Click here for the archive of profiles that takes you behind the scenes with some of the featured performers who bring their special talents to Emmanuel Music.
In 2015 soprano Sarah Yanovitch moved to Boston to launch her freelance career. She had studied hard and prepared well, but didn’t know quite what to expect when she began cold-calling for auditions. A year later she has a series of successes and enriching experiences behind her, and a promising season about to begin. “My early freelance career has seen a real snowball effect,” Yanovitch says. “I’ve been so fortunate that one job has kept leading to another.”
Yanovitch quickly found herself on the Handel and Haydn roster and eventually began singing Bach cantatas with Emmanuel Music. Both ensembles are groups she aspired to as a student at NEC. And although she was new to Emmanuel Music in the 2015-16 season, Yanovitch quickly made an impression. This summer Artistic Director Ryan Turner named Yanovitch a Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Fellow for her second season with the ensemble. The Lorraine Hunt Lieberson award recognizes young musicians of exceptional promise and offers them opportunities to perform in prominent roles. As a Fellow, Yanovitch will be featured in Emmanuel Music’s opening concert, singing an aria in Mozart’s youthful opera, Apollo et Hyacinthus.
Mozart wrote this opera as a school exercise when he was only eleven years old. But it is far from a schoolboy composition. “This opera is so cool – you can hear the future of Mozart and what’s going to come later,” Yanovitch says, adding, “there are so many genius moments.” In fact, some of the lines in her role here stand out as favorites among everything she’ll sing this fall. Yanovitch also marvels that, even as a child, Mozart wrote so well for the human voice. “It’s easy to soar singing Mozart, and it’s a healthy kind of singing,” she says. “Mozart is so different from Bach, where the challenge (and the fun) is to master the technical difficulties so that you can truly communicate.”
Apollo et Hyacinthus is not well known, and Yanovitch was surprised to discover that the libretto is in Latin, not Italian or German. “I think the Latin works so well for singers,” she says. “The vowels are all the same as Italian, and the effect is really beautiful.”
Both Yanovitch’s parents are professional musicians (her father a trombonist and her mother a violinist), and music was part of family life. In fact, Yanovitch, the oldest of nine children, remembers her father rocking children to sleep to the first movement of the Brahms second symphony. But the path to her own career wasn’t neatly mapped out. “My parents started me on the violin, and I just hated it,” Yanovitch says. “I would resist and let the clock run down during my practice time until they let me quit!"
But Yanovitch had a lot of music in her, and simply had to find her place as a singer. Her true path developed in phases. “I had always enjoyed singing as a kid. I sang in church all the time, and I would sing along with music playing in the house,” Yanovitch says. Her parents set up lessons for her, and she started working on jazz tunes and songs from classic musicals.
“There’s only so much you can do as a high school-age singer until your voice starts to grow,” she says. “As a teenager I remember how annoyed I would be when my voice couldn't do something I really wanted it to do.” Yanovitch didn’t touch the classical repertoire until about age fifteen and didn't love it at first. But she knew at once that classical pieces fit her voice really well. This fact, and the circumstances of Yanovitch’s home-schooling life, soon led her even more toward classical music. “I couldn’t perform in high school musicals like my friends, so I found other opportunities,” she says. She discovered and joined the Anglican Singers in nearby New London, Connecticut, and learned to sing and love evensong. This experience proved to be invaluable when her career later turned to early music.
Yanovitch started college at Huntington University in Indiana, a little Christian school that turned out to serve her evolving musical education well. “Huntington had only one voice teacher, but she unlocked my voice and taught me all about resonance and lift.” This teacher, Joni Killian, prepared Yanovitch for a successful transfer to the New England Conservatory after two years. There, with the inspiration of the incredible student musicians around her, an excellent teacher, and her voice coming into its own, a career in classical singing became a dream and a passion.
Yanovitvch’s teacher Michael Meraw helped shift her focus from opera. “My time at NEC helped me realize the kind of music I should be singing based on the size and timbre of my voice. I started to work on more sacred music and concert repertoire and my teacher helped me find the right graduate program for my goals. I needed to go somewhere free, and I had the amazing good fortune to be one of only four singers (one of each major voice type) accepted each year to the Yale Early Music Voice Program through the Institute of Sacred Music. And thanks to a very generous donor my entire tuition was paid for."
Yale offered a rigorous and exciting two-year program. There were just eight singers – four from each year, and just two to a part. “We sang all the time; it could be grueling,” Yanovitch recalls. “Sometimes after multiple choral rehearsals during the day I just didn’t have the voice left to practice my solo pieces in the evening.” But the program offered Yanovitch so much. There were many opportunities to work as a section leader and frequent soloist with the Yale Schola Cantorum led by the brilliant conductors David Hill, Masaaki Suzuki, and Simon Carrington. There were also multiple chamber ensemble concerts given by the Voxtet (the eight singers who make up the Early Music program), and solo recitals given at the end of each year. "Thanks to the many diction, repertoire, and performance practice classes at Yale, I know I have a much better understanding of early music – and how to approach it – than I did before."
Yale also took the students on tour, to Italy singing the Vivaldi Gloria the first year and across the United Kingdom singing Beethoven’s Mass in C the next year. These were Yanovitch’s first travels to Europe, so the experiences were both culturally and musically rewarding. "On the UK tour my colleagues and I sang a live broadcast of the Beethoven at Cambridge on BBC3 Radio. That was an incredible experience; especially getting to be the soprano soloist and perform with David Hill!"
Yale’s early music program was an excellent preparation for a freelance career in Boston. The school’s prestige helped to open doors, but Yanovitch’s training and voice have earned her jobs in a variety of local ensembles. In the coming 2016-17 season, in addition to her opera performance with Emmanuel Music, she will sing the roles of Cupid and Venus in a semi-staged production of Purcell’s King Arthur with Boston Purcell Society and will be featured in Boston Cecilia's opening concert presenting Mozart’s Davide Penitente and Handel’s Dixit Dominus. And she will appear frequently with Handel and Haydn for her second season.
As Yanovitch reflects on her unconventional path, she believes it prepared her well for the freelance career she is now pursuing. “Home schooling really taught me to be the master of my own time” she says. “I often had to plan my own schedule for the year and decide what outside opportunities I wanted to pursue. I also learned how to sing amid tons of distractions, thanks to eight other kids running around the house all day! But being home definitely allowed me to build a close bond with my family, and they're a source of support for me all the time. I wouldn’t ever trade my experience for another.”