Music: La-la-la-Latvia

November 29, 2012

Opera singer: not the first career choice of your average Blue Devil. The typical opera singer, if there is such a thing, goes to conservatory, followed by a master's in singing, then a preprofessional program at an opera house, and finally, a career. But Talya Lieberman '07 has been forging her own path, one that will take her to Latvia on a Fulbright Scholarship to study her craft in a country with a little-known penchant for the musical form.

Credit: Anna Wu Photography

Latvia may be an unusual choice, but Lieberman, a classically trained pianist who majored in linguistics, minored in music, and recieved a scholarship to pursue a master's in trumpet at the North Carolina School of the Arts after Duke, is all about unusual choices. While at NCSA, Lieberman began writing her own music for a rock band and rediscovered her voice - literally. Trumpet was over, the band was a nice hobby, and Lieberman didn't know what should come next. But she noticed she was frequently growing hoarse, so she consulted a ninety-nine-year-old relative who is a respected voice coach. Never one to shy away from a challenging piece of music, Lieberman launched into "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide, one of the most notorious soprano arias. With her relative's vote of confidence, Lieberman found herself at a turning point. "I had given up on music when really, in retrospect, it is who I am. I feel like I finally found my instrument."

After two more years of voice lessons and workshops on the side (Lieberman worked in a psychology lab at the University of Pennsylvania's medical school), she felt ready to apply for a Fulbright. Knowing that most opera singers apply to study in Italy or Germany, Lieberman looked elsewhere. She discovered that Latvia - a country the size of West Virginia - produced four singers in the current Metropolitan Opera House's roster. "I'm told that everybody goes to the opera - young people, old people, it's just something they love," Lieberman says. "I'm excited to be a part of a culture where opera is really valued, and really interested to find out why that is."