I was a waitress. Then I got a lead role at the Met. Now I’ll sing at your house.main
The Swedish-American soprano Erika Sunnegårdh got her breaks the hard way. In a candid confession, published exclusively below, she describes the struggle that so many singers endure to reach the footlights. Erika made the front page of the New York Times. Now, she’s seeking support on Kickstarter for a signature album. Music needs to go, she says, where music is wanted. She’ll give house concerts, if asked, to donors.
Watch and, if you can, click on ‘K’ below and chip in.
I’m Erika Sunnegårdh. I used to be a student, a waitress, a personal assistant, a teacher and a church singer and then, one remarkable January afternoon, at the not so tender age of 37, a last minute audition got me my big break.
I booked my first professional job singing in an opera. 18 months later, after lots of auditions and first trembling steps in the “business” of music, I made my Metropolitan Opera debut in Beethoven’s Fidelio. It was April 1st, and the star got sick. On 24 hours notice I stepped onto the Met stage and sang to 4000 people in the house, and 11 million on the radio and I landed on the front page of the New York Times. It was an incredible day and it changed my life.
That was seven years ago, and my life and how I spend my time, still sometimes moves me to tears. Mine is a blessed profession. One that takes everything you think you have to offer, and then it asks you for even more.
One of the places I feel the most at home singing, is with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra in Sweden. I sang my very first Tosca with them, and have had the pleasure of doing a variety of projects with them for over 8 years now.
A while back we were tossing around the idea of recording together, and to my surprise, the orchestra management offered to partner with me by giving the orchestra’s time for free. All I had to do was finance and produce the recording.
There are two things I believe deeply: The first is that artists should get paid for their art and the second, that once that art is paid for, it should serve the community.
After being given an orchestra, I invested a lot of my own money towards hiring the other artists and funding the production, and, I sang my little heart out! But most importantly, I made the decision to offer the album in its entirety as a free download on my website. Why? Because music needs to go where music is wanted. And some of us are able to spend more on our love of music than others.
The album includes some of the greatest soprano repertoire by Beethoven, Wagner and Richard Strauss. These three composers depicted women in radically different ways and the women, or sometimes adolescent girls, on this album fascinate me.
So now I’m asking those of you who CAN pay for music to do so.I have set my goal at a level I think is achievable. It’s only a part of the actual cost, but it would go a long way towards making my personal investment more meaningful.
In return for your participation I can offer you anything from a signed CD to a house concert, or your gift of a performance, masterclass or event to your community.
Please give what you can, and I promise I will continue to match your every dollar with all I’ve got – through this album, and hopefully many more to come!