When soprano Nadine Sierra originally performed on From the Top at the age of 15, her extraordinary talent was undeniable. Already a member of the Palm Beach Opera Company, Nadine sang Puccini's "O, Mio Babbino Caro" with such maturity, we all recognized her potential to have a professional opera career in the future. Even so, we were astonished, as was the opera world, when, at the age of 20, Nadine became the youngest soprano ever to win the most prestigious voice competition in all of North America - the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Nadine returned to the From the Top stage at the age of 21 to talk about that incredible experience and to sing "Ah, Je veux vivre!" from Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, one of the two pieces she sang at her winning audition.
After graduating high school in her home town of Delray Beach, Florida, Nadine moved to New York City to study voice at the Mannes School of Music. There, she had the good fortune to meet the great American mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, who became a close friend and mentor. It was she who suggested that Nadine enter the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
"I was asking for suggestions of how to sponsor myself so I could go to Europe to study Italian over the summer," recalls Nadine, "and she said to me, 'In this economy? There are no sponsors. You have to do it yourself!'" Then Ms. Horne suggested Nadine compete in the Met auditions, as winning would entail a monetary reward. "I remember thinking to myself, 'I can't win the Met. I'm too young," says Nadine. "But she kept persisting that I should give it a try."
Nadine took her mentor's advice and entered the competition, fully expecting to be eliminated early on, and was shocked when she made it through the first round, then the second, and then the third, semi-final round.
That's when things started to get really serious. The final round took place on the Metropolitan stage, with a full orchestra and a large audience in attendance. Nadine assessed the stakes at hand and took stock of her nerves.
"It's different now because there will be a big orchestra and audience out there," she thought to herself, "but in that audience will be some of the most precious people to me in my life - my friends, my family, my teachers, and everyone who has inspired me. I'm going to use this opportunity to go on stage and give back as much as they have given me, and share every ounce of joy with them." And with that, Nadine had her five minutes on the Metropolitan stage. And then she won.
The acclaim of winning such a prestigious honor has been tremendously exciting for Nadine, but making such a big splash hasn't come without pressures. "I feel there's now an expectation of me to perform at the highest level each time I perform or compete, and that can be hard because I am only 21 years old, and I am still trying to experience and learn as best I can," she explains. "The pressure is definitely there, but I try to approach it in the sanest way possible - to remind myself that I am only human, I will never be perfect, and I will always be learning, every day of my entire life."