Q&A with Mary Elizabeth Williams, our Aida

Since Soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams is singing her very first Aida here with us, we want to give you a chance to get to know her a bit better. A resident of Philadelphia (when she’s not on the road), Williams answered the following questions for us:
What was your first opera experience?I’m not exactly sure, to be honest. I remember that a group of young opera singers came to my elementary school and put on a show for us, which I really liked–but my parents also liked classical music of all kinds, and took me with them to see concerts and shows from an early age. I was very lucky in that respect. I’m pretty sure the first fully staged opera I attended was I Puritani, by Bellini. I was about 14 years old.

When did you realize that opera was your career?In my opinion, the life of an artist is always in flux, and there are times when I feel more and less like I’m having an “opera career”, but I always feel like a singer. I would say that I have been on this particular career path for about 4 years, which is when I moved back to America after living and studying in Paris. I began working with an agent in New York have been gradually finding work ever since.

What has been the biggest challenge in your performance career?There is no proven path to securing a prosperous career as a singer, so we artists need not only to be good performers, but also good businesspeople; it’s like owning a business for which you are the product! Learning how to balance the stresses of being an artist while also running my “business” has been a big challenge, but I’m getting better at it every season.

What do you like to do when you’re not singing?I love the movies, so when I’m in a new town, the first place I scout out is the nearest movie theater. I’m a pretty good cook, and I like to entertain. I make jewelry, and can be rather crafty (knitting, cross stitch, etc.). I enjoy working out to stay in shape; when it’s sunny, I really like to walk around in town and people-watch. Sometimes, I drag my friends to go bowling with me. I’m not very good at it, but it’s great fun. I’ve always loved to read, so I’m always in the middle of some book or another.

If you were not a singer, what would you be?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but I have since reconsidered the advisability of that plan! Sometimes, now, I daydream about being a jeweler. I LOVE jewelry—especially semi-precious gems. I also think I’d like to work in the magazine business as a writer or editor.

You have to travel a lot in this profession. What has been your best travel experience?They have all been pretty good, to be honest. I have managed to find something fun and interesting in every place I have ever been for work. Most recently, I had a very fun trip to Poznan, Poland. I sang just one concert, so I was there for only 5 days! It was a quick trip and the jet-lag was horrible, but I enjoyed walking around in the city and practicing my pitiable Polish on the shopkeepers. It was great fun, and very beautiful.