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Opera student wins district audition after years of training


By Mina Asayesh-Brown



What are the secrets to Jacobs School of Music master’s student Kelly Glyptis’ operatic success?

Tap dancing and apple juice.

Glyptis woke Saturday morning, roused by her biological clock. She never sets an alarm before a performance.

She curled her hair, put on her makeup and threw on a simple but elegant purple dress.

She listened to Lee DeWyze’s single “Sweet Serendipity,” a guilty pleasure, as she drove to the Musical Arts Center for the district round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

The song gave her perspective: the audition might not go her way, the judges might not like her or her voice, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if she lost.

But she didn’t. Glyptis was one of two winners, receiving $1,550 in prize money and a chance to compete in the Central Region Finals next week in Evanston, Ill.

Before she auditioned Saturday, she felt calmer than normal.

She did a tap dance, a simple time step. She has to tap dance before every audition to steady herself.

It works because she’s not very good at it.

She can juggle, she is certified in stage combat, she can design lighting, but she can’t tap dance.

Her mother, a professional dancer, refused to teach her.

She also has to drink apple juice. Apple juice mimics saliva. Apple juice is key.

Glyptis walked on stage. She stumbled with her introduction.

Shaking it off, she sang an aria from “Hérodiade” by Massenet.

The judges requested “Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata” from “Don Giovanni.” It was difficult but familiar.

Glyptis’ mind went blank. She took a minute as she turned to the piano and asked the accompanist for the first word. He obliged, and the lyrics came rushing back.

Though she wasn’t thrilled with her rendition, one of the judges told her it was the reason she won.

Glyptis, who began acting at age 3, was in her first main stage production at age 8 and began singing opera at age 14.

Hailing from Manassas, Va., she chose IU because she noticed all the professors in other programs she was considering were IU graduates.

People warned her in a school as large as IU she’d be a little fish in a big pond. She knew better.

“I’d like to think I’m gonna be a medium-sized fish,” she told them.

She is. As a sophomore, she played Cleo in “The Most Happy Fella.”

Glyptis continued to land roles, acting in “The Light in the Piazza,” “A View From The Bridge” and, most recently, “Don Giovanni,” among others.

She never forgets the importance of acting in her singing, especially for an audition.
It’s the only way to avoid the “park-and-bark” — standing stiffly on the stage and singing without becoming the character.

For Glyptis, character is everything. Performing is about being able to share a story with someone.

“The opportunity to reach someone else appeals to me on such a deep level,” she said. “I want to do it because I get to affect people.”

Glyptis’ education is as much a part of her art as anything else.

She has taken a year each of French, German and Italian — all voice majors are required to do so — and has taken diction classes for all three languages, plus English.

When she is working on an opera, she translates the entire show to ensure her grasp of her character.

The challenge of auditions like Saturday’s is that rather than immersing herself in a role for the duration of an opera, Glyptis embodies each character for only four minutes.

She has to change tack quickly to move to the next aria.

“I have five different people I have to completely commit to,” she said. “And then I have myself, so I guess that’s six. It’s like a bad romance novel.”

When she has free time, much to the dismay of her performer friends, Glyptis does not like to talk about opera. She wants a break.

Glyptis grew up without TV, but as an adult, she enjoys kicking back and watching episodes of “How I Met Your Mother,” “30 Rock” and “Say Yes To The Dress.”

She recently went through the entirety of Jim Henson’s “Dinosaurs” on Netflix.

Glyptis said opera singers have great abs. It makes childbirth a breeze.

“If someone wants to have an easy birth, learn how to sing,” she said.

After graduating from the music school, Glyptis hopes to earn a spot in a young artists’ program.

She will audition for the Wolf Trap Opera Company, the Merola Opera Program and the Florida Grand Opera, among others.

At age 23, Glyptis knows the odds are against her. She is young to be starting an opera career.

She estimates her voice won’t mature until she is 35, which limits the range of arias she can sing without hurting herself.

Still, she will do everything she can to get where she wants to be. She knows she can do this.

All she needs is time to tap dance and a swig of apple juice.

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