Q & A: Soprano Merissa Beddows on Learning Through Change & America’s Got Talent

By Logan Martell

Earlier this year, American soprano Merissa Beddows stepped into the nation’s spotlight when she made her debut on the popular television show America’s Got Talent, stunning the audience and judges with her fluid and funny impressions of various artists.

A recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, the last few years have seen Beddows win or take home prizes in competitions such as the Schmidt Vocal Competition, Opera Grand Rapids Collegiate Vocal Competition, Premiere Opera Foundation & NYIOP’s International Vocal Competition, and more. Over the pandemic, Beddows took her musical talents online, where her videos on TikTok have garnered millions of views and roughly 750k followers.

OperaWire had the chance to speak with Beddows about her recent experiences, and learn more about the artist behind the many characters.

OperaWire: How did you first decide you wanted to become an opera singer?

Merissa Beddows: I was inspired to pursue classical vocal training after watching Jackie Evancho’s performance of ‘O mio babbino caro,’ on America’s Got Talent, when I was 12 years old.

OW: Who would you say are some of your musical and comedic influences?

MB: Glenn Close is my biggest inspiration both musically and dramatically. I was so moved when I had the privilege of watching her perform the role of Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” in NYC. Carol Burnett and Kate McKinnon are absolutely my comedic influences, and Audra McDonald is my other musical inspiration. She is a genius.

OW: You’ve made quite a splash on TikTok with your singing videos, what got you into making them?

MB: When the pandemic hit in 2020, I became obsessed with watching other people’s content, which in time, inspired me to create my own. I started by posting reels of myself singing pop music, and then had the idea of creating reels that combined classical singing with comedy. The rest is history…

OW: As a student during the pandemic and as a content creator, you’ve had experience with new and emerging ways of developing and presenting opera for the digital world, what are your thoughts on the genre’s transition? Do you think more companies and conservatories will opt for online/virtual productions?

MB: In this technological day and age, I find that in order to keep anything relevant, you must bring what you’ve got to the Internet. Live streaming of Operatic productions makes the art form so more accessible, and hopefully inspires/will inspire new audiences to want to go out and watch these performances, live. I am a big fan of composer, Rene Orth. I believe her work would be intriguing to almost anyone. Her composition of ‘Empty The House,’ has certainly intrigued and inspired me.

OW: What made you want to try out for America’s Got Talent?

MB: I was very fortunate to be scouted by a producer of America’s Got Talent.

OW: How did performing on television differ from performing on the stage, and what are some of your takeaways from the experience?

MB: Performing on TV and performing onstage should be the same kind of experience. With every performance you give, in any situation, you should be giving it your all. Performing LIVE on the America’s Got Talent Semi-Finals, however, was a whole different animal. I learned that ‘In-Ears’ existed, for example. As an operatic singer who hadn’t used a microphone for decades, having to wear ear pieces whilst singing, was definitely the most challenging thing about it all, since I was hearing myself in an inorganic way. The takeaway? Artistry revolves around trial and error, like we evolve around the Sun. Unrealistic expectations for one’s self is simply unproductive in that it immediately sets you up for failure.

OW: What are some operatic roles you’d like to perform in the future? What draws you personally to the characters you portray?

MB: My three Operatic dream roles are Pat Nixon (“Nixon in China”), Susannah (“Susannah”), and Mimì (“La Bohéme”). What draws me to every character I portray, is the ability to get completely get carried away, while fully embracing someone entirely different from me.

OW: Do you have any words of advice for students who are just beginning to start in their own musical careers?

MB: Firstly, the only limitations that exist are the ones that you create for yourself. If there’s anything I’ve learned in 24 years, it is that each and every one of us has magic within us. It’s up to us to tap into it and grow to our fullest potential as artists, and more importantly, human beings. The only way of truly discovering all that you are truly capable of, is to put yourself in a situation outside of your comfort zone, fully embracing any and every outcome.


InterviewsStage Spotlight