MANATEE COUNTY — Even at first meeting, East County teenager Natalie Almeter strikes you as someone comfortable in her own skin.
She’s quick to laugh, has an easy smile and doesn’t shy away from her idiosyncrasies — like the fact she sometimes copies people’s accents (on accident) and makes faces so strange her friends can’t wait to see which one she’ll do next.
Natalie just shrugs and lets out a chuckle.
It’s that natural knack for dramatic flair that has inspired her love of musical theater.
A veteran of the theater arts, the junior at Cardinal Mooney High School now has made her debut performance with the Sarasota Opera, as both an urchin boy and a middle-class boy in “Carmen.” The show runs through March 24.
“I’d never thought about opera before,” Natalie says, adding her mother encouraged her to audition for the experience. “(The opera singers) are amazing. All of them are so talented. It’s a real art to be that loud.”
Natalie has been singing since her childhood, although she’s never had any formal vocal training, except for one recent lesson with an opera coach. Singing is just something she’s always loved to do, she says.
“I started singing princess songs when I was 4 years old on my mother’s bed,” Natalie says with a shrug.
She has sung at church, at school and just about everywhere else. Natalie’s soprano voice is well suited for songs such as those performed by groups such as Celtic Woman, she says.
A veteran of musical theater, Natalie says the style of opera performance requires greater focus, because the layout of the opera house can make the audience more of a distraction than in other theaters. She also has been impressed with the focus required for operatic performances as well as simply how loud opera performers can sing.
“The volume they can produce is (incredible),” she says. “(Opera and musical theater are) really two different worlds. The way they count the music (in opera) is different. I feel opera is more about a person and their voice only, and theater is about the whole show.”
With performances of “Carmen” lasting through March 24, Natalie already is busy juggling the show with schoolwork and other commitments. She is, however, also preparing for a musical show at Cardinal Mooney, “Schoolhouse Rock,” in March.
“I go from one to the other a lot, but it’s fun,” Natalie says, adding she can squeeze homework in between acts in “Carmen.”
Although Natalie is thoroughly enjoying her operatic debut and is even considering auditioning for a second show — “Little Nemo in Slumberland” — she says she still prefers musical theater, at present.
This summer, too, Natalie hopes to tour with the National Catholic Youth Choir, and upon graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in musical theater, Natalie says. Her “backup” plan is to go into education.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
The Sarasota Opera is seeking child singers for its future production of “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” a short, two-act magic opera. Open enrollment has begun. For audition information, contact Ben Placher, Youth Opera Coordinator, at 366-8450, Ext. 249. For information about the opera or its youth opera program, visit www.sarasotaopera.org.