Meet the Artist: Thaïs’ Kelly Kaduce

Kelly Kaduce (Photo by Suzy Gorman)


How did you end up with a career in singing?

KK:I went to St. Olaf with the original idea of majoring in biology. I was interested in being a physical therapist. Once I arrived and saw the list of courses available, I got very excited about all of the music classes, and in particular, voice lessons! I couldn’t believe you could take a voice lesson for a class credit. For me, singing and music were just hobbies that I loved. The idea that you could make a serious study of it seemed like a cosmic mistake that worked to my advantage. After my sophomore year, the music faculty encouraged me to focus solely in music, and that was all I needed to hear. Next, I spent the summer at the College Light Opera Company in Falmouth, Massachusetts. There, I learned to pick up music quickly and I also met other singers with serious hopes to be professional opera singers. I met a boy who went to Boston University. We dated and I headed out to Boston after graduation from St. Olaf. There, I started studying with Penelope Bitzas privately while working an office job to pay the bills. I auditioned at several different schools with master’s degree programs in vocal performance and ended up going to Boston University so I could continue to study with Ms. Bitzas. The second year of my master’s degree, I started doing a lot of outside auditioning and entering as many competitions as possible. One of those competitions was the MET National Council Auditions, which I won. That was basically the birth of my career as an opera singer.


Who were some of the people who helped you to become a singer?

KK:Anna Mooy at St. Olaf College was my first mentor. She was my very first voice teacher. She taught me to sing with vibrato and introduced me to my first opera arias. Penelope Bitzas was my most important mentor. She is a tough-nosed technician and gave me the foundation and character that I have built upon. Another important mentor was Colin Graham, the longtime Artistic Director of Opera Theater of St. Louis. We first met when he was directing a show in which I had a featured part. He saw something in me (probably my crazy laugh as a dead ghost). I then sang my first Madama Butterfly under his direction at Minnesota Opera. I was too young to sing that demanding part, but did it anyway. It was the best decision I ever made! I learned so much from him and wound up doing his Butterfly several other times. I also sang the world premiere of Anna Karenina, which was Colin Graham’s libretto. He was scheduled to direct it, as well. Unfortunately, he passed away before rehearsals for the show began. I was able to see him one last time in the hospital to say good-bye and thank you, and to tell him how much he meant to me. My husband and I ended up naming our son after him.


What are some of the most memorable ways that your voice has been described?

KK:The most memorable description of my voice was not a word, but rather a painting! I have a small five-by-five-inch painting in my music room that is a glossy, beautiful dark blue. The painting was given to me by Sebastian Spreng, an artist who told me he sees voices as colors. He painted my voice after hearing me sing a double bill of Suor Angelica and I Pagliacci in Miami.


What do you like to do when you are in the Twin Cities?

KK:If it is winter, my family and I always try to cross country ski, and now that we have a five-year-old, sledding is added to that list. You can also always find us running or walking along the paths along the Mississippi River. We recently found Elsie’s Bowling Alley, and there are a few restaurants that we always try to visit. We also usually make a visit to the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital as well. Our son was born prematurely and spent his first three months in that NICU. We have gone back almost every year to do NICU follow-ups and visit with the excellent doctors and nurses who took care of us.


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