Newfoundlander Alanna Fraize earns the pride of her home province, rising through the ranks of the New York City opera landscape, living the dream with each passing day.
Dreams are seldom realized standing still. For Newfoundland’s Alanna Fraize, it took uprooting her life and moving to New York City in 2011 to put herself on the path of self-fulfillment.
A Tangible Dream
“I was always singing,” the well-versed 25-year-old tells The Herald. “My mom is a musician, so I sang from a young age, but it was always pop and musical theatre and in choirs. Musical theatre was my plan, actually. I received a scholarship for a musical theatre school in New York. I thought, ok, maybe I could go to New York. It’s tangible now, because I never thought I could do it, just that it was a passion of mine. My voice teacher at the time told me to just audition for some opera.”
Under the recommendation of Opera on the Avalon’s Cheryl Hickman, – who can largely be credited with revitalizing the opera movement in Newfoundland and Labrador – Fraize tried her hand at the medium which baffles and fails so many artists.
“When I started to perform it more I realized that this is where my voice wants to go,” she shares. “I didn’t really care, you can put me on stage doing whatever. I was a dancer, danced for 15 years. I just love being on stage. It
didn’t matter the medium.”
Attending the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, Fraize found herself becoming fully immersed in the splendor of opera, realizing her considerable talents have long been pulling her in that direction.
“That was the moment I had the epiphany that this is something that I wanted to do. I started my degree and I loved it. A lot of the students around me knew from the very beginning that opera was what they wanted, and I was just so amazed by them, that want for something. I started reading everything about opera, listening to everything about opera, and I fell in love because of it.”
Though make no mistake, skill can only push someone so far. There is a steep learning curve that comes with adapting one’s voice – and mindset – to an entirely new artistic discipline. Though Fraize’s intensive experience with musical theatre certainly suited her for the grand pomp and large scale that would follow.
Honing Her Craft
“To learn the technique is hard,” she admits. “I will say that my musical theatre background made me really comfortable with being on stage. I’m not afraid to be silly on stage. They dressed me, basically, as an elf in the last opera I was in. I got to do whatever I wanted on stage. I ate an entire rotisserie chicken on stage. I think if I haven’t done musical theatre for all of those years that I wouldn’t be able to do so many silly things that way.”
A gifted mezzo soprano, Fraize now holds a Bachelor of Music from the Manhattan School of Music, having studied under the renowned Canadian soprano Joan Patenaude Yarnell. In subsequent years, she has had the incredible opportunity to perform various operatic and musical theatre roles, including Annio in La Clemenza di Tito, Tisbe in La Cenerentola, La Suora Zelatrice and La Maestra delle Novizie in Suor Angelica, Florence in Albert Herring, Angélique in Le roi l’a dit, and Eliza in The Proviso.
She has travelled the globe, honing her craft across the United States, Canada and even Italy, and is presently a resident artist with ARE Opera Company in New York City. But no matter the strides in her career, or the amount of miles travelled, the call of home always beckons. “One of my favourite places in the world to perform is Newfoundland,” she shares. “There’s nothing more wonderful than singing for people in your home, the people you love. I’m a Newfoundlander 100 per cent. I love New York, but this is always my home.”
Opera On The Avalon
Fraize is quick to compliment her long-time teacher and friend Cheryl Hickman, the present Artistic Director of the Opera on the Avalon, and the burgeoning opera scene in her home province, of which she has had the chance to participate on numerous occasions.
“I love the fact that we have an opera company here now. I was on vacation and I got to go see an opera. That wasn’t the case when I was younger. I saw my first opera when I was in high school and that was in New York.”
Fraize now calls New York City home – spending the bulk of her year living and working in the United States and reserving holidays and the summer season for back home on the rock.
She is content to hone her craft in opera, classical theatre, or whichever medium best suits her talents. Above all, Alanna Fraize is happy and contended to be living a dream few dare attempt, much less reach.
“I have certain roles that are dreams of mine to perform, but number one I would just like to get up and do what I love every day,” she says. “I’m not one of those ‘I want to be famous’ people. When I was in Iowa (performing the Ugly Duckling at the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre) I got to sing two shows a day, and it was an opera for children. It was the best three weeks of my life.”
“I was so happy I just got to sing. It was like, this is what I want to do, and I don’t care what I’m singing or that I’m singing about being the ugly ducking. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want to get up and do what I love, and see beautiful places.”