Q & A: Soprano Sarah Vautour on Life as a Young Artist, Inspirations, Future ProjectsBy David Salazar
Over the last few years, Sarah Vautour has been slowly but surely making herself a major force in the Los Angeles Opera scene.
The soprano has been a young artist at the Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program since 2018 making her debut with the LA Opera under the baton of James Conlon and taking on the role of Papagena in “The Magic Flute” earlier this season.
Prior to her time with LA Opera’s Young Artist Program, Vautour was an Apprentice Aritst with Des Moines Metro Opera. She has also worked with such organizations as Teatro Nuovo, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Houston Masterworks Chorus.
Vautour recently spoke to OperaWire about her experience as a young artist and her growth as an artist.
OperaWire: How did you know you wanted to become an opera singer?
Sarah Vautour: I knew that I wanted to be an opera singer when I did the summer program for high school students called BUTI ( Boston University Tanglewood Institute.) It was there that I first felt the excitement and willingness to take on this crazy career.
One of the most incredible things about being an opera singer is that it consistently asks you to be or become the best version of yourself. I remember being in the Berkshires in 11th grade, sitting in the grass, at the Shed, feeling more awake and impassioned than I had ever felt in my short, teenage life. From that moment on, I knew there was no turning back. I had to do this for the rest of my life.
OW: Who are some of your inspirations and why?
SV: I am pretty consistently inspired by those that are unabashedly themselves, speak up for what they believe in, and lead from the heart. These people are changing the world, and we should all aspire to this level of authenticity.I am deeply inspired by those in this world that are courageous with their vulnerability. This is what drew me to opera in the first place: watching someone bare their soul onstage.
One of my biggest inspirations is Brenée Brown. Her work and literature output has been transformative for me as I learned to find my own voice and to decide the kind of external and internal life that I wanted for myself.
As far as artists, I think for young singers, and for young people in general, it is so important to see and hear those that we admire talk about the courage that it takes to share our hearts with the world. I think people like Joyce DiDonato, Ana Maria Martinez, and Tamara Wilson (just to name a few) emulate singing and living with a strong back and an open heart. These women and so many more have showed me what it looks like live and breathe dignity, grace, and humanity. I hope to be a source of that for others one day.
OW: What has been your experience at the LA Opera Young Artist Program? How has it transformed you as an artist?
SV: My time in the LA Young Artist Program has been a truly incredible artistic learning experience. Whatʼs amazing about being in a young artist program is the process of discovering who you are as an artist through the ample tools that an opera company provides for you. In addition to the copious performance opportunities we are given, LA Opera has provided me with incredible mentors and teachers that push me to be the best actress and musician that I can be.
The journey that I have made from a student mentality to one of an independent artist would not have been possible without these unsung heroes. I have learned (from my own personal work and from the confidence of these mentors) what it means to be resilient and unwavering in my work, even when it feels hard and confusing. I have learned in my two years here at LA Opera that this resilience in hard work is only possible through the joy of accomplishment, rather than the fear of failure.
OW: What are some major takeaways from the experience thus far?
SV: My time at LA Opera has made me grateful for the ability to do what I love every single day, and be a vehicle of love and connection through song. It is through this gratitude that I am able to move forward into a life of unknowns with joy and excitement.
OW: What are the particular challenges of the Young Artist Life? What are some strategies that you employ to overcome those challenges?
SV: Oh wow, there are so many. For me, it took a lot of vulnerability and courage to acknowledge where my weaknesses were, and then even more strength in humility to learn how to best use my given resources to strengthen those weaknesses. There is nothing quite like a young artist program to help you put away your ego.
But as far as big picture, I would say the real challenges of young artist life lie in the “reckoning” process that we all have to go through in order to be and grow into incredible warriors of this art form. Each and every one of us are learning how to live with and work through imposter syndrome and insecurities. These challenges make it hard to stay grounded and feel confident, qualities that are necessary for singing.
You have to know who you are, at your core, and know that nobodyʼs opinion of you can change that. It is an incredible feat of human nature that, as opera singers, we are asked to be both thick skinned enough to handle the criticisms of this field and vulnerable enough to connect with deep emotions and to an audience. This is our 9 to 5. This is our normal.
OW: What are the keys, in your opinion, to navigating the Young Artist Life?
SV: What I have learned in my time as a young artist is that you are in control of what you believe about yourself as a vocal artist and as a human. I had to learn and daily remind myself that my value as a human being comes only from the fact that I am perfectly imperfect, not from my ability to perfectly (or imperfectly) sing. The only person that can provide you with affirmation that will bring you peace, is YOU. This is peace and knowing that comes from within, not without.
This knowing doesnʼt come easily. It takes work. For me personally, it means that I developed a self-care routine that includes journaling every morning and reading literature that helps me ask the tough questions. My journaling ranges from daily affirmations to personal discoveries to just plain ranting. This has helped me recognize how I am talking to myself.
I challenge every artist to ask themselves these questions: How are you internalizing the words that you have been told when it just wasnʼt good enough? What is your internal monologue when it didnʼt go as well as you had hoped?
These are incredibly important points and questions to have an open dialogue about, both with yourself, and with your fellow artists. This work provides you with the positive relationship with yourself and your voice that we are all looking for, and eventually, provides one with confidence and peace.
OW: Of the characters you have performed, which ones do you identify with the most?
SV: Currently, I am having a blast performing the role of Beatrice in “Il Postino.” Her earnest heart but fiery disposition are something with which I whole-heartedly identify. I also loved performing the role of Maria Stuarda. I love that many of these bel-canto heroines are so defined by their enormous strength in a patriarchal society, while at the same time leading from their hearts. We can learn from these women.
OW: What about the character you identify with the least?
SV: The character that I identify with the least…. thatʼs a hard one because often it depends on how a director chooses to treat a character amidst the fabric of the other characters and their relationships.
Maybe the Dew fairy? Although, I got to throw glitter from 16 feet in the air, so it’s hard to not find joy in that. Who doesnʼt identify with glitter?
OW: What are some of your upcoming projects?
SV: Well, I just made my debut with Opera Santa Barbara as Beatrice in Catàn’s “Il Postino.” In June, I will perform the role of Barbarina in LA opera’s new production of “Le nozze di Figaro.”
Following my season at LA Opera, I will spend the summer in Aspen as a member of the Renee Fleming Young Artist program where I will sing Erste Dame in “Die Zauberflöte” conducted by Maestro Patrick Summers.
Other than that I am working to get roles like Lucia, Norina, and Adina, etc. under my belt for future work with bel-canto repertoire. This style of music is my passion, and one that fits into my voice very organically.