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Comparative Literature

Margaret L. Meyer ’05

Opera Singer

When I came to Princeton, I was intent upon a career in opera. I focused on the comparative literature department as a freshman, and ultimately chose it as a major, because I thought that it would provide me with the language skills I needed as an opera singer as well as the broad educational experience that I wanted from my college years. It proved to be an excellent decision and, as is often the case, for reasons about which I had no idea at the time. The rewards of being a comp lit major went far beyond anything that I had imagined.

In the context of the comparative literature program, I was able to study French and German both at Princeton and abroad. I also was able to indulge in a wide variety of interests, many of which were not literary. However, the best thing about being a comp lit major was the degree to which it gave me freedom to shape both my departmental and my independent work. The department both allowed and encouraged me to look at the interaction between music and literature, which helped me to explore the philosophical and aesthetic reasoning behind why I loved opera so much and why being an opera singer was a worthwhile and wonderful way to spend my life. 

Armed with these discoveries about myself and my field, I entered the world of music, first obtaining a master’s in vocal performance at McGill University in Montreal and then heading to New York City to stake my place in the world of opera. My studies in comparative literature have given me a huge advantage in being able to understand and analyze the works that I sing. However, they have also given me the strength to understand why I want to pursue this difficult career. 

The life of a singer has moments of incredible exhilaration. This January, I was able to sing selections from Mozart’s “Mass in C minor” in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, the site of Mozart’s wedding and funeral. It was awe-inspiring. On the other hand, there is a lot of uncertainty and soul-searching involved in any performance career. I don’t think that I could have faced these times without my work at Princeton, where I explored why being a singer is an important and necessary contribution to the world. I will always be grateful to the comparative literature department’s support for my ideas and my dreams.