Opera UTEP Lends Voices to Barber of Seville

By Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

The next generation of vocal talent is continuing to get a boost from the partnership between The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Opera.

On March 14 and 16, Opera UTEP – comprised of students in the Department of Music’s Music Theatre Co. – will once again provide choral support for an El Paso Opera production, this time The Barber of Seville. Shows take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday at the Abraham Chavez Theatre. Click here for tickets.Opera UTEP students rehearse for the El Paso Opera production of The Barber of Seville. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News ServiceOpera UTEP students rehearse for the El Paso Opera production of The Barber of Seville. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

Elisa Fraser Wilson, D.M.A., teaches opera and musical theater skills development and production within the Music Theatre Co. program (also known as Music Theater Workshop). During the past two seasons, the company has become the official chorus for El Paso Opera and has been able to place students on stage alongside noted professional singers.

“The collaboration between UTEP and El Paso Opera has allowed us to pool our resources, enabling students to have professional performing and educational opportunities with guest master artists, and providing EPO access to university talent and resources,” Wilson said. “To date, it has been a win-win relationship.”

The Barber of Seville is just one more opportunity for real-world experience that UTEP provides students in preparation for a strong career. Another taking place later this year and into 2014 is Opera Bhutan, where a partnership between UTEP, El Paso Opera, and artistic talents from almost every continent will bring Western opera to the Kingdom of Bhutan for the first time, also providing global exposure and enrichment for those participating. A dozen students from The Barber of Seville cast will be traveling to Bhutan for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

In addition to the tutelage of El Paso Opera Artistic and General Director David Grabarkewitz and Music Director and Conductor Karl Shymanovitz, UTEP students are receiving guidance from professional vocalists David Pershall (Figaro), Vanessa Cariddi (Rosina), Matthew Chellis (Count Almaviva), Valerian Ruminski (Don Basilio), Rod Nelman (Dr. Bartolo), and Melissa Parks (Berta). Parks – an El Paso native who has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, New Orleans opera, and throughout Italy in the country’s first professional production of Sweeney Todd – has been a frequent guest of El Paso Opera and consistently proves that vocal talent from the region can go out into the world and also return to their roots to give back.

Delilah Delgado, a junior vocal performance major, is hoping to use her experience performing to come back to a university environment as a teacher someday. The Barber of Seville will be her fourth production with El Paso Opera, and she knows these opportunities have helped her enormously.

“You don’t normally get to listen to that caliber of voice, so it’s a real treat,” Delgado said. “It’s a very good learning experience. I know most universities don’t have the chance to collaborate with a professional opera company in the same city, so it’s an awesome opportunity and I savor every moment of it.”

Freshman Abraham Quezada, another vocal performance major, is thrilled to be in an environment “where everybody is in love with this music,” he said. “It feels great to work with pros like these. I’d seen these shows in school during Youth Nights, so going from seeing it to being on the stage is really crazy.

“Just watching the professional singers has taught me a lot about character development, how you can be this great character and sing well at the same time,” he said, adding that he’s looking forward to more discussions with the out-of-town talent about the ins and outs of making a living in opera.

Other UTEP students who are member of the Barber of Seville cast include Emperatris Cabrera, Suad Guerra Mena, Rocio Martinez Penner, Sierra Oaxaca, Diana Ortiz Galarza, Jessica Rodriguez, Mariana Sandoval, Chyanne Smith, Marisol Terrazas, Audrey Tolliver, Brittney Williams, Leslie Yapor, Guillermo Flores, Alvaro Larios, Joshua Lintz, Bryan Lugo, Alfonso Olivas, Salvador Perez, Mauricio Perusquia, Gerardo Rodriguez, Salvador Saenz Arreola, Adrian Salas, Caesar Sanchez, Raul Valdez-Perea and Robert Vega.