Tag Archives: Arizona Opera

Young artists win Arizona competition

L to R: Kresley Figueroa, Aubrey Ares and Sarah Ambrose won this year’s Arizona Young Artists’ Competition (Photo: Apatrou Photography)

I’m told there’s rarely a shortage of entries in the vocal category when the Arizona Young Artists’ Competition hits the Herberger Theater Center each year. But at least one vocalist found a way to truly stand out. She sang opera.

Kresley Figueroa, who won the 2012 AYAC vocal competition, was singing in community theater productions by age nine, and recalls starting “formal vocal training” at the age of ten. The saw her first opera, performed by the Sante Fe Opera, around the same time.

It didn’t wow her, she recalls, because the opera featured mostly men. And frankly, the tremendous power of their voices felt a little scary at the time. But other operas — performed by The Metropolitan Opera in NYC, the Arizona Opera in Phoenix and students at Northern Arizona University — tugged at her heart.

Figueroa, now a 15-year-old sophomore at Flagstaff High School, has studied vocal performance for about five years with Deborah Raymond, associate professor of voice at the NAU School of Music.

Kresley Figueroa of Flagstaff, who won the 2012 AYAC vocal competition

Figueroa takes lessons with Raymond once a week or so, but also participates “every few weeks” in a pre-college program at Juilliard in NYC for those who’ve got the potential to pursue professional careers in music.

When in NYC, Figueroa also studies with Adam Guettel, whose work on “The Light in the Piazza” earned him two Tony Awards — one for best score, and another for best orchestrations. Seems his family, including grandfather Richard Rodgers and mother Mary Rodgers, had a thing for music too.

Figueroa is generous about sharing tips with other young vocalists. Find someone you work well with, she says. And be sure there’s plenty of mutual respect. Above all, choose someone you trust — because “your voice is a fragile thing.” But study with others teachers too, suggests Figueroa. It’s good to get out there and work with more than one director.

Beware of trying to sound too old, vocally or emotionally, cautions Figueroa. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” The voice is constantly developing, she says, so it needs consistent attention over time.

Figueroa plans four years of study in a college or conservatory setting once she graduates in 2014 — plus graduate studies that’ll continue to hone her vocal performance. There’s little opportunity to experience arts at the local high school, says Figueroa. But she finds what she needs elsewhere.

She’s already taken two semesters of opera history at Northern Arizona University, and says she does a lot of reading on her own about opera and related topics — often tied to pieces she’s working to master.

Her advice to those who feel intimidated or turned off by opera is simple. Just try it. “Just experience it,” says Figueroa. Don’t worry about doing tons of homework ahead of time. It’s perfectly fine to go in completely blind. If something moves you, you can always go back and try to make sense of the pieces that didn’t click.

Folks wary of opera because they expect a stuffy atmosphere full of dressed-up patrons have another option — seeing simulcast or filmed opera performances in movie theaters and performing arts venues. Mixing opera with popcorn helps vanquish outdated stereotypes, so Figueroa’s all for it.

Figueroa’s first place finish earned her a $1,000 scholarship. Scholarhips were also awarded to Sarah Ambrose for first place in acting and Aubrey Ares for first place in dance.

Three AYAC people’s choice winners were also recognized this year — Logan Mitchell for voice, Sarah Ambrose for acting and Tori Mazzacone for dance. All competitors were between 15 and 19 years old.

The Arizona Young Artists’ Competition is a collaboration between Herberger Theater Center and Center Dance Ensemble designed to “showcase the diverse and emerging talent of young Arizona artists.”

Click here to learn more about visual and performing arts presented at Herberger Theater Center, and here to sign up for their newsletter so you’ll be among the first to learn about next year’s call for AYAC entries.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about Arizona Opera programs for youth, and here for information on Phoenix Opera

Coming up: Blog meets casserole?


Romeo, Romeo…

A scene from "Romeo and Juliet" performed in 2011 at the Utah Shakespeare Festival (Photo: Karl Hugh). View their current season at http://www.bard.org.

A pair of “Romeo and Juliet” productions come to Valley stages during the 2012/13 season, so those of you who’ve enjoyed one or more of this season’s theater productions featuring star-crossed lovers ala Shakespeare can now experience its grandeur as a work of opera or ballet.

Ballet Arizona presents “Romeo and Juliet” featuring music by Sergei Prokofiev and choreography by artistic director Ib Andersen Feb. 14-17, 2013. Those of you who insist it’s far too early to think of such things should recall just how recently we seemed to be celebrating New Year’s Eve. Time moves quickly, especially in matters of the heart.

Arizona Opera presents “Roméo et Juliette,” written by Charles Gounod, Nov. 16-18. The Arizona Opera production, sung in French with English subtitles, features lyric soprano Jennifer Black of the Metropolitan Opera performing the aria “Je veux vivre.” Talk about a moment.

Love fares no better in most works of opera, which is part of their appeal for those dashed in everyday life by similar dreams and disappointments. Arizona Opera opens its 2012/13 season with another tale of tragic romance set against feuding family — performing Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” Oct. 12-14. Think Scottish moor instead of Italian piazza.

Ballet Arizona opens its 2012/13 season with “Giselle,” composed by Adolphe Adam and choreographed by Ib Andersen, Nov. 1-4. It’s one of four works being performed with The Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall. Others include “The Nutcracker” (music by Prokofiev, choreography by Andersen) Dec. 7-24 and “All Balanchine” May 2-5, 2013 (featuring “Serenade,” “Monumentum pro Gesualdo”/”Movements for Piano and Orchestra” and “Western Symphony”).

Ballet Arizona’s 2012/13 season also includes “Director’s Choice” — being performed March 28-31, 2013 at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix — which features “Le Carnival des Animaux” by Alexai Ratmansky (an Arizona premiere), “Diversions” by Ib Andersen and “Untitled” by Alejandro Cerrudo (a world premiere).

Arizona Opera’s 2012/13 season features Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca,” in which passionate diva meets political dissident, being performed in Italian with English subtitles Jan. 25-27. Also Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Tavatore” (Italian with English subtitles) March 1-3. And Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figero” (Italian with English subtitles) April 5-7.

No worries, by the way, if your Italian feels a bit rusty. If the rest of America can keep up with the Kardashians, you can keep up with a romance language or two. A quick click here will direct you to Arizona Opera offerings from composer bios and opera synopses to tips for first-time opera-goers — plus special programs for youth and adults.

Click here and you can explore education and outreach offerings from Ballet Arizona. Both companies, by the way, are readying for moves to new homes that’ll give them more space for both the artistic and administration elements of their work.

They’re also performing pieces to round out the 2011/12 season — including “Director’s Choice” (March 29-April 1) at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix plus “Topia” (May 2-26) at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix for Ballet Arizona — and “Aida” (March 9-11) and “Orfeo ed Euridice” (April 13-15) for Arizona Opera.

— Lynn

Note: Additional information about performance locations (including Tucson venues/dates) are available at each company’s website. Click here to learn about tonight’s special “season reveal” event at Theater Works in Peoria, and here to explore 12 works featured in the 2012/13 “Live in HD” season from the Metropolitan Opera.

Coming up: Doing time

From mariachi to honky tonks

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The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix celebrates 100 years of Arizona music with an exhibit titled “I Am AZ Music” — which opens on Sat, Feb. 18 with a full slate of events and runs through Jan. 6, 2013. Admission to the exhibit, located inside the museum’s United States/Canada Gallery, is free with museum admission.

Several performing arts groups are featured in the exhibit — including the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, which gave its inaugural performance in 1929. Also Phoenix Symphony (founded in 1947), Arizona Opera (founded in 1972 as Tucson Opera Company), Ballet Arizona (founded in 1986) and Phoenix Opera (founded in 2005).

Turns out Arizona’s diverse musical roots include cowboy poets and cowgirl singers. Youth mariachi groups and the father of Chicano music. Funky Broadway and choral tunes. Even skate punk and alternative rock. We’ve even got two state anthems, adopted by the Arizona legislature in 1919 and 1982, so we might be due for a third come mid-century.

Plenty of famous musicians were born in Arizona — or based here when they started out or made it big. Seems Buck Owens was playing honky tonks around Mesa in 1945 and the Earwigs gave their debut performance at Phoenix’s Cortez High School talent show in 1964. The latter, of course, became the Spiders, the Nazz and Alice Cooper.

Waylon Jennings was based in Phoenix when he signed with RCA records, as was Wayne Newton when he launched his singing career at Fremont Casino in Las Vegas. The Tempe-based Gin Blossoms released their first full length album, “Dusted,” in 1989 — two years after Tucson-born Linda Rondstadt released the album “Canciones de mi Padre.”

The world can thank us as well for alternative rock bands sporting names like “Meat Puppets” (they started in Phoenix in 1980) and “Jimmy Eat World” (they lived in Mesa when their debut album was released in 1994). Phoenix-born Stevie Nicks as inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and Glendale-born Jordin Sparks won “American Idol” in 2007.

The “I Am AZ Music” exhibit includes displays dedicated to Native American music and music rooted in Latino culture. Folks exploring this and other MIM exhibits can wear a device that plays corresponding music prompted by one’s proximity to each exhibit, making for a multi-sensory experience without all the fuss of turning something on and off.

Those who attend the public opening and celebration (Sat, Feb 18 from 10am-5pm) can enjoy the “I Am AZ Music” exhibit, explore the MIM’s many galleries and enjoy several special activities — including musical performances, lecture/demonstrations, a curator-guided tour of “I Am AZ Music” (1:30pm) and more. Details and times are available online at www.themim.org.

— Lynn

Coming up: A double dose of Dorothy

Aria meets artwork

I spied works by students from Summit High School during a recent visit to the Arizona State Capitol. They were created in partnership with Arizona Opera’s education program, and are being exhibited through Young Arts Arizona. The exhibit is supported by the Arizona Commission on the Arts with funding from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Young Arts Arizona is a community-based organization that publicly exhibits children’s art, and has a special interest in supporting at-risk youth. They currently receive artwork from 49 schools and 31 agenices — which they exhibit throughout Tucson and the metro Phoenix area.

The Legislative Hallway Gallery at the Arizona State Capitol is one of several permanent galleries featuring Young Arts collections. Symphony Hall, Valley Youth Theatre, Cardon Children’s Medical Center and plenty of additional venues also exhibit works created through Young Arts partnerships.

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Young Arts Arizona produces more than 70 public exhibits of children’s artwork each year — some within their own Phoenix gallery, called “Purple Space,” which participates in the “First Friday” program. They’ve also got an online gallery. Many of the opera-inspired works I enjoyed at the Arizona State Capitol on Thursday had a “Phantom of the Opera” or “Madama Butterfly” theme.

The Arizona Opera production of “Madama Butterfly” runs Jan. 27-29 in Phoenix. Five-year-old Alexander King of Chandler and six-year-old Andrew Baiamonte of Phoenix will play the role of Madama Butterfly’s son “Sorrow.”

Arizona Opera recently announced its 2012/13 season — which they’ve dubbed “The Price of Passion.” It features five works that’ll be performed in both Tucson and Phoenix, including “Lucia di Lammermoor,” “Romeo et Juliette,” “Tosca,” “Il Trovatore,” and “The Marriage of Figaro.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Young Arts Arizona and here to learn more about Arizona Opera.

Coming up: Student art inspired by MLK

Sounds of the season

Guitar ornaments from the Museum Shop at the Musical Instrument Museum

My search for concerts with a holiday theme began at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, where I recently spotted a festive collection of ornaments with a music vibe. Here’s a nifty summary, provided by the MIM, of their holiday concert offerings — always check before going to confirm details…

December 3, Saturday

Museum Encounter: Holiday Favorites with the Desert Echoes Flute Project. 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Main Courtyard. Get in the holiday mood as this 22-member ensemble performs holiday favorites with flutes of all shapes and sizes. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

Concert: Deck the Halls – Family Holiday Classics with the Phoenix Opera. 2:30 p.m., MIM Music Theater. Holiday songs enchant even the youngest listener. Revel in the beauty of “O Holy Night,” sing along with “Jingle Bells,” and even meet Santa as you and your family celebrate the season with the Phoenix Opera and the Phoenix Opera Orchestra. Tickets: $25 (includes dessert). 

Concert: Hallelujah! Joys of the Season with the Phoenix Opera. 7:00 p.m., MIM Music Theater. Phoenix Opera and the Phoenix Opera Orchestra present a tribute to the holidays, featuring highlights from the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah as well as traditional and international holiday gems. Tickets: $35. 

December 4, Sunday 

Museum Encounter: Bartholomew Faire and Stories of the Yuletide. 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., Main Courtyard. Hear the ancient musical roots of our holiday traditions with Bartholomew Faire and ancient Welsh, Irish, and German poems and stories selected for the yuletide. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

Museum Encounter: James Gerber and Holiday Favorites on the Rathke Organ. 2:00 p.m., Alcove 3. Join James Gerber, one of MIM’s own, to celebrate the season with a performance of holiday favorites on the Rathke “Visible” Organ. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

December 10, Saturday  

Museum Encounter: Bells of Paradise. 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., North El Río. The entire family will enjoy this five-octave, 15-member handbell and chime choir from Paradise Valley United Methodist Church. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

Museum Encounter: Dickens Carolers. 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. A quartet dressed in Victorian-era attire will delight the audience with four-part holiday songs. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

December 11, Sunday 

Museum Encounter: Chai Tones Klezmer. 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Main Courtyard. Although their specialty is klezmer―the heart and soul of their Jewish roots―the musicians of the Chai Tones also incorporate jazz, country and western, baroque, and Irish jigs into their music. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

Museum Encounter: Arizona Opera and the Gift of Music. 12:30 and 3:00 p.m., Alcove 1. Four talented singers from the Arizona Opera Singer Circle will perform a celebration of songs that embraces the spirit of the season. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

December 17, Saturday 

Concert: Jazz Holiday Celebration. 7:00 p.m., MIM Music Theater. Don’t miss this continuing winter tradition at MIM! Special guests join forces with the “who’s who” of local Valley talent for a jazzy evening of winter and holiday favorites from around the world. Tickets: $25. 

December 30, Friday 

Celebrate with SOUND! Noisemakers for New Year’s Eve. 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Get ready to party! Make a fun, festive and noisy instrument to welcome the New Year. We provide the materials, instructions, and guidance–you provide the music! Tickets: $2 per craft with museum admission.

For a comprehensive calendar of events for families, consult Raising Arizona Kids magazine in print and online.


Coming up: Fun with holiday ornaments, Guitar tales, Giving thanks for veterans, More Christmas concert fare, “Munchkin” tales

Opera alert!

Opera is best viewed from furniture like this offering from the Diary of a Smart Chick website

I had a lovely time watching an opera one Sunday morning from the comfort of my couch. Looks like I’ll have another opportunity this weekend as Eight, Arizona PBS airs a Metropolitan Opera performance of “Il Trovatore,” Verdi’s tale of two brothers wooing the same woman.

When I’m ready to make the move from couch to cinema, I can head to the UltraLuxe Scottsdale Cinemas (located at The Pavilions at Talking Stick) for Opera Australia performances of works that include “Rigoletto” (your last chance is Thurs, Aug 25 at 7pm), “Mikado” (Sept), “”Der Rosenkavalier” (Oct) and “La Boheme” (Nov).

The Elixer of Love performed by San Francisco Opera

Or I can drive up the road to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to enjoy a bit of their “Grand Opera Cinema Series,” featuring works performed by the San Francisco Opera. First up is “The Elixer of Love” on Oct 26 — then “Tosca” (Jan), “Lucia di Lammermoor” (March) and “La boheme” (June).

Broadway aficianados know that the musical “Rent” is based on the “La Boheme” story, making this a “must see” opera for musical theater fans. The “Opera in Cinema” series at select Harkins Theatres includes a live simulcast production of “La Boheme” in March.

Other “Opera in Cinema” offerings this season include “Faust” (Sept), “Don Giovanni” (Dec) and “Rigoletto” (April). There’s also a “Ballet in Cinema” series — with titles that include “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Coppelia,” “Swan Lake” and more.

Madama Butterfly is one of five offerings in the Arizona Opera 2011-12 season

There’s no substitute for the experience of live opera and Valley families have several options, including performances by Arizona Opera and Phoenix Opera — as well as university opera programs like Lyric Opera Theatre at ASU in Tempe.

Arizona Opera, which performs in both Phoenix and Tucson, opens its 2011-12 season in October with two offerings — “Cavalleria Rustica” and “Pagliacci.” Other season selections include “Faust” (Nov), “Madama Butterfly” (Jan/Feb), “Aida” (March) and “Orfeo ed Euridice” (April). (The tale of Aida is also told in a Broadway musical.)

This season’s calendar for Phoenix Opera includes several themed performances, including holiday offerings celebrating Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Love/s Labour/s Lost is part of the Opera in Cinema series

If you’re new to opera or eager to up your opera game, spend a little quality time with the multimedia guide “How to Enjoy Opera” recently published by “The Guardian.” Or watch a performance of Benjamin Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw” online (for free) through Sept 12.

“The Guardian” offers additional primers, including a list of The Top 50 Operas from 1607 to 1978, a tutorial on how to survive your first opera and a look at opera in the modern age. Plus Simon Callow’s take on why “opera has never been more alive.”

Online opera guides from Arizona Opera and other opera companies are also fun to explore. Never say you don’t like opera if you’ve never tried it.

— Lynn

Coming up: ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre

Fall galas with an arts twist

Come Sat, Aug 20, you can enjoy a special performance of “Hairspray” at Valley Youth Theatre’s 12th annual gala fundraiser, dubbed “The Most VYTal Event of the Season 2011!” It’s being held at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix, and proceeds benefit VYT’s education and outreach programs.

The annual gala fundraiser for Copperstar Repertory Company also takes place Sat, Aug 20 — at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts. It features a reception, Broadway theme show and a sneak peek of their coming season. Proceeds benefit education, outreach and mainstage productions.

Arizona Theatre Company’s Gala 2011” celebrates their 45th anniversary. It takes place Sat, Oct 1 in Tucson — and features Academy Award nominee Jevette Steele. Think dinner, dancing and live auction — all to benefit the company’s education and community engagement programs.

The Heard Museum Moondance Gala” takes place Sat, Oct 22 — and features “an intimate concert with country music legends Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson.”

Phoenix Art Museum holds “The pARTy, 2011” on Sat, Nov 5. It’s a black tie gala featuring gourmet dining and entertainment — and benefits the museum’s education programs and exhibition schedule.

Come Sat, Dec 3 you can enjoy “ARTRAGEOUS: An Evening of Broadway” to benefit Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. The event stars Marvin Hamlisch, Linda Eder and J. Mark McVey.

In the “save the date” department, there are several 2012 galas that look quite lovely too. “Arizona Opera Ball 2012” –which takes place Sat, Feb 11 — features “A Night at the Cabaret” at the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix. And the Children’s Museum of Phoenix presents their “2012 Fundraising Soiree” — dubbed “Night at the Museum” — on Sat, March 3. I’m told it’ll transport guests to imaginary streets of Paris.

Should someone ask you to help with one of these committees, consider agreeing before any arm twisting is required. Times are tough for arts and culture these days. Not everyone can give money, but gifts of time are also treasured.

— Lynn

Note: Many of these events offer sponsorship and advertising opportunities, or need donations of raffle or auction items. Please keep arts-related causes in mind as your business is considering charitable gifts.

Coming up: Valley acting studios, It’s tea party time!, Going “Glee”