Her energy is as high as her world renowned soprano.
That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you meet Melanie Holliday, a woman who has spent nearly 30 years building a career as a Viennese operetta superstar.
This week, Holliday will perform for the Huntsville community for the first time since her years as a Sam Houston State University student.
At age 17, Holliday had her sights on the stage as a prima ballerina. She was even accepted at The Juilliard School in New York, but a horseback riding accident took that dream in an instant.
“I knew then I would never be a professional dancer. So, I switched to voice. I’m a stage person,” she says, smiling broadly with a one-armed shrug. “Performance is part of my life, and I loved singing and I loved music.”
Houston-born Holliday heard about SHSU’s opera department and made her first-ever trip to Huntsville. She soon found her longtime voice coach and friend, instructor Walter Foster, who recognized her talent right away.
“She was sent to me from Edward Bing, the foremost voice teacher in Houston at the time, and immediately, it was apparent she was a multi-talented individual who was going to go far,” Foster says. “Our relationship has been very rewarding. She came back from Europe in 1983 to sing with Houston Grand Opera, and we have worked together ever since. My role is principally keeping her at her best.”
During her two years at Sam Houston, Holliday made an impression. In her freshman year, she sang lead in the musical comedy “Finian’s Rainbow” presented by the drama department. In her sophomore year, she performed the lead in “E Pagliacci” and also sang in the school’s first orchestra-accompanied opera concert.
When SHSU dedicated the University Theatre Center in 1976, she was invited back from Europe to give the opening address.
After just two years in Huntsville, Holliday finished her degree in opera at Indiana University, where she met her former husband, Thomas Holliday, a European baritone who first encouraged her to audition in Europe.
One of her first roles was as the lead soprano in Leonard Bernstein’s German version of “Candide.”
“I guess if I had not gone to Europe, I would have gone straight to Broadway,” she says. “But it was in the Vienna opportunity that I discovered my multi-talents in operetta — things I could do that I never knew existed.”
Operettas are “light operas” that combine elements of song, dance and stage presence. With her dancer’s background and her animated spirit, Holliday was a perfect fit.
“I do have an exciting life,” she says. “I have to admit, God had me fall off that horse, and looking back, God knew what he was doing.”
Holliday, who is currently sharing time between two continents, will perform Friday for the community she’s grown to love, and where she plans to retire someday, with a night of music at the Old Town Theater. Proceeds will benefit the Rita B. Huff Humane Society.
Foster’s wife and Holliday’s longtime friend, Jerry Lynn Foster, will accompany her on piano during “A Musical Journey from Vienna to Texas.”
“I never perform in the states without calling Jerry Lynn to see if she is available for me,” Holliday says. “And I don’t do any benefits normally. I’m a professional singer, and I guess that’s why I live in Europe, because it’s easier to make a living.
“I am an animal lover, though, and I had talked to some of my friends here about doing this, but when Hurricane Rita hit, I took the opportunity. When Rita hit, I was watching it every day on European news. I heard so many people and their pets were sent to Huntsville and Rita B. Huff was overflowing. Some of those pets were left behind. It was time to help if I could, and having Mrs. Foster here made it easier for me.”
In the two-month break from the international stage, Holliday will remain in Huntsville visiting friends and enjoying a little time to rest. After nearly 15 years as the house soprano for the Vienna Folks Opera in Austria, she now is a freelance singer, traveling to perform on request across the globe.
Her constant companion is Piccolina, a 13-year-old Shih Tzu who never leaves her side.
“I don’t know what I would do without her,” Holliday says, nuzzling her puppy who poses for the camera as if second nature. “She goes everywhere with me.”
Holliday and her pup travel all over the globe, including regular tours in Japan, where her New Year’s concerts have become a tradition. She is well known in the opera world as Adele in “Fiedermaus” and Hanna in “Merry Widow,” which she has performed at the Houston Grand Opera and the New York City Opera.
“You know, no matter where I’ve been or the successes I’ve had, there is always something to learn, and learning has kept me bright,” she says with wink. “For this concert, I have decided to do two pieces in English that I’ve never done in English before because I thought my audience would appreciate that.”
Friday’s concert will include Italian and French arias and selections from German operetta. Popular Broadway favorites, songs from “Cats,” “Evita,” and “My Fair Lady,” will round out the evening.
The concert will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. at the Old Town Theater. Tickets are $30 for main-level seating, $20 for balcony seating and students will receive $10 off any ticket amount.
Tickets are available at Elkins Lake Real Estate, (936) 295-8999, The Main Street office, (936) 291-5920, and the Rita B. Huff Animal Shelter, (936) 295-4666, through Friday.
Her energy is as high as her world renowned soprano.
- Ecstasy, marijuana found in traffic stop
- Large fight reported at Huntsville High School
- Suspects arrested with prescription cough syrup
- Police Blotter - 2/18
- Methamphetamine, weapon found during arrest near state park
- Credit card skimmer found on gas station pump
- Infant, two others seriously injured in major crash on I-45
- Methamphetamine, needles found during contact stop
- Police Blotter - 2/13
- Three vehicles targeted in weekend burglaries