Many of the opera singers that comb through the halls of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion never conceived of a career in opera. Some started their careers late in life, after having an epiphany that they loved music, while others began their careers after thinking they would play professional sports. But, for soprano Summer Hassan, it’s always been singing.
“When I was six years old, my mom took me to see The Phantom of the Opera in Toronto. The music and singing thrilled me and I found myself – even at that young age – wanting to be on that stage, singing, and knowing every single thing that was going on. I wanted to part of it,” recalls Hassan. She continues, “At the time, I thought The Phantom of the Opera was an opera. It wasn’t, but there was something about the word ‘opera’ that caught my attention.”
Once decided, Hassan couldn’t stop singing, especially when her family moved to North Carolina. She joined a youth music program called KinderMusic, sang in choir from the age of nine, and also began taking voice lessons. Hassan’s love of singing never wavered and she continued through North Carolina School of the Arts, a bachelor’s from the Oberlin Conservatory, and a master’s in music from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Her passion for singing eventually led her to apply for LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program.
“I applied for a few programs, but LA Opera was my last audition. I never thought I would end up in Los Angeles. It was just never a city that occurred to me, and the audition was even in New York,” recalls Hassan. “But from the very first moment I met the LA Opera team, the energy in the room was so warm. Singing for Plácido Domingo and Maestro Conlon sounds intimidating, but it wasn’t. They were welcoming and genuinely trying to hear who could benefit from the program.”
For the past three years, Hassan has thrived in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, falling even more in love with opera and strengthening her voice.
“I’m so grateful for the amount I’ve grown as a singer in the young artist program. Working with the voices coaches, especially Dr. King, has helped my voice become a lot freer and lighter. I’m slowly tackling the repertory that I love that requires a little more of a bigger voice,” discuses Hassan.
While in the young artist program, Hassan has performed in many productions, including Dido and Aeneas (2014), The Ghosts of Versailles (2015), and The Magic Flute (2016). She currently plays one of the daughters in Phelim McDermott’s production of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, an experience that has been transformative for the young soprano.
“Under very specific direction, Phelim brings you out of your shell. He makes you feel comfortable with everybody in the room in such a focused and beautiful way that you instantly become committed to the show,” says Hassan.
Akhnaten is one of Hassan’s last productions as a member of the young artist program as she looks towards a bright future in the industry. When asked about her dream roles, Hassan immediately responds with Blanche from Poulanc’s Dialogue of the Carmelites.
“She’s such a wonderful character and the opera is a beautiful story about the French Revolution,” says Hassan. “I was in the chorus in a production of the opera and I felt so inspired by how detailed and complex it is.”
Hassan will sing the role of Blanche someday. For now, she’s focusing on competitions and her next step. Hassan recently placed first in the western region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. She will advance to the semi-finals (held in March 2017), where she will undoubtedly share her passion and talent for singing with audience members in New York and those hearing her around the world.
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