“I started singing around the same time I began speaking.”
The life of Jennifer Sengin, senior secondary education/music major, has seemingly always revolved around music. After her recent performance as Rosina Daintymouth, the child-eating witch in Lyric Theatre’s presentation of “Hansel and Gretel,” Sengin took some time to talk to The Signal about her lifelong love affair with singing, her opinions on the opera in general and her plans for life after college.
“I started taking voice lessons in eighth grade after receiving a scholarship to study privately at Westminster Conservatory from my middle school choral director, Lisa Lepore,” Sengin said when asked about her beginnings. “In addition to private voice lessons, I have also attended several summer programs including: Rochester Vocal Seminar in Rochester, N.Y., Berkshire Choral Festival (Scholar) in Sheffield, Mass., and Spoleto Vocal Arts Symposium in Spoleto, Italy.”
Sengin, whose vocal style can be described as Lyric Colaratura (the highest female voice with an ability to sing fast moving passages), also discussed her beginnings as an actor.
“As far as acting, I was in my first stage production in the sixth grade but I have always been interested in acting,” Sengin said. “As a singer, I feel that acting is integral in performance. I always try to portray the character as I am singing.”
Opera theater is a two-pronged performance, in which the artist must be well disciplined as both an actor and a singer. While Sengin admitted both bring their own respective difficulties, she did not see them as entirely different aspects of the performance.
“With regards to singing opera, there is not really a separation between acting and singing, but rather a synthesis of both,” Sengin said. “This is one of the things that makes opera challenging.”
When asked about singers and actors that have influenced her throughout her career, Sengin named Beverly Sills, Renee Fleming, Sumi Jo and Kristin Chenoweth as some of her favorites.
“They have not so much influenced my style as they have inspired me to find my own voice,” Sengin said.
In pop culture, the opera is stigmatized as a serious and dramatic business. While this does hold true sometimes, Sengin was cast as a playful villain in “Hansel and Gretel.” The vocalist took the time to explain the lighthearted side of the opera.
“Opera is a serious business but there are many comedic roles as well as comedic operas,” Sengin said. “Even with playful roles, there are many hours of practice to make the role successful both vocally and with characterization.”
Often stereotyped as pretentious in comparison to more contemporary methods of stage storytelling such as plays and musicals, there is some worry that the opera may become phased out as a popular part of the American stage. Sengin also shared her thoughts on this potential problem.
“The Metropolitan Opera has many community outreach programs (that are) ‘designed to develop and strengthen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of opera,'” Sengin said. “Personally, I feel that opera is an important aspect of American culture. Luciano Pavarotti said, ‘Opera is one of the most important art forms. It should be listened to and appreciated by everyone.'”