Opera Philadelphia

Q&A with Soprano Sarah Shafer

By Opera Philadelphia

Former Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artist and Curtis Institute alum Sarah Shafer returns to the Academy of Music stage as Adina in The Elixir of Love. Below, she chats about her hobbies - and the time her wig fell off onstage! 

Q: Why do you like to sing?

I love that you can communicate deep thoughts through singing that you just can’t always get across by merely talking.

Q: Did you grow up in a musical family?

Yes. My dad is a pianist, and my mom is a choir director and pianist. My two sisters and I grew up playing the piano from a young age, and singing in choirs in school. 

Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be a singer?

Nope, but I narrowed it down to singing and piano. I happened to get into the Curtis Institute of Music here in Philadelphia majoring in voice, which is why I ended up choosing singing!

Q: If you couldn’t be a singer, what career would you have pursued?

I probably would have been a pianist, or a high school choral conductor. I would also have loved to be an English teacher!

Q: Who were some of the major influences and mentors in your life?

My parents were and still are huge mentors in my life -- they were my first music teachers, and they’re still the first people I turn to for advice. I also think of Mikael Eliasen, who brought me to Curtis, gave me so many opportunities, and provided me with the right roles at exactly the right time for my development while in college. My voice teacher, Tiziana Descano, has been another major influence on my life as a singer.

Q: What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

The one thing that is still difficult for me is practicing! I too often want to take the easy way out and run through things, rather than patiently and slowly taking things apart and then gradually putting them back together.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I think the most rewarding thing is getting to know great art! Opera is such a beautiful art form, and it is always amazing to be a part of one. I also love being part of a story, diving into a character, and making music with new people and old friends!

Q: Has anything funny ever happened to you onstage where something went wrong?

Many times! Once (in a dress rehearsal thankfully!), I was singing a duet looking up at a tenor, and I could feel my wig slowly slipping off my head...he could see it sliding, too. We both were trying not to burst out laughing as we were singing our love duet to each other, and then it finally slipped totally off and I finished singing in my wig cap looking totally bald!

Q: What you do in your “downtime” for fun? 

I love watching Jimmy Fallon videos on YouTube!

Sarah Shafer in "Elegy for Young Lovers."


Hometown: State College, PA

Siblings: Two younger sisters, Elisabeth and Grace

Education: Curtis Institute of Music, BM in Voice and MM in Opera

Hobbies: Reading, swimming, writing letters, watching movies, going to concerts

Favorite Book: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

Favorite Movies/TV shows: Julie and Julia, You’ve Got Mail. 24, Lost, Downton Abbey.

Favorite Singer: Ella Fitzgerald

Favorite Foods: Salmon, pizza, chocolate, and sweet potatoes!

Favorite Quote/Mantra: Be curious!

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