Homeless woman who went viral for singing opera in LA subway speaks out

Words: Kelly Woo

A homeless woman in Los Angeles, California in the US has become a social media sensation for beautifully singing opera in a underground railway station.

Local news channels identified the woman as Emily Zamourka, 52, a classically trained violinist who immigrated from Russia 28 years ago. Exorbitant medical bills forced her onto the street, where she began performing to earn money.

Last Thursday, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) tweeted a video of Zamourka belting out Puccini’s ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ on at the Normandie/Wilshire Metro stop in LA’s Koreatown.

“Four million people call LA home. Four million stories. Four million voices...sometimes you just have to stop and listen to one, to hear something beautiful,” the LAPD wrote.

The video went viral, causing Twitter users to clamour for Zamourka’s identity and send local reporters to seek her out.

Emily Zamourka was spotted performing at an underground metro station. [Photo: GoFundMe]


Zamourka came to the United States at the age of 24 and taught violin and piano lessons. She also used to play on the street in downtown Los Angeles before her instrument was stolen. Then, she suffered illnesses and the medical bills piled up.

"That's when I became homeless. When I could not actually pay any of my bills and could not pay anymore of my rent," she told ABC7.

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"I am sleeping actually on the cardboard right now, in the parking lot," she continued. "I am sleeping where I can sleep... I have people that feel sorry for me, but I don't want to be a burden to anybody."

While her violin was stolen, Zamourka could still rely on her gorgeous vocal instrument and she’s been enthralling L.A. subway riders for years.

As she explained to NBC News, “You know why I do it in the subway? Because it sounds so great.”

One Twitter user wrote, “I’ve seen her for years on the Metro. I heard her once singing ‘Ave Maria’ and thought it was a radio at first. Everyone has a story...this woman does too. I don’t know why she’s been homeless all these years, but she’s a human being...that’s all that matters.”

In the wake of her social media stardom, a GoFundMe page has been launched to help Zamourka.

"I will be so grateful to anyone who is trying to help me to get off the streets, and to have my own place, to have my instrument," she said.