Naomi Lewin, WQXR Host
Naomi Lewin is the weekend host on WQXR, and host of the weekly podcast Conducting Business.
When Sharleen Joynt, a coloratura soprano from Canada, was selected to be a contestant on ABC's reality dating show “The Bachelor," she knew it had the potential to be more bizarre than many opera plots. One of the show’s pivotal scenes, after all, has her stepping out of a limousine, dressed to the nines, to meet someone who ostensibly could propose to her within a few weeks.
But, as she discusses on this edition of Conducting Business, there was a “fear of missing out” when the opportunity arose. "You know it's once-in-a-lifetime even if it's not highbrow once-in-a-lifetime."
Joynt was among 27 women selected to move into a mansion and gear up to attract Juan Pablo Galavis, the titular bachelor of the show. She stayed through seven episodes before deciding he wasn't for her and – uncharacteristically for a contestant – left of her own accord.
Besides being surreal – with cameras trailing her at every waking moment – the experience pointed to larger questions of how pop culture visibility can impact a career that's usually considered highbrow. And it illustrates the difficulties a young singer faces in balancing an all-consuming profession with extracurricular interests and a personal life.
Anne Midgette, classical music critic of the Washington Post, is among many observers who suggested that Joynt didn't fit the typical profile of the show's characters. “She seems to have made a splash on ‘The Bachelor’ by being kind of genuine and maintaining her dignity,” said Midgette, who recently wrote about Joynt. “She certainly didn’t hurt her career with the way she behaved on the show. She appears to have been completely dignified throughout.”
"Taking a larger view of it, there are worse things in the world than getting a little mainstream exposure for the opera world,” Midgette added.
But Midgette also thinks the singer may be viewed suspiciously by some casting directors and agents. Despite the fact that Joynt is currently an understudy at the Metropolitan Opera, and studied at the Mannes College of Music, Midgette notes that she was turned down for an audition at one “B-level American house” on the grounds that she was too “junior league.” Says Joynt, "I think that the opera world is very wary of me at the moment. It's not easy. Everything I've done so far in my life has been for [my opera career].”
Joynt describes how she has sought to keep her opera career separate from the show, which was largely necessary during the filming itself. "When you're in 'The Bachelor' mansion, you're drinking a lot and staying up late a lot," she said. A few times she practiced in a bathroom with the door locked and the blinds shut. "Basically, I tried to keep it private, but it's really hard."
The producers, however, wanted her to spotlight her singing. “I was like, 'I don't want to sing in interviews.' I was like, 'I'm not singing when I get out of the limo,'" said Joynt. (She did eventually sing a few bars in one scene, as Juan Pablo "wasn't taking no for an answer.")
Would she do it again?
"I would be lying if I said I didn't have moments where I said, 'maybe this was a huge mistake.' But it was a fun experience. I'm a 29-year-old girl. And honestly, the people I met were the best part – the girls in the house, the producers – many of whom I consider friends now. I only have good things to say about it overall."
Listen to the full segment above and please share your reactions in the comments box below.