It’s a long way from Centralia to the stage at the Met, but soprano Angela Meade made the journey in record time.
After graduating from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, the singer’s trajectory has been intense – major awards, the New York debut and an international schedule, all within 10 years. This month, she’s returning to the Northwest to sing with the Seattle Symphony and at the Astoria Music Festival, where she hopes hometown friends and family can come see her.
A Centralia native, Meade burst onto the professional scene in 2008 when she substituted at the last minute for an ill colleague in Verdi’s “Emani” at the Met in New York. Since then, she’s been booked by companies from Baltimore to San Francisco and has won prestigious awards such as the Richard Tucker and the Jose Iturbi – opera’s biggest prize at $50,000.
But it took Meade time to figure out what her career was going to be.
“I sang in church and school choir and really liked it,” Meade said of her Centralia youth. “People always said I was gifted, I always got the solos. I kind of knew my voice was special, but it took awhile to find out just what kind of voice.”
She also didn’t know how she could support herself by singing. “My parents wanted me to do country,” she said wryly.
Then when a teacher at Centralia Community College recommended her to a vocal coach at PLU, Meade discovered the kind of music her huge, bel canto voice was made for: opera.
“She’s got a big lyric and dramatic voice,” said Wayne Bloomingdale, Meade’s first teacher who has kept in close contact with her. “She’s got a phenomenal range and a big, rich quality. I never doubted from the beginning that her capability and talent were there to do what she’s doing.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree at PLU and a master’s at the University of Southern California, Meade was accepted into the Academy of Arts in Philadelphia before her career got the kind of kick-start most opera students only dream about. Winning the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in 2007, she has entered and won 52 other competitions. She has been snapped up by the Met, the San Francisco Opera, the Caramoor Festival, the New York Choral Society and England’s Wexford Festival, among many others.
The New Yorker magazine has described her as a “lavishly gifted young soprano.”
“I feel very fortunate,” said Meade, who’s based in Philadelphia. “Many people wait an entire career to have this kind of opportunity.”
It’s the kind of career, though, that means friends and family can’t often hear her sing. So when the director of the Astoria Music Festival offered her a gig to sing in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” she accepted – especially because she already planned to be in town to sing Mahler’s “Resurrection Symphony” with the Seattle Symphony for its grand farewell to director Gerard Schwarz.
“It’s a big draw for my family and friends who don’t often get to see me or can’t afford to buy the Seattle tickets. Plus, I do more singing in the Astoria gig – they’ll get more singing for less money,” Meade said.
The Astoria Festival, now in its ninth year, also features performances of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 7, Ruth Ann Swenson singing Mozart and Mahler, Russian cellist Sergey Antonov, a Classics for Kids show, a comic-book opera, Bach cantatas and more in various venues in the northwest Oregon town.
So what’s Meade’s secret for launching into opera stardom so young? Hard work.
“She’s been very consistent and very determined in going after what she wanted,” Bloomingdale said.
“It takes a lot of persistence, a lot of dedication, a lot of time, a lot of travel and a lot of practice,” the soprano said. “It’s a full-time thing, not just 9-to-5. This stays with you, affects how you eat, how you sleep, how you travel. But I’m very happy about it.”
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568, email@example.com