Maryland Symphony Orchestra to present 'A Night at the Opera'
Christopher Tiesi of the Curtis Opera Theatre will perform with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. (Submitted photo / March 13, 2013)
The Maryland Symphony Orchestra will present "A Night at the Opera" this weekend at The Maryland Theatre.
A warning label might be in order: This is not your father's "Night at the Opera."
Yes, selections from some of the most beloved and well-known operas will be performed.
These will include "La donna e mobile" from Giuseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto," "Dunque io son" from "The Barber of Seville" by Gioacchino Rossini, "Non so piu cosa son" from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Pres: des remparts de Seville" from "Carmen" by Georges Bizet.
Four young vocalists from the Curtis Opera Theatre will join the MSO in the concerts. The Curtis Opera Theatre, under Artistic Director Mikael Eliasen, is the performing entity of the Curtis Institute of Music's Vocal Studies Department.
"For me, there's nothing more exciting than to make music with a young and brilliant artist," MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze wrote in an email. "Everything is new and fresh and they often come to the music without the false trappings of a calcified tradition," she added.
Twenty-four-year-old soprano Sarah Shafer came to music growing up in a family of musicians in State College, Pa.
"I can't remember a time when I didn't love singing," she said in a recent phone interview from San Francisco where she was singing in the world premiere of the San Francisco Opera's production of the newly commissioned opera "The Secret Garden."
Her mother was a choir director, and Shafer said she probably started singing in choir when she was 5. She started taking voice lessons at 13 or 14, and she took piano lessons from her father for about 15 years.
During her first three years of high school, Shafer played piano in the pit in most of the musical theater productions. When she was a senior, she auditioned — "on a fluke" — for the school production of "The Pirates of Penzance."
"I happened to get the part of Mabel," she said, adding, "so I just sort of jumped into the opera world."
While applying to colleges, Shafer considered majoring in piano as well as voice and took auditions for both.
The reason she is pursuing a career in singing is because she got into Curtis — something she was not expecting to do. "But it's been the right path for me."
That path has led Shafer to several professional operatic engagements, and she's had opportunities for recital and concert work as well.
Because the Curtis program is a professional training program, students are encouraged to take professional auditions. In the third year of her master's degree in opera, Shafer said she's been blessed to be able to work and be in school at the same time.
Baritone Sean Michael Plumb would agree.
"Curtis' philosophy is learn by doing," he said in a recent phone interview from Philadelphia, where Curtis is located.
"The head of our program, Mikael Eliasen, believes that the best way to learn to be an opera singer is to get up and actually sing opera, to sing in concerts," Plumb said. "We are constantly performing all over the place — concerts, recitals, operas. It's always something. Performing one thing and preparing for the next," he added.
The 21-year-old Los Angeles native doesn't remember when he decided he wanted to be an opera singer, but family legend has it that he was singing before he was speaking. "I would wake up my whole family singing from the crib," he said.