Ani Maldjian is a renowned artist and opera singer.
Her performance of the Cleopatra aria "Se Pieta" from Julius Caesar and Donizetti's "O luce di Quest' Anima" earned soprano Ani Maldjian first place at Metropolitan Opera National Council Western Regional Audition at USC in October 2005.
Maldjian also performed on stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in "Wet," a cautionary opera based on a global catastrophic water crisis.
She played a journalist who got caught up in the very flood she's been reporting on.
"It's not a very intense character until her baby drowns," Maldjian says, adding that her character gets to torment over her loss in a 10-minute aria. "That's where my character gets interesting."
For Maldjian, the drama was a big part of what drew her to opera, to which she was introduced during her undergraduate work at Cal Arts.
"I fell in love with it, completely," says the self-described former Celine Dion/Mariah Carey wannabe who has since abandoned popular music.
Well, sort of.
Occasionally, Maldjian does session vocals for System of a Down singer Serj Tankian, whom she met while performing at the 2003 Armenian Film Festival.
She lends her vocals on new releases by hip-hop artist Saul Williams and eccentric rocker Buckethead, both of whom are signed to Tankian's Serjical Strike label.
The appeal of being a session singer: "I want to show nonopera audiences that the voice is versatile. Opera doesn't just exist in the theater but can be used so many different ways. We hear it all the time on commercials. And so, I thought that if I sang opera on a heavy-metal CD, then maybe, somehow, I could influence people to become more interested in it."
Why she loves opera: "It's a collaborative art form. It's not only about singing but it's about acting, and it includes elaborate costumes and sets and props. I just really love creating drama through the voice vs. just singing popular music."
A born opera singer: "There are so many good voices out there, but they're all made for different kinds of genres. I don't think everybody can sing opera, and I don't think everybody can sing popular music. You can manipulate your voice to do certain things, but some people just have a certain timbre, and my voice quality, no matter what I tried, sounded more operatic than anything else."
Her opera heroines: "Maria Callas is someone I look up to, and not for vocal reasons. She had a beautiful voice, but her main focus was on the acting and on the connection that she had with the audience. That's great proof right there that the audience wants to see emotions being expressed, because she became a huge superstar, a real icon based on her sensitivity to the music and her ability to touch an audience even when she wasn't vocally perfect."
As for 2005 Maldjian was in the process of auditioning for different young artists' programs, which are basically residencies for young singers at actual opera companies around the country.
The plus side of opera singing: "You can be based anywhere because you're always traveling. You never get hired at an opera company for an entire season in America. You basically get opera-to-opera contracts, which works out because I can live in L.A. and fly to wherever I need to go."
The uphill battle: "The field is so competitive - especially for sopranos. There are so many sopranos out there that you have to be the most motivated, the most determined, the most focused person. Of course, that's one thing I value about myself. I don't let any distractions get in the way. I just always see my goal in front of me - and that is to make it as an opera singer."
- YOU OUGHT TO KNOW: ANI MALDJIAN, By Sandra Barrera, Music Writer, Los Angeles Daily News, November 30, 2005