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From The Pig Farm To The Opera Stage: This SMU Prize-Winning Singer Is On The Brink

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Audra Methvin
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Audra Methvin won first place at the Meistersinger Competition in Austria in 2013.

Last weekend, Audra Methvin won the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition. This weekend, she'll sing the same program of four arias at the McCammon Voice Competition in Fort Worth. The 27-year-old is continuing her studies at SMU.

In the Friday Conversation, she talks to KERA's Anne Bothwell about the path that led her from her family's prize pig farm in Levelland to the brink of a career as a soprano.

Interview Highlights: Audra Methvin on ...

… Competitions: "The role they play now is just so different from what it was a few years ago. It's exposure, because you never know who will be listening to you and who will offer you a contract somewhere, or an agent.

"They can be a total game changer as far as, 'Am I ready? Am I cut out for this?' You really  just have to be at a certain maturity level  and confidence in yourself to be able to handle all of the criticism."

... On receiving feedback from competition judges: "I guarantee you every single competition I've been in, I've had at least one judge tell me I looked fat on stage. It's ridiculous! But the first time I heard that, I was just devastated. To be honest I went home and smoked a pack of cigarettes."

She laughs at it now.  "That was several years ago. It can really destroy you mentally if you are not prepared for it."

... On choosing arias to perform: "I started with "Dove sono," it's from Mozart's opera "The Marriage of Figaro." I don't want to elaborate too much but I was married for three years. And that was a very trying experience. I was really young when I eloped. I was 20 and I got a divorce when I was 24. So there was a lot of life experience in that short period of time."

"Dove sono" is sung "by a countess  who's been married for a few years and her husband is philandering, he's running around on her. And she's just devastated, because she loves him. So on some level I can completely relate to her, as far as being married and wanting something that was. I know exactly how she feels. She wants to be loved. There's a certain wistfulness and vulnerability that I can bring to this character now that I couldn't have before I experienced something similar. And that's something that I've really learned with competitions  is what sets you apart from other singers is being able to show and give some of yourself rather than just say Hey, look what I can do vocally."

... On her childhood: "I'm the only musician in my family," she says. "My dad has a show pig farm. And growing up we showed pigs. And it was a great monetary income as kids. You win lots of money at the shows.  My family's in Houston right now at a stock show.  But when I've told opera buddies that I grew up around a pig farm, they don't believe me. And they say, did you sing to the pigs? And I say hell yeah, I sang to the pigs. Nobody was out there except them, so why not?

Read more about Audra on KERA's Art&Seek.

Watch Audra perform at last weekend's competition:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZYIeGfJyl8

Anne Bothwell is Vice President, Arts at KERA, the public radio and television station for North Texas. She oversees local arts, music and culture content on a variety of station platforms, including KERA FM, KERA TV, artandseek.org, kxt.org and keranews.org. KERA’s arts journalists have won numerous awards for their work, including a national Edward R. Murrow award for video. The television series Frame of Mind spotlights Texas’ independent filmmakers. The Art&Seek calendar connects you with arts events. And the State of the Arts conversation series in Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton uses arts and culture as lens to frame community issues. Anne got her start as an arts editor in newspapers, with stints at The Dallas Morning News and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She has a journalism degree from Northwestern University.