Artist Profile: Jane Hoffman

In this series, Artist Profiles, we invite you to get to know our artists beyond their bios and headshots. You may be surprised at what you learn...

How did you become involved in music? In singing? 

I always enjoyed singing from the time I was very little, especially singing along to endless Sesame Street tapes in the car, but I really started music when I started piano lessons in first grade. I sang songs with my piano teacher, but I didn't start taking real voice lessons until my junior year of high school. 

How long did you continue with piano lessons? Do you still play now?

I played piano from first grade through the beginning of high school, and then picked it up again in college and graduate school. Sadly, I currently don't have a piano, so I'd say that for right now my skills are pretty rusty. I'm planning on getting a keyboard soon, so I hope I will be able to start playing again. 

What to you do when you're not practicing and performing? 

I love food. I cook and bake a lot! In particular I love to bake pies and cakes. I'm constantly searching for a yellow cake recipe that will best the Duncan Hines, out-of-a-box stuff, but I haven't found one yet. I also recently started practicing yoga, which has benefited me as a singer and as a person. Finally, I live with a screenwriter, and so I am also a movie-lover myself. 

As a movie lover, what are two movies that you wish everyone would watch at least once and why? 

That's a tough question. I think if I could somehow get everyone to watch two movies, I'd want them to have something to say about being an artist and creating art, because these days that doesn't seem to get much attention in our world. The first film I would pick would be All About Eve, a classic film about the price of artistic success. It has classic performances from Bette Davis and Anne Baxter and tons witty banter. And my second choice would be Ed Wood, a surprisingly sweet film about a complete artistic failure. The titular character's passion and dedication are inspiring even though the film culminates with his direction of the so-called "worst film ever made," Plan 9 From Outer Space

What's on your playlist now? 

Recently I've been listening to a bunch of Tori Amos, because I'm a huge fan, and because her first major album Little Earthquakes is going to be rereleased in a new remastered deluxe version in about a month. I'm also waiting to receive my copy of Dorothea Röschmann's new CD, Female Portraits, which is all lieder, so I'm looking forward to listening to that. 

The book that made the biggest impact on your life and why?

This is an impossible question for me, because I read constantly! But if I was forced to choose, I would pick Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. It is the first piece of her writing that I read, and its power and beauty blew me away. 

Singers you look up to/admire? Can be classical or non-classical. 

The number one classical singer I look up to would have to be Maria Callas. She brought so much passion and musicality to everything she sang. She was also incredibly dedicated to her craft. I particularly appreciate that she was a very hard worker. Listening to the recordings of her Juilliard masterclasses (they're on YouTube!), you can tell how focused she was on perfecting every detail of the music, and on giving every single note a purpose. 

First aria/role that comes to mind when you think of Callas? 

The role that comes to mind immediately is Violetta in La Traviata. I think Callas had a particular gift for Italian repertoire and for breathing life into characters that could easily become doormats or harridans, and this particular role is one on which she left an indelible mark. The really interesting thing is that so many of Callas's great recordings happened to be recorded live in mono. The sound quality takes some getting used to for my ears, but her performances are so electric that they are a treat to listen to.

Any particular recordings of Callas you'd recommend?

The 1955 La Scala recording of Traviata is totally engrossing even though it is only an audio recording. Her performance is so vivid that you can imagine everything she is doing on stage. It's also delightful to hear the audience in this live recording go totally wild for her!

What was the most challenging music or role that you ever tackled and why?

I think that the most challenging piece of music I have ever learned was the Fancy Aria ("Fancy! Fancy being rich, fancy being lovely!") from Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès. I was assigned this aria, sung by the Waitress as she prepares for the Duchess's lavish wedding, when I was part of a contemporary opera scenes class in graduate school. It is an incredible piece, with so many beautiful textures that easily convey the envy and bitterness of the character. However, it is also extremely complex and it was also a huge challenge for me to learn. I really felt as though I might never learn all the notes and rhythms well enough to sing in public! After putting in many hours in the practice room, I did learn it and I did perform it. Now that a few years have gone by I'm proud to say that I have performed pieces that are more complex than this one, but this was my first real taste of contemporary opera, and that makes it particularly special for me. I hope I'll get to perform it again, but first I'll have to find a really fearless pianist to learn it!

Biggest pet-peeve?

Slow walkers on New York sidewalks drive me crazy. I am that jerk who likes to speed-walk everywhere!

What's something you can't live without?

Coffee. Tons of it!

If you could go back in time 5 years ago and give yourself some advice, what would you say?

I think I would tell myself to stop and think more often, and to enjoy the present instead of constantly rushing to get to where I wanted to be. I look back now and realized how much I was frantically trying to skip ahead to some point in the future. Not only is that not possible, I think it prevents you from making real progress. I could definitely have spent more time smelling the proverbial roses. 

photo credit Michael Pollack

photo credit Michael Pollack

Learn more:

Soprano Jane Hoffman sings selections in Project 2 as La Fée (Cendrillon) and L'Ensoleillad (Chérubin). Jane is originally from Pasadena, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. She has performed several operatic roles such as Blondchen (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Frasquita (Carmen) and Olympia (Tales of Hoffmann). In concert she has performed solos from works such as Couperin’s Leçons de Ténèbre, Mozart’s Mass in C Major (K220), and Bach’s cantatas BWV 140 (“Wachet auf”) and BWV 202 (“Weichet nur”). 

In 2015, she appeared in Pasadena Opera’s first production of Candide. In the fall of 2014, she performed in a concert showcasing the winners of the Fresh Squeezed Opera Company’s first composition competition for works composed in the last decade. In 2013 she played the Queen of the Night in Amore Opera’s Magic Flute In Brief, a 90 minute family-friendly version of Mozart’s opera. That year she also joined the outreach program Young At Arts in their spring production of Benjamin Britten’s The Little Sweep. In the fall of 2012 she participated in the world premiere of 7 [Seven], a multimedia dance piece which explores the seven deadly sins, as part of the opening of the LaGuardia Performing Art Center’s 2012-2013 season. She sang with Satori Opera in 2011 as Oberto in Handel’s Alcina. She participated in the Seattle Academy of Opera’s Accademia d’Amore in 2009, where she played Diane in scenes from M.A. Charpentier’s Actéon with a period chamber ensemble.

She received her Masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music, where she sang the role of Daniel in the New York premiere production of Handel’s Susannah conducted by Kenneth Cooper. She also co-wrote & performed in MSM’s outreach group Discover Opera!, which tours a 40 minute mini-opera/musical designed to educate local school children of all ages about classical music and singing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, where she was the soprano soloist in Mozart’s Missa Brevis in C with the Sarah Lawrence Orchestra. 

She currently lives in Manhattan, and is a student of David Jones.