Alive & Unedited: Elise DesChamps

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Opera Columbus will breathe new life into history's greatest romance with two performances of Romeo & Juliet. Not familiar with our local vocal troupe? Meet one of the company's resident voices - the charming Elise DesChamps, playing the part of Stephano.

My family is all in the music field. My godfather was a stage director of opera. My godmother is an agent of artists. My father founded the Canadian Music Competition. My mom made her debut at Carnegie Hall. She was 19.

In Montreal, I was a cellist. I went to the Montreal Conservatory and graduated with a bachelor's degree in cello and musicology. I just started to sing like someone would take yoga. It was just to help my cello playing.

I went to a pretty good voice teacher, who recognized a voice. Within a year, I was accepted at Indiana University. I didn't know what I was entering then. My first year, I had to learn to sing and learn English. I was 24.

Learning opera was kind of like paint-by-numbers. When I started to sing, it was learning the technique and then being on stage. And, oh, you're going to have to act and sing and move in costumes. It felt like I was slowly starting to draw my opera face.

This is what my teacher, Virginia Zeani, told me at Indiana. After all the technique and how to do it, she said, "Baby, baby, baby, now you go, and you learn everything else on stage. The stage will teach you." She was right.

Music is a language. It's a great tool of communication.

I met my husband at Indiana. He's also an opera singer. He's also an adjunct professor at Capital University. He's also in Romeo & Juliet. He's the friar, and I'm Romeo's page.

There were about two years when we lived in the car. We were really trying to do the audition thing. At one point, I think we did 11 states in two months - going from Chicago to Boston to New York to New Jersey to all the auditions that you can find. You have a resume, but you have to go out there and they have to hear it.

My husband and I have over 7,000 LPs at home of mainly opera. Libraries would get rid of those for 25 cents. When we get contracted for a role, we have three, four, five recordings of that. We're two babies - if it's a dramatic opera, we're both sobbing.

Besides Opera Columbus and Capital University, my favorite thing about Columbus is the community of singers that I'm getting to know more and more. There are so many singers here. I also love the North Market. We don't have enough of those markets.

Three things I can't live without are my family, music and coffee.