Travels of a Maltese Soprano: USA

Shigemi Matsumoto and Nicola Said

After three years, I finally returned to the big US of A! I never imagined that if I had to visit it would be for such a short time; a quick last minute trip which almost didn’t happen! I flew in for an audition to sing for legendary mezzo soprano Marilyn Horne who was very complimentary about my voice. The first time I sang for her was three years ago, just a month or so before leaving the US and thanks to the introduction made by my teacher in California, Shigemi Matsumoto.

Nicola Said with Shigemi Matsumoto and David Anglin

Here’s the thing, in LA, you have to drive. Aside from the fact that it is quicker, public transport is just…creepy. However, public transport I did take – it took my three hours to get to Downtown LA from Long Beach (it takes 40 minutes to an hour by car). I must say, having lived in London, the thought of public transport wasn’t daunting. I didn’t even have internet, and I made it….I won’t deny it, I was scared. Especially….it’s the US and you just never know who is carrying a gun, sorry to say!! And, when you’re not safely locked in your car…well…you just never know. And yes, it caused shock reaction when I relayed my travel story to my American friends. Let’s just say, it was my own little adventure.

Florentino Zarate, Nanzi Cruz Cortez and Nicola Said

Anyway I finally got to Union Station in Downtown LA and managed to meet Shigemi and her husband, the former Senior Executive Manager at CAMI, Marty Stark, together with opera coach at the Bob Cole Conservatory, Dr. David Anglin. I have great memories of performing my first three operatic roles at Bob Cole, the first being Olympia whose aria was one of the first I heard that made me fall in love with opera! Shigemi and Marty taught me so much about singing and the business of opera. Dr. Anglin awarded me my first Zerbinetta opera scenes, with the whole Prologue, and then the famous quartet. These people were some of the first to believe in me, and I will forever be grateful.

Christina Liem Jennings and Nicola Said

I also managed to meet a few old friends including the wonderful Frieda Caplan whose scholarship I received at CSULB and who kindly continued to support me in my last year there, and my amazing old roommate from Cal State Long Beach Christina Liem (photo to right) whom I had actually met for the first time back in Italy on the Opera Programme where I met Shigemi…it was fate!! Both Christina and Florentino Zarate were so so kind to me during my time in the US, and I think if it weren’t for them and a few other friends, I would not have survived (seriously…) It was amazing to catch up with them! Also, I could NOT help overdosing on Froyo from Yoghurtland and Cold Stone Ice-Cream (when I first arrived in the US I had Froyo every day…) It had to be done, for old time’s sake!