By Judith Hyman
Only when hard work, gifted talent and total devotion come together can that alchemy of glitter to gold take place.
And so it was with Sarah Vautour’s performance of the Dew Fairy in LA Opera’s 2018-19 production of Hansel and Gretel. Sarah sang while suspended sixteen feet in the air, tossing glitter upon the forest floor to awaken Hansel and Gretel from their slumber, cooing the aria “Der kleine Taumann heiss’ich.” During the 2019-20 season she sang the role of Papagena in LAO’s The Magic Flute. She was able to brandish her golden pipes when she stepped in last minute to sing Queen of the Night in the final sitzprobe, when So Young Park fell ill.
Sarah’s devotion to and love of singing is in her genes. Her mother was a trained musical theater singer, and her grandmother still sings at 82 in three local choirs. Sarah studied musical theater and partook in the high school summer program at Tanglewood in Massachusetts. It was there at Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute that she was able to see The Damnation of Faust with Susan Graham. This is the summer that she knew this was what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
Setting out from her hometown of Alpharetta, Georgia, Sarah began her undergraduate education at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, followed by graduate studies at Rice University in Houston where she studied under Stephen King, who also happens to be LA Opera’s voice coach for the Young Artist program.
Joshua Winograde, LAO's Senior Director of Artistic Programs, traveled to Houston to hear Dr. King’s students. He and his discerning ear put her name forward for both LAO’s Young Artist program as well as the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development program (Josh was working at the Met at the time).
Sarah was thrilled to audition for LAO. After singing only one aria, which she thought went really well, she was dismissed. She recalls today that she thought: “Oh no! That must mean they didn’t like my voice because usually two arias are the request.” While waiting for the elevator, the proctor caught up with her and said, “They want to talk to you.” Upon re-entering the room, the panel announced, “We realize that by sending you out after only one aria, you would think we didn’t like you. But we do. And we’d like to invite you to the finals.”
Sarah recalls today: “I thought that was so humane and generous, which is how I feel about our entire YAP program.”
Sarah loves living in Los Angeles for its wide range of health foods, outdoor activities including the endless number of hiking trails, and yoga classes. Yoga House in Pasadena is her meditation go-to.
During our FaceTime chat, I couldn’t help noticing a charming backyard blooming with all manner of flowers. Sarah lives in a casita behind the home of Suzanna Guzmán, mezzo-soprano and host of KCET's Open Call. “It’s so great to have a buddy in these times of social distancing,” she says.
A self-described spiritual person, Sarah is partial to self-help books such as Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God series, which she says has “rocked my world!” Currently she is reading Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within.
Clearly her reading list is meant to fortify her for the world into which she’s stepping.
“As an opera singer, you have to have strength on the inside to bear your heart. It takes courage and strength to be vulnerable in front of many unknown people. You have to have a full cup to fill into someone else’s.”
Cover photo credit: Elle Logan