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Opera singer remembers his Bessemer roots


April 6, 2019


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NEW YORK — Shortly before winning the 65th annual Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in New York City Sunday, the rising opera star fought to remain calm and control his breathing.

Miles Mykkanen, the 27-year-old tenor and Bessemer native, gathered his composure and walked through the darkness from his dressing room to the stage. On the way he felt something under his foot and said he heard a soft metallic sound. He reached down and found a bent nail, a sign of good luck for a performer.

“It was just this moment of clarity that I thought, ‘My gosh, this is exactly the path of my idol.’” Mykkanen said. “I’m in the same spaces as Luciano Pavarotti or Plácido Domingo.”

He took the stage and sang two arias — one in French, the other in Russian — clinching a spot on the winner’s platform and taking home $15,000.

He celebrated after winning the competition by going out to dinner with his coaches, a couple of close friends and his parents.

The support he felt from his parents in the ninth row while watching him perform was an experience he said he will never forget. He credits his parents for allowing him the opportunity to follow his dreams and for sitting through his multiple performances of “Phantom of the Opera” when he was 8.

Mykkanen said growing up in the western part of the Upper Peninsula molded him into who he is today. He admits living in New York City is exciting, but said he didn’t really appreciate the beauty of nature or the blissfulness of solitude until he moved away from home. Reminiscing about Lake Gogebic and hiking the falls of the Black River, he vowed to return soon.

“My grandfather always told me, ‘You can take the boy out of Bessemer, but you can’t take Bessemer out of the boy,’” he said.

With global performances scheduled into 2022, Mykkanen said it’s honoring and he often has to “pinch himself” to make sure he isn’t dreaming. At the same time, he realizes his career path is not “conventional” and requires a commitment.

He said people pay money to hear him sing and taking care of his voice, which use muscles that are about half the size of one’s smallest fingernail, is part of his job.

“For those to really work for me and to be able to project over a hundred piece orchestra into a hall of 4,000 deep,” he said, “I need to be in prime physical health.”

For now, Mykkanen said he wants to continue to concentrate on singing and performing, but like an athlete, “at some point (I) have to retire.”

“There’s always more that I want to do,” he said.


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