Soprano Eleni Calenos Returns to the Palm Beach Opera
For some, music is a hobby. For others, it is a calling. Opera singer (soprano) Eleni Calenos definitely falls into the latter category. “No one in my family was a professional or even a trained musician or singer, but music was integral in our everyday life during my upbringing,” she says. “Music is the story of my life. When I was an infant there was always a radio in my crib playing mainly classical music and also quality Greek music in my ear. I started studying music, violoncello and piano, at the age of seven and this has been my world ever since.”
Beginning January 17, 2015, Calenos will be starring as Mimi in the Palm Beach Opera’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème. “I have performed this role in four other productions, and it never grows old. Its story is timeless and always gripping, and it’s very hard not to cry at the end. Even though it focuses on the love story between Rodolfo and Mimi, it’s also about a bunch of young people who stand by their dreams and ideology. They want to change the world and make it a better place with poetry, art music, and philosophy, and they want to set an example with their lives’ struggles and love stories in times of adversity and poverty,” she says.
This will be Calenos’s second stint with the Florida-based Palm Beach Opera. Last spring, she played the role of Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. When asked why returned to Palm Beach, Calenos says, “Palm Beach Opera has high quality standards and always brings people of great caliber/talent together in their productions. This, combined with an excellent first experience I had with the company last season, are enough reasons to attract me to this upcoming La Bohème production and any future production with the company.”
Though always musical, Thessaloniki-born Calenos says, “Opera came to me after I had started a career as a cellist and also as a singer of Greek music. At the time, I felt the urge to train and study vocal technique in order to avoid developing harmful habits, but soon after the first few lessons I realized the potential. It was almost twelve years ago when I made the decision to sing opera and came to the US to start from scratch, since in a way I first had to learn a new craft, and then start a new career.”
Since she made the change to opera, Calenos has performed in more than 20 roles, some of them multiple times. For instance, she has played her favorite role, Cio-Cio San from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, in five different productions. “It’s one of the most challenging and demanding roles for the soprano repertoire since the character is on stage singing almost all the time,” she adds.
However, despite her success, Calenos admits that becoming an opera singer isn’t as easy as she makes it look. “The business aspect of my profession is essential, but at the same time very stressful…Opera singing is not a conventional profession. Security is not a sense that comes with the territory. There is a lot of competition, subjectivity, lack of meritocracy many times, and politics. On top of that, times are not favorable for opera and art in general. The challenges are many and the stakes are high.”
Nevertheless, Calenos is clearly deeply passionate about her art form. When asked what her favorite part of opera singing, she quotes a poem called Ithaka by C.P. Cavafy:
“Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
So you are old by the time you reach the island,
Wealthy with all that you have gained on the way,
Not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.”
She explains, “The most thrilling part for me is the preparation for the role and the rehearsal period, the time when I find myself exploring music and character, the moments I experiment with all kinds of musical and dramatic nuances. It’s when artistic growth takes place that pure joy rises.”
In other words, Calenos isn’t ready to slow down any time soon. And, as for her future, she sees herself moving onward and upward. “My ultimate goal in life is to come to a position to do as much good as possible, to be able to touch other people’s lives and also be equal to the opportunities life presents to me. I envision myself making music on the highest possible level wherever I am, and singing all over the world in traditionally established and historical international opera houses. Also, sharing my experience and knowledge with singers of younger generations,” she says. “Being able to do what I love is a gift. Having a sense of contribution and fulfillment by offering myself through music and by touching people’s hearts, does not compare to anything.”
To learn more about Eleni Calenos, her website is www.elenicalenos.com. For tickets and more info on the Palm Beach Opera’s production of La Bohème, you can visit http://pbopera.org/event/la-boheme/