NEW YORK – Karolina Pilou is an opera singer in the making. About two years ago she moved from London, where she studied previously, to New York in order to complete her training at Mannes College The New School for Music and to start a career in the world of Opera.
TNH: Tell us about the path that led you to Opera and Mannes.
KP: I have been experimenting with my voice for as long as I can remember. My first music teacher in elementary school (back in Athens) singled out my voice and soon I was being chosen every year to sing solo parts in the school’s public events, festivals etc. That gave me confidence and further stimulated my passion and enthusiasm for singing. I knew that I wanted to be a singer (jazz/modern music at the time) at approximately the age of 14. Then a music producer heard me and was impressed, but advised me to go to a music school or conservatoire to get my articulation/diction fixed! My teacher there was a classically trained singer and so in my first lesson, at age 17, I fell in love with “classical singing,” that sound and the vibrations in my body that it caused and the way it made me feel. Less than four years later I moved to London to study at the renowned Guildhall School of Music and Drama and after 5 years there I moved to NY to study at Mannes. New York is the ideal place to be for someone with my voice type.
TNH: Does your family have a musical background?
KP: Not at all. I wish I had an interesting story to tell, like having a famous opera Diva grandmother or a saxophone playing father, but no! I do suspect though that I owe my voice to my mother who, despite years of smoking, sounds like what could have been a big dramatic soprano. She has a big, metallic voice.
TNH: Has your life path been influenced by your Ancient and Modern Greek and Orthodox heritage?
KP: Most definitely. Firstly, I feel very connected to my Greek roots and culture. I am very respectful of our history and proud to be Greek. I have a very “Greek temperament” which certainly helps with acting and performing. Needless to say Greece has had many famous and extremely successful classical singers who have contributed massively to the operatic world like Callas, Agnes Baltsa, Jeanette Pilou and Elena Souliotis to name only a few. I think there is something to be said about that. Like Italy, Russia and generally the Eastern European region, I think Greece must have some sort of “great voice” gene! All joking aside, in my case, as someone who has a flair for comic roles, growing up in Greece was a true blessing. With the Golden Era of Greek film, I have been exposed to a great amount of world class comic talent. I grew up watching legends like Constantaras, Rena Vlachopoulou, Georgia Vasileiadou, Sapho Notara, Iliopoulos. That is comic acting training from the best, right there .
TNH: What has been your greatest achievement so far?
KP: I would have to say that other than my recent performance as Mistress Quickly in Verdi’s Falstaff with Mannes Opera, it’s also an achievement just to survive training in a music school with very high standards and everything that it brings: Being constantly criticized, comparing yourself to other singers, changes in the voice and struggles with vocal technique, to name only a few. Being as young as I was when I moved to London, I didn’t have the maturity to ask myself if I could measure up to the challenge, but had I asked the question I would have probably said no. So I am proud of that.
TNH: What’s the greatest lesson youve ever learned?
KP: That there are some things that are out of my control, so then I need to chose to let go and have some faith. The biggest lesson that I have yet to learn is patience. I’m not gifted that way.
TNH: Do you have role models, mentors, guides?
KP: Quite a few! My mother is my role model in life. I aspire to be as good, kind, understanding and as wonderful a human being as she is. My father is and has been my guide in my singing from day one and I think it would have been the same no matter what I chose to do professionally. He is a very inspiring professional who has taught me a huge lesson: the importance of planning ahead and creating various options/routes for my self in order to reach my goals. I always turn to him for advice. Last but not least, my beloved teacher back in London, Robert Dean, who changed my mentality around singing and pursuing a career and who gave me back my confidence. He is solely responsible for my move to N.Y. He insisted that this is where I needed to be due to my voice type-and he was absolutely right.
TNH: What’s your ultimate goal in life?
KP: Happiness. I am very ambitious professionally but only as the means to personal growth and fulfillment, if that makes sense. Enjoying all that life has to offer is very important to me.
TNH: What are your most enjoyable pastimes?
KP: I love Ballroom and Latin dancing although I haven’t found the time for it since I moved to N.Y. I also love cooking and entertaining, having friends over for dinner and just sharing my time with people who intrigue me.
TNH: Share with us some words of wisdom.
KP: I suspect that I might be too young for wisdom, but if I had to say something I would say that it is better to try (for) something and fail, than to wonder forever what the outcome would have been had you gone for it. Happiness comes to those who dare to look for it I guess…