Ellen, is a contributor to our growing collection of recipes. While communicating with her online I had the suspicion she had an interesting story, a little birdie kept whispering in my ear, “There’s a story there.” I asked Ellen if I could interview her and I was right, she has a lovely story and she has a lovely talent!
Patti: Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?
Ellen: I grew up in a suburb of New York City.
Patti: At what age did music become an important part of your life?
Ellen: I started piano lessons at age 8 and loved listening to classical music. When I was 11 I decided I wanted to play an orchestral instrument, and began studying viola.
Patti: Did music inspire you to travel?
Ellen: I wouldn’t say that music inspired me to travel. I think music and travel are my two passions and that they complement each other. Most significantly, I began traveling with the Long Island Youth Orchestra when I was 15. For seven summers I traveled to (for example) China Japan, Nepal, South America, Australia, India and Africa. We traveled in a way that allowed us to experience new cultures; we stayed with local families whenever possible.
Patti: Your college years were spent at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Looking back, did your college years influence your eventual decision to live abroad?
Ellen: I’d always wanted to spend some time abroad, and was planning on spending my junior year of college abroad at the University’s exchange program in Vienna. Unfortunately, there were not enough applicants that year and the program was cancelled.
Patti: Tell us about your singing career with the Metropolitan Opera in New York? I must admit I know nothing about Opera, but I’ve listened to some of your excerpts and read your reviews and was quite impressed. What made you leave, what was clearly a passion of yours, to choose a career in law?
* To listen to Ellen’s sound clips: http://www.ellenrabiner.com/id5.html
Ellen: After my Master’s degree I didn’t have the best guidance on how to bridge the gap between student and professional and I knew there were no guarantees. I went to law school to have something to fall back on.
Patti: Life is really all about finding what fits best for each of us, isn’t it? You did return to your singing career, how did the return to music come about?
Ellen: While practicing law in Los Angeles I saw an advertisement for an opera competition and decided to see how my voice was holding up. I made the finals of that competition and met a teacher who urged me to get back into singing. A year later I left my law firm to attend the Music Academy of the West, a summer program. I spent the next year studying and auditioning and by the end of the year had my first Metropolitan Opera contract.
Patti: And now you’re living in Antalya, Turkey. What led you to the decision to settle in Antalya?
Ellen: Well, when I turned 50 my career dried up. Partly because the opera world was interested in a new generation of singers, and partly because the collapse of the economy led to the closing of opera companies everywhere.
I did have the Harvard Law degree to fall back on, but again the economy was not conducive to getting back into a field I’d been out of for 20 years. So I knew I had to move out of my expensive Manhattan apartment, and then it became the question of where to move to. It seemed this was the time to try living abroad. I was looking for someplace cheap and warm where English teachers were in demand. I wanted a totally new experience of language and culture, but I didn’t want an impossible task. (I didn’t think I could learn Chinese, or blend in with the Chinese population, for example.) When I saw a photo of Antalya something just clicked.
Patti: Did you find it an easy transition, moving to Antalya? What legal documents were required, visas etc.
Ellen: It was not too difficult. You get a visa at the airport and then must apply for a residence permit within 30 days. There are some technicalities, but anyone can do it.
Patti: How do you fill your days as an expat living in Antalya?
Ellen: Well, much of my time is taken with household chores I never did before, like hanging clothes to dry, or cooking dinner. In New York I’d drop off my laundry and pick up dinner! I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to learn Turkish. I’m generally quick with learning languages, but after 3 years I still struggle with this one. Other than that, I just enjoy the weather by reading at the beach or on my balcony. I also write a blog and give private English lessons.
Patti: Have you traveled to other parts of Turkey?
Ellen: Not as much as I’d like to. I’ve been to Istanbul and Cappadocia, and of course the sites in the region where I live, but I have a long wish list.
Patti: What would you say are the top 5 “must do/see” highlights of visiting Antalya? And, what’s next? Do you plan for the future or take one day at a time?
Ellen: Definitely one day at a time. I have no idea what’s next!
5 highlights of Antalya:
1. A boat trip from Kaleici’s harbor and a walk around Kaleici.
2. A day trip to an ancient site- Phaselis for ruins on the sea, or Termessos for ruins on a mountain top.
3. The Archeological Museum
4. Dinner at a restaurant in Ataturk Park with spectacular views of the Mediterranean and the Taurus Mountains
5. Konyaalti Beach
Patti: Thank you Ellen, not only for the interview but also for the recipe contributions. I look forward to following your journey and trying (and sharing) more of your delicious Turkish recipes! You can follow Ellen: http://www.elleninturkey.com/