Desperate housewife no more

From the Israeli Opera singer to home-maker to self-made artist, Nancy Vardi's career is only just taking off.

From the Israeli Opera singer to home-maker to self-made artist, Nancy Vardi's career is only just taking off Many of us walk around with unfulfilled dreams. We are torn between our commitments to the realities in our lives and the nagging of frustrated ambitions. That was the story of Nancy Vardi's life, until she finally allowed her dreams to materialize. "I always wanted to be a singer," says the Washington-born Vardi, who launched her singing career at age 15 in the operetta "The Gondoliers." But she wasn't sure that opera was her forte. After several gigs in clubs and bars across the US, she arrived in Israel in the mid 1970s and joined the Israeli Opera Company. Singing in the chorus, she found herself frequently shunted to the side by older, more experienced women singers. She couldn't understand why they kept pushing her. Some of the men in the company enlightened her. She was young, she was pretty and she had a good voice. To the divas she represented a threat. So they kept pushing her to the side to keep her out of the limelight. At that time elbows did more than vocal abilities to advance one's career in the opera. Vardi decided that this was not for her and sought a different path. While not abandoning her singing, she no longer made it her major career goal. She became a teacher, wife and mother. While engaged in these roles, she continued to develop her musical career, appeared as a soloist with the Kfar Saba Cameri Choir, and sang at various events whenever the opportunity presented itself. She even appeared in a Hanoch Levine play "Execution." And still she was not satisfied. She was craving something else, and she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was. While fulfilling her tasks as teacher, wife and mother, she was constantly disturbed by a voice inside her saying: "You can be an artist." Most of Vardi's dreams took place in her kitchen where she conceived her show: "My Broom and I." She would be making a sandwich or preparing soup and would inevitably get into conflict with the inner voice of the artist who wanted to come to the surface. "It was a little schizophrenic," she concedes in retrospect. For years she had wanted to participate in the annual Women's Festival, a week-long entertainment marathon held in Holon in celebration of International Women's Day. Each year she had seen the advertisement calling for fresh talent, and each year she had wanted to respond, but something had held her back. Last year, it almost happened again. She kept taking the advertisement to the bathroom and looking at it, willing herself to do something, but somehow rooted in her routine. This time something inside her snapped. She auditioned for the Women's Festival and was accepted. She was 56 years old, and this minor success completely blew her mind. "I had been putting my family's needs ahead of my own for so many years," she says, "and now it was my turn." She has applied to appear in the next Women's Festival and is waiting for a reply. Meanwhile she's going ahead with "My Broom and I" which she originally wrote in 1997, but which she keeps changing as situations change. "It's a very flexible text," she says. The text was written in Hebrew with the help of her director Kelly Roden, for whom she has the highest regard. "We have the same sort of compass. She is so attuned to what is false and what is true." The songs in the show - most of them hits from Broadway musicals - are sung in English. Accompanying her on the show are prize-winning mime artist Dani Aragon who originates from Argentina, pianist Igor Neimark from Russia and percussionist Rami Shuler. Vardi gets a lot of support from her husband Avri, a successful businessman who inspired by her quest, has embarked on of his own and has become a script writer. Also supportive is her son Matan, 20 who is serving in the Navy. Her daughter Yaara, 14, though a talented dancer, is not quite as supportive. She still wants her mother to be a mom and not an artist and would like to find her in the kitchen when she comes home from school. Vardi still spends a lot of time in the kitchen, but she no longer dreams about being an artist - she is one. Her message to anyone else with a creative spark is to continue to pursue the dream until it becomes a reality. "It's never too late," she says.