Considered by Operavore and Classical WQXR as 40 Under 40: A New Generation of Superb Opera Singers, Angel Azzarra began her musical studies in Mississippi, later earning her master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music as a full scholarship voice student. She is now a sought-after chamber musician and interpreter as well as a rising Youtube star.
Just this year her new YouTube channel gained over 20,000 subscribers and monetised within days. So we've caught up with her to get to know her better and learn some tips on how to grow a social media channel successfully.
Hi Angel, great to have you here with us at the M Institute for Arts.
At what age did you start singing?
My mother was a non-traditional voice and piano performance major- I used to sing along in her lessons at college (probably to the eternal chagrin of my mother and her professors.) My first official music lessons began at age 7- I begged to learn Je veux vivre, and my mother assigned me Alma del core. A wise decision!
What brought you to singing?
As much as I love listening to my mother sing and play, it wasn't until I watched Jeanette MacDonald sing in Victor Herbert's operetta Naughty Marietta that I realized it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. She laughs on a high G directly in a man's face as he mansplains to her, and 7 year old me was like, "...Yes. This."
What would be your advice to a younger ‘you’ growing up?
Take your time! I was always (and still am) so eager to launch myself into the deep end, but dramatic instruments really do take time to develop. I'd also recommend to myself that I skip jumping straight into a 4 year degree in performance and get a 2 year associates degree in something practical while I collect college prerequisites (because we all love paying rent on time). I tell all of my students this as well. A current student of mine is enrolled in community college and studying to be a paralegal while she finishes her prerequisites. She'll be transferring to a 4 year musical theatre program in a year and a half. It's not exactly a glamorous answer, but the realities of the industry aren't something to be taken lightly.
If you have to describe yourself in 30 seconds what would you say?
A serious artist who doesn't take herself seriously.
What do you say when you pitch yourself to an artistic director?
I don't say it- I sing it. If artistic directors want to know more about who I am as a colleague, I'm confident they could ask anyone I've worked with - I learn my music thoroughly and in advance, I'm not a jerk, and my voice speaks for itself.
What is the thing you like the most about singing on stage?
It allows me to be fully engaged not just in mind, heart, and soul, but in my gut (mein Eingeweide!) Being wholly intellectual and physically primal is an incredibly addictive paradox.
And what is the thing you don’t like about singing on stage?
Pantyhose- I could spend a solid week talking about how much I hate pantyhose.
What is your career dream?
A major international career as an operatic soprano, filled with compassion, crossovers into film, video game music, and fun. I'm tired of the gatekeeping of the operatic industry and want to see new demographics exploring opera -and opera venturing into new territory! I also want to be deeply involved in moving filmed opera into more cinematic production styles- not just filmed stage productions.
What was your objective when you started your YouTube Channel?
Simply to have fun tossing my two cents into the abyss of the internet.
How did your YouTube Channel improve your visibility online?
I was just another dramatic soprano with a pedigree - now I'm a young artist who comes with a built in fan base of 23,000+ and millions of views each month.
Pros and cons of having a YouTube channel?
The attitudes of old-school opera industry professionals. "People won't take you seriously" Well, Reginald, it's paying my bills and I get to achieve my life long goal of ranting about Schubert writing petty songs featuring his ex-lovers, so I'm clearly not worried about that.
Should all classical musicians have a YouTube channel and be active on social media? Why?
It's definitely not for everyone! There can be a mental toll from venturing too deep into the comment section or being too active on social media. I'm lucky that the majority of my responses are positive, but I have received some incredibly cruel comments. If you don't have a thick skin, or you're prone to responding to internet comment section fights, I recommend avoiding it. But for others I think it's a great option- if internet trolls are simply water off a duck's back, and you feel you have something new or innovative to produce- go for it! There is room, trust me!
In your experience, what works best on YouTube in terms of content and format?
I don't shy away from clickbait titles- it's what the algorithm pushes! I have used clickbait titles for Dichterliebe. DICHTERLIEBE. You won't gain a demographic of non-classical musicians unless you de-mystify your video titles.
What are your top hacks on YouTube to gain new subscribers?
Produce. Regular. Content. I'm currently on break from my channel to apply for doctoral programs and residencies, and my subscriber growth has slowed significantly. Make sure you are prepared to be producing at least once a week, or that you are prepared for the financial hit of not producing regularly.
Let’s Get Personal
Favourite classical composer?
Ah-This question! Schubert, Schubert, SCHUBERT. Then Schoenberg, Szymanowski, Puccini, Rachmaninoff, Ornstein, Mompou, and Bellini. Not necessarily in that order. I'm sorry, there is just no way to narrow it down from here.
Favourite opera singer?
Lisette Oropesa, Sondra Radvanovsky, and Othalie Graham. Stop sleeping on living singers! (for the ghosts of opera past- Claudia Muzio, Franco Corelli, and Anna Moffo)
If you were not an opera singer, who would you be?
As Nancy Lamott so elegantly sang, I'd be "restless as a willow in a wind storm", but I am no demure debutante. I am an operatic trash goblin, and without music I'd be despondent as a drunk raccoon in an empty garbage can.
How do you spend your time when you are not on stage?
Filming and producing content, desperately wishing I was hiking in the mountains, helping friends and colleagues with audio recording/mixing, and affectionately calling my dog mean names.
Thank you Angel.
For more information about Angel Azzarra visit her website here
To visit Angel's YouTube channel click here