Big Voice, Big Dreams

Big Voice, Big Dreams

Mezzo Soprano Sarah Mesko comes home to UA


Mezzo soprano Sarah Mesko might not be a household name — yet. But she’s only 33, and she’s sung with the New York Philharmonic, the Washington National Opera and on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera 27 times, just to name a few. Not bad for a girl from Hot Springs, Ark., who graduated from the University of Arkansas. And no one is more excited about living the dream than she is.

“I majored in both flute and vocal performance at the UA and played assistant principal in the Fort Smith Symphony for four years,” she says. “But I eventually chose to focus on singing because it incorporates so much of what I love, all in the same art form: words, drama, dance, costumes. I basically get to play dress-up for a living!”

Mesko returns to her alma mater Sept. 7 for a performance at the Faulkner Performing Arts Center on campus. Before her visit, she answered these questions for What’s Up!

Q. How did you fall in love with opera? Or was there a “gateway drug,” so to speak?

A. I grew up surrounded by music since everyone in my family is an accomplished musician. Both of my parents are pianists, my sister sings R&B/soul and plays piano and guitar, my brother is a jazz guitarist who plays many other instruments as well — so it was never a question of whether I would play music, but what instrument I would choose. I started on piano for a couple of years and then took up the flute at age 10, which felt much more natural to me. (I now know this is because it incorporates the breath.)

Q. How did you make the transition from opera student/hopeful to the national stage? Do you have advice for other young singers?

A. Summer programs played a huge role in my career. It’s so important to get in front of people who have the power to help you. I basically did one summer program every year for 11 years.

Q. What’s been the most amazing moment of your career so far?

A. My debut at the Met in December of 2016 was pretty special. I had spent two years at the Met already, covering leading mezzo roles but not yet performing on the mainstage, so by the time my debut came around — Second Lady in Julie Taymor’s production of “The Magic Flute” — I felt ready for the challenge.

Q. What are the dream roles you most want to sing?

A. There are so many roles I’m excited about! I would love to sing another Carmen. She is fun, fun, fun! I also love all of the low Rossini pants roles, like Arsace in “Semiramide,” which I went on for at the Met last season. The music fits like a glove, and playing male characters is so much fun as an actor. … In 10 or 15 years, I would love to get to sing Didon in “Les Troyens.” Musically and character-wise, I tend to gravitate toward queens and warriors.

Q. What will you be singing at Faulkner?

A. I’m so excited to present my “Through the Years” program at Faulkner. I built the recital specifically for this time and place; that’s what’s so wonderful about live concerts, the immediacy of the experience. The first half of the program features songs written in 1871 (the year UA was established), as well as songs written when composers were around the age that [pianist] Lyndon [Meyer] and I are now. I included lots of Brahms and Faure on this half; they wrote some really great music when they were 33! The second half is inspired by Hurricane Harvey, which I experienced living in Houston, so there are lots of songs about rain, storms, and the sea.



‘Through The Years’

With Sarah Mesko

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Sept. 7

WHERE — Faulkner Performing Arts Center on the UA campus in Fayetteville

COST — $10-$20

INFO — 575-5387

Categories: Cover Story