound is thrilling, hair-raising. And then there are spooky soft pianissimi moments, which are hair-raising in their own way.
“I think people will be able to recognize and relate to the music,” she says. “It’s not atonal. It’s music they may not have heard before, but I think the audience will be able to step into this sound world and love it.” ◀