North State Opera Star Sydney Mancasola
By Kerri Regan
Photo courtesy of Sydney Mancasola
Earlier this year, the North State’s Sydney Mancasola brought the nation to its feet when she won the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, often referred to as “the American Idol of the opera.”
In a coup for North State audiences, Mancasola returns to the Cascade Theatre on December 28, where she’ll perform with the North State Symphony to benefit the Shasta Senior Nutrition and Golden Umbrella programs.
“I really wanted to come back to Redding and sing for my hometown. The Cascade is so beautiful, and it always felt like a place people would come to see something special,” says Mancasola, 26, who performed at the Cascade with several performing arts groups as a youth. “Getting the chance to perform so often as a young girl gave me the confidence that I needed to go after my artistic goals.”
Longtime family friend Maggie Redmon, president of Mercy Foundation North, spearheaded the event. “Mercy Foundation North is as gratified as we are excited to have Sydney Mancasola bring her award-winning opera talents to Redding to benefit senior citizens in her own hometown,” Redmon says.
Mancasola is a third-year resident artist for the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia who earned a bachelor’s degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. She has already amassed a number of top honors in addition to the Metropolitan Opera contest, including top prizes in the Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition and the Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition for Young Opera Singers.
For her December performance with the North State Symphony, Mancasola will demonstrate her wide-ranging abilities with a program of opera, light opera, sacred and popular songs, says Keith Herritt, the symphony’s executive director. “The program’s earliest and most serious music is Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate. By the end of the evening, she’ll have brought the audience in to the 20th Century for a number of popular standards like Over the Rainbow,” Herritt says.
Mancasola comes from a tight-knit, homeschooling family which nurtured her love for the arts. “Homeschooling gave me the opportunity to pursue what has always been my strongest passion with complete gusto. I’ve grown to appreciate my atypical upbringing more and more the older I get,” she says.
When she comes to town for the Cascade show, she’s looking forward to spending time with parents Molly and John and her four siblings, “my favorite people in the world,” she says. “I love coming home, waking up late, being lazy, letting my mom cook for me and just being a bum for a few days. Then I’ll start to get antsy again and I know I’m ready to get in some outdoor adventure.”
She never tires of exploring Whiskeytown Lake or visiting the Sundial Bridge. “One thing I immediately felt when I moved away from Redding was the absence of those kind of gorgeous natural landmarks,” she says. “It’s such an easy thing to take for granted.”
She aspires to become an internationally recognized artist, but has more personal artistic goals as well. “I am always working toward honing my ability to communicate with an audience through my singing voice,” Mancasola says. “I believe in opera’s ability to really touch people, but because it’s such a misunderstood art form, it’s so important to present the work with honesty and to sing from a place from very deep within. It takes a lot of vulnerability and courage to put your whole self into a performance of a role, but I think the audience can really tell the difference, even if they are first-time opera goers.”
Professional opera singers are independently contracted artists who travel eight to 10 months per year. Most contracts run five to eight weeks, during which time they stage an opera, rehearse and perform with the company. “I have gained so much more appreciation for all of the sacrifice one must make in order to be a working opera singer,” she says. “There are positive things about the career path as well; never having to work a 9-to-5, getting to see so much of the world, working in a different country and getting the chance to be truly immersed in its language and culture, and most importantly, being exposed to transportive, stunning musical masterpieces nearly every day of your life, and getting paid for it.
“Some days I really wish I could have a normal life, but most days I just feel really lucky to have a job that I’m absolutely passionate about.” •
Sydney Mancasola performs with North State Symphony to benefit Mercy Foundation North
7:30 pm December 28, Cascade Theatre, Redding
Tickets $30, $40, and $50; available at www.cascadetheatre.org or (530) 243-8877