Soprano soars to stardom
February 4, 2011
By Allison Int-Hout
UPDATED — 5 p.m. Feb. 17, 2011
Local opera singer cast in leading roles internationally
Although she claims she’s never shattered glass using only her disciplined soprano pitches, few other things appear unattainable for local, up-and-coming opera star Petra Sovcovova.
Born in Redmond and now a resident of Newcastle, Sovcovova said she has been in six productions so far in her young career and has travelled to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Italy to perform in operatic productions.
“It has been a lot of my own going out there, hunting down these people and calling them up,” Sovcovova said of her recent international performances.
She has starred as Micaela in “Carmen,” Musetta and Mimi in “La Bohème,” Rosina in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Liu in “Turandot.”
Most recently, Sovcovova starred in the Lyric Opera Northwest production of “Oliver!” at the Moore Theatre in October. She portrayed the Widow Corney in a performance cast member Kim Cooney said provided comic relief in the production’s otherwise dark, Victorian London setting.
“Petra squeezes every last drop of hilarity in the role of Widow Corney,” Cooney, who performed in “Oliver!” as Dr. Grimwig alongside Sovcovova, wrote in an e-mail.
So far, Sovcovova said her most rewarding roles were her performances in Italy for her first international audiences as Rosina in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Dorabella in “Cosi fan Tutti.”
When asked why they were so gratifying, Sovcovova simply said, “Those were the ones I worked my butt off the most for.”
Sovcovova, who said professionalism is essential in her opera career, said she will have several months of practice for a role under her belt before she even does an audition.
“I like to give a sense of strict professionalism as soon as I walk in the door,” she said. “If it’s a big role, I’ll spend maybe four to six months prior to the audition learning the role.”
Pamela Casella, who founded Lyric Opera Northwest with her husband, Craig Nim, and serves as Petra’s voice coach, said that kind of dedication is necessary to succeed in opera.
“In an audition, you do everything possible in those five minutes to portray that character,” Casella said. “What you have to do is sell it, and that’s what Petra does.”
Sovcovova’s singing career began in 2003, although she said she has been singing since she was 12.
“I’m just a girl who likes to sing,” she said.
She works as a contractor at Microsoft, although she said singing opera full time would be ideal.
“It’s really hard to sing full time and make money at it,” Sovcovova said. “It’s darn near impossible.”
Because of that, she maintains her full-time job while pursuing her singing career, which she said takes considerable financial and social sacrifice.
“When there are shows going on, I usually have about an hour between work and rehearsals, and then we have rehearsal until 9 or 10 at night,” Sovcovova said.
One of her favorite parts of being a performer is the opportunity to help others in her community.
“As a young and struggling artist, there are many people who go out on a limb for you,” she said. “It’s part of your responsibility, having the social network, to also make people aware of those in need.”
In the past, Sovcovova has performed in recitals to raise money for local homeless shelters and soup kitchens, a women’s domestic violence shelter, and she also lends her talent to smaller events looking to raise money for charitable causes.
The first-generation American is active in the Czech Center for Education and Culture along with her parents, who came from the Czech and Slovak Republics.
Sovcovova’s participation in the center led to her performance for the first secretary of the Czech Embassy, which she said she will be doing again this month.
According to Casella, Sovcovova’s talent may appear in the chorus of Lyric Opera Northwest’s upcoming production of “La Bohème” on March 27 at the Moore Theatre.
Within the next year, Sovcovova plans to move to Canada, where she said she will look for more opportunities in opera, both there and in Eastern Europe.
Working in opera takes full dedication, and Sovcovova compared a career as an opera singer to that of a professional athlete.
“It’s do or die,” she said. “But you have to be kind to yourself, and have patience in the learning process.”
Allison Int-Hout is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.
* This story contains corrected information.