Last Saturday, the recital hall of Brooks-Rogers resonated with the passionate, mournful and exuberant sounds of Elaina Pullano ’15. For her junior voice recital, Pullano successfully navigated an array of complex classical songs in German, French and English, revealing the culmination of years of training. Prior to her concert, I sat down with Pullano and discussed her ongoing career as a vocalist and performer.
Pullano grew up in Dalton, Mass., which is some 30 minutes away from the College. Before she began training as a vocalist, Pullano played the piano and decided to join the chorus in the fifth grade. She received a solo for her first concert but that performance did not go as well as her most recent one did. “When I had my solo, I messed up the words and my teacher told my parents that I had a beautiful voice, but was too shy,” Pullano said. Her teacher recommended she take voice lessons, and specifically suggested her to retired Canadian opera singer, Claude Corbeil, who remains a great inspiration. Corbeil fostered an emotional appreciation for classical and operatic songs in her and motivated Pullano to continue her vocal work.
Pullano has won many prizes and honors in her lifetime. At age 15, she won the Berkshire Lyric Youth Artist Competition, and went on to win the Berkshire Merit Competition three times at ages 15, 16 and 17. She earned a spot at the Massachusetts All State Choir all four years of high school, and in her senior year she was accepted into the All-Eastern Choir. Elaina was also one of 14 singers chosen for Classical Idol, a national competition for classical singers. These honors are only a small snapshot of her more than impressive career.
Her art in general is somewhat foreign to the average person – quite literally, as her songs are in foreign languages. “It’s a little harder to convey emotion when [singing in a different language]. It requires a deeper reading into the lyrics and you have to find the exact meaning of the words,” Pullano explained. She has had some lessons in French and Italian, studying last summer in Tuscany with the Oberlin Conservatory. She plans to expand her understanding of German in Salzburg, Austria, with the University of Miami Frost School of Music.
“I start off the concert [with a Mahler piece] because it’s vocally taxing and also more emotionally strong,” Pullano said. “And then I finish with English to lighten the mood, and people enjoy it because they understand the words better.” The only accompaniment needed for Elaina’s flowing voice is Robin Kibler on the piano. Kibler is the wife of one of her teachers, Keith Kibler, and Pullano and the Kiblers have had a professional relationship for four years. “Robin knows when I breathe or when I’m relaxing. It’s great to have a teacher who knows you so well,” Pullano said of their relationship.
At Saturday’s recital, Pullano’s first cycle in German was a haunting, beautiful mix of songs. Next came a set in French, which had a lighter and more flowing tone. She then concluded with an arrangement of English folk songs that were more recognizable to the average person, and that hit the final uplifting tone that Pullano was looking for. She then came back smiling for an encore, singing the famous “Habanera” from the opera Carmen, and evoking some giggling from the crowd. Overall, it was an impressive performance, showcasing the wide range of Pullano’s voice, language skills and emotion.
Pullano is a biology and music major here at the College, and she plans to attend dental school after she graduates next year, but hopes to continue being involved in music in some way.
She finishes with the thought that singing “is an ephemeral thing. You can hear it but you’ll never get it back, even if you record it. It contains something of you, which you can only hear briefly.” I suggest you take the chance to hear Pullano’s voice before she, too, moves on.