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Mahwah’s Professional Opera Singer Recalls Big Break

Richard Bernstein of Mahwah is a full-time singer with the Metropolitan Opera.
Richard Bernstein of Mahwah is a full-time singer with the Metropolitan Opera. Photo Credit: Jonathan Tichler

MAHWAH, N.J. – Like so many Bergen County residents, Richard Bernstein of Mahwah makes the regular commute into New York City.

But unlike many of his fellow commuters, Bernstein’s “office” doesn’t have a desk, or even a computer. Instead, his destination is the stage.

Bernstein is a full-time singer with the famed Metropolitan Opera.

“I love being on stage. I love becoming another character. Of course, I love the music,” Bernstein, who has been with the MET for 22 seasons, told Daily Voice this week as he made his commute.

From his Mahwah home, it can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic, he said. But it’s worth it.

“I love Mahwah,” he said. Bernstein said he grew up in New York, and lived in Wyckoff before moving to Mahwah about five years ago.

He got his big break while he was a student on scholarship at the University of Southern California.

He competed in the City of Los Angeles Artist of the Future competition, and came out on top. Then about two months later, he got a phone call from one of the judges who also happened to be the general director of the LA Opera.

“He was pleased with my voice,” Bernstein said. “That was my audition.”

“I was very, very lucky,” he said. Bernstein ended up doing hundreds of performances with the LA Opera.

Now, as a full-time Bass with the MET, he is involved in between six and 10 operas a year, he said.

This weekend, Bernstein will be performing closer to home, courtesy of the MET. He is taking part in the Sunday Afternoon Concert Series presented by the New Friends of the Oakland Public Library. Along with Soprano Korliss Uecker, he will perform arias and duets from the operatic canon. Elizabeth Martyn will join them on the grand piano for the “Opera Matinee.”

The concert will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 19, in the sanctuary of the Presbyterian Church of New Jersey, 222 Ramapo Valley Road, Oakland. It is free, but donations are being accepted.

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