First Turk in the Metropolitan Opera: Bengi Mayone

On the cover of Art and Entertainment section of The Palm Beach Post Newspaper, published in Florida last August, there is an opera singer smiling in her red night gown. Her name is Bengi Mayone. The news article is about her successful track record in the Palm Beach Opera in Miami.
Joseph Barnett, President of the opera, joins her colleagues in describing Bengi as a “hardworking, respectable artist who has a long successful career ahead.”

Bengi Mayone (at left)

The main subject of the article, however, is the new career path Bengi has taken: She signed a contract with the prominent Metropolitan Opera in New York. We need to continue what The Palm Beach Post article started. The 28-year old soprano is the first Turk serving at the Metropolitan Opera. When her seven-month contract expires, she will either continue her career in New York or in Philadelphia.

Bengi gained broad onstage experience during her studies at the Mimar Sinan Conservatory in Turkey. During early years of her studies, she was exposed to a wide range of performances, thanks to her ability to play fagotto, an instrument that most musicians do not fancy.  She took part in Abdulcanbaz, written by Timur Selçuk and directed by Kenan Işık. She also played at the Akbank Jazz Festival.

After coming to Florida in 1997, Bengi had hard times. She worked in different jobs- as a waitress, a lawyer’s assistant, and a teacher to name a few. Between her first appearance at the Palm Beach Opera and her first solo performance, she worked really hard, as a hostess in restaurant or a lawyer’s secretary during the days and as an opera singer at nights. She briefly taught music to eighth-graders at the Pine Crest School in Boca Raton. At New World School of the Arts, where she enrolled to improve herself, she started teaching at the end of her first year. “They told me that I was too good to study there and asked me to teach,” says Bengi.

Last April, Bengi’s voice caught Lenore Rosenberg’s attention during a contest in Florida. Rosenberg, an art director at the New York Metropolitan Opera, made an offer to Bengi, who agreed to move to New York with Nick Incarnato, a tenor and her fiancé.

When we first met with Bengi, her suitcase caught our attention. We then learned that the suitcase is actually an extensive archive, featuring photographs, invitations, announcements and choir lists since the first day of her career. Bengi is so keen about the milestones of her career that she even kept a photocopy of a $50 check, her first income in the US as well as concert posters she designed at Mimar Sinan University.

Bengi’s received her current last name Mayone from her old friend ex-husband, who actually caused her to come to this country in the first place. Since her own last name, Taşcı, is hard to pronounce, she kept Mayone.

During our interview, Bengi seems like a super-enthusiastic, down-to-earth and ambitious artist. She describes her motto as “We should not underestimate ourselves and be determined for success. If you don’t trust yourself, no one will help you.”

To those who aspire to become opera artists, Bengi recommends achieving big accomplishments in small states. New York is under the spotlight of the whole world, so it’s harder to prove yourself here.”

Bengi believes that conservatory education in Turkey has a higher standard than in the U.S.: “They don’t teach YYYY here. They teach you how to sing it.” She believes that vocal education must be emphasized in Turkey. Bengi also doesn’t accept the argument that opera singers are chubby, ugly or that they don’t look after themselves: “An opera singer must be as careful with herself as a pop singer. A pop singer can save the day with physical beauty even if she doesn’t have a great voice, but an opera singer cannot do the same.”

Bengi argues that government support for opera and other arts at the national and local level helps artists financially. However, there’s no government support for art or the artist in the U.S. During summer months, when the performance season is in recess, the artists have to find other sources of income.
Bengi Mayone currently appears in Frau Ohne Schatten, Nozze Di Figaro, Rossignol, Rheingold and Götterdämmerung at the Metropolitan Opera.
(11th Issue, February 2004, Cover)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07