This information was provided by Ms. Schmidt for the "Carlotta Shrine", her letter is dated 4/97. Thanks Julie!
I was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. I played piango (mediocre) since the age of 5, composed music about the same age, and always sang in church and school choirs. I began to study voice seriously when I entered college at Wichita State University, although I was more interested in learning how to belt and sing jazz. You know, the next Brabara Streisand. My teacher didn't teach those styles, so I was taught how to sing legit. It turned out to be loads of fun, and the next stpe was to fall in love with opera.
I saw my first opera when I was in college; it was Anna Moffo at the tail end of her career singing Mimi in the local company's production of La Boheme. I don't recall if it was high art, but any fool could see that being the Diva was the important thing. The "Brava!"s, the royal treatment, and the whole sophisticated atmosphere that attended the event impressed me and made me want it for myself! Of course I grew to love the music. I hadn't been exposed to opera previously, but learning to sing made me respect the music and the artists who are able to sing it beautifully.
I had wonderful teachers at WSU, and I recommend it to anyone looking for undergraduate study. My graduate work was done at Florida State University, and from there I apprenticed with the Greater Miami Opera. In Miami, I got a taste of what the real opera world was like. It's a salad of money, egos, sex and paranoia, with a dash of beautiful music. In fact, what goes on in an opera company would probably make a good opera. It was educational, to say the least, and prepared me a bit mentally and vocally for what I might expect in other jobs.
Next came an apprenticeship in Sante Fe (gorgeous), and a move to New York. How was my luck in New York? Let's just say that I was a great waiter. "Would you like to start with a cocktail, or a bottle of wine?" I also tended bar, checked coats, and catered parties. Lots of them over four years. There was the occasional Merry Widow and Magic Flute to keep me in the game. Voice lessons, performance classes, church gigs, Christmas caroling, community concerts. But the opera agents were impossible to get an audition with, and most opera companies wouldn't see you without an agent or a recommendation. I did get to sing for a couple of musical theater agents, and they started sending me out for auditions.
I decided to do the European opera agent auditions in the fall of 1991, and was told by an agent in Vienna that I should audition for an opening for the role of Christine in the Hamburg production. I ended up auditioning for both Christine and Carlotta, but was not hired for that job. When the Third National Tour was being cast, I was hired as the female swing, covering six women's chorus parts and understudying Carlotta and Madame Giry. I had the distinction of being the person with the most costumes in any Phantom production. Hoowah! Score!
Swinging is fun, and the job illustrates my credo, "The least amount of work for the most amount of money." You get paid for your brains, not your brawn. It allowed me to do all sorts of personal projects on the nights I wasn't onstage, and one of those personal projects was getting married to the clarinet player. We call the Third National Tour the Love Tour because there have been serveral couplings made within the company. My husband is Donald Mokrynski, and he has the dark lush tone on E-flat, B-flat, and bass clarinets. He also dresses well, drives a sporty Italian car, and is emotionally well-equipped for living with a diva. We honeymooned in Paris and Italy. Back from the honeymoon two months, I got the call to replace our Carlotta, Kelly Hogan, who was not renweing her contract. Nervous? You bet. But a few weeks into the role, I started to get comfortable, and from there it was a short stroll to feeling like the total Diva.
I have been doing the role for a year and a half, shamelessly stealing bits from other Carlottas. Marilyn Caskey was a major inspiration. I regret that I never saw Judy Kaye do it. Every day is a chance to sing the role better, get a bigger laugh, and tell the story.
From Ms. Schmidt's resume
Josephine H.M.S. Pinafore Maine Opera Theatra 1992 Venus Venus and Adonis NY Opera at the Academy 1991 Second Lady Die Zauberflote Connecticut Grand Opera 1991 Guilia La Scala Di Seta Rockland Opera Society 1990 Barbarina Le Nozze Di Figaro Connecticut Grand Opera 1989 Destiny La Calisto Santa Fe Opera 1989 Clara La Vie Parisienne NY Opera at the Academy 1988 Valencienne The Merry Widow Greater Miami Opera 1988 Cornelia Buffaci Il Triono Del'Onore Greater Miami Opera 1988 Zerlina (cover) Don Giovanni Greater Miami Opera 1988 Costanza Bianca E Falliero Greater Miami Opera 1987 Coloartura Postcard From Morocco Greater Miami Opera 1987 Mme Goldentrill The Impresario Greater Miami Opera 1987 Ophelia (cover) Hamlet Greater Miami Opera 1987 Sally Thomas and Sally Des Moines Metro Opera 1987
Carlotta Phantom Of the Opera 1992-present Swing " 1992-1995 Madame Giry " 1992-1995
Recipient Kansas Cultural Trust Grant 1990 Regional First Place Nat'l Society of arts and Letters 1987 Winner Palm Beach Opera Auditions 1986, 1987 Winner Miami Young Patronesses of the Opera Award 1987