Chronicles of an Insider: Once Upon A Diva

"Once Upon A Diva" was a combined recital of the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts Vocal and Piano Departments. All the students were involved. 



"Once Upon A Diva" was clearly the product of considerable talent, interesting visions, creativity, taste, humor, and just mere hard work of eight weeks. 

"Once Upon A Diva" is a fruit of passionate love, great energy, and originality produced by a group of infatuated individuals.                  

Despite all of these impressive elements, however, "Once Upon A Diva" remains as student work that does not quite succeed as a fully professional opera scenes recital. But it definitely succeeded as an educational as well as entertaining evening. So, let us not be too strict and judgmental.  



April 18, 2014
April 19, 2014
6:30 p.m.
Call time for all the performers. The vocalists warmed up as the pianists texted in the audience seats.


Same as for the 18th except for the pianists sleeping in the audience’s seats while the vocalists were warming up.
7:00 p.m.
The doors opened and the people began filing in.
Surprisingly, the exact same thing happened on the 19th as well.

        

            The show began with Mr. Todd Wedge (head of the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts Vocal Department) making an announcement of extremely grief-striking news that the San Francisco Symphony could not come and perform the overture to Il Barbiere di Siviglia on the stage of the Dan Chryston Memorial TheatreThe unfathomable reason was that they wanted actual money for it. Can you believe it? This news resulted in a rising tide of discontent in the audience. Because of this unfortunate event, the Vibravo Men's Ensemble was forced by an excessive deficiency of musicians to perform the overture themselves. (The members of the Vibravo included Kyle Miller, Ryan Doyle, Nolan Ramirez, Kevin Lopez, Forrest Nolan, and Sam Siegel.) Each boy took on the role of one or more instruments to complete the full orchestra required for the overture to Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and they did it quite successfully. Their only occasional props were kazoos. Somehow, this replacement wasn’t in the program and neither was the anticipated San Francisco Symphony (hehehe). In addition to being performed brilliantly, this overture wasn’t as random and not connected to the selections of the evening as you might think. It had a straightforward connection to the scene from Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra performed in the second half of the concert. I know that you’re probably confused right now and have no idea how I made a connection between an opera nearly never performed and the overture to one of the most famous operas. Well, yes. Actually, Gioacchino Rossini first wrote the overture to Elisabetta, and then applied it to Il Barbiere di Siviglia. I must absolutely mention that I played the accompaniment for that scene and obviously was the highlight of the concert.


April 18, 2014
April 19, 2014
Show starts at 7:30 p.m.
The next piece on the program following the Vibravo was Act 1 Scene 1 from Rossini’s La Cenerentola. The Friday cast included Mackenzie Nemoff as Clorinda, Drew Jackson as Tisbe, Vicky Huang as Angelina, and Ian Scheiman as Alidoro. The Men’s Chorus was there both nights.

  • This cast had a very noticeable relationship with each other. One of my witnesses sitting in the audience mentioned that the ugly stepsisters had uglier makeup than the stepsisters in Saturday's cast.   
  • Ms. Huang had a very rich and deep tone; the tone necessary for the role of Angelina. 
  • Ms. Nemoff and Ms. Jackson did an excellent job at pretending to be ugly, becuase trust me, I've seen them without makeup on and they are anything but ugly.
  • Mr. Scheiman was a perfect Alidoro. 
  • Round of applause to the men's ensemble for producing a humorous background while managing to keep the spotlight on the main characters. Great job, guys! 


Pianist: Angela Rey
Director: Todd Wedge

The next scene was Act 1 Scene 1 from Die Zauberflöte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Friday cast included Alex Colter as Tamino, Momoye Yamamoto as the 1st Lady, Haley Ebert as the 2nd Lady, and Madeleine Muzio as the 3rd Lady.

  • Mr. Colter looked extremely scared with the green beast following his footsteps. a.k.a. good acting skills. It's a pity that he didn't have much to sing.
  • Ms. Yamamoto, Ms. Ebert, and Ms. Muzio, the beautiful fairies and servants to the Queen of the Night, had very good ensemble. 




Pianist: Katelyn Tan
Director: Chip Grant
The next piece on the program following the Vibravo was Act 1 Scene 1 from Rossini’s La Cenerentola. The Saturday cast included Arlyss Hays as Clorinda, Arianne Nova as Tisbe, Olivia Cosio as Angelina, and Dorian Cunnigham as Alidoro. The Men’s Chorus was there both nights.

  • As mentioned in the column for Friday's cast, these stepsisters had less ugly makeup. The unibrow was a very amusing thing to look at. 
  • As soon as Ms. Cosío began singing, the warmth of her voice filled the theatre.
  • Ms. Hays and Ms. Nova had great ensemble work and produced the perfect plot development.
  • Mr. Cunningham looked fabulous in his bathrobe. 






Pianist: Angela Rey
Director: Todd Wedge

  







The next scene was Act1 Scene 1 from Die Zauberflöte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Saturday cast included the same people.





  • Same cast. Nice! I don't have to write for this.









Pianist: Katelyn Tan
Director: Chip Grant

The next scene was Act 1 Scene 1 and 2 from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro performed on Saturday by Elio Bucky as Figaro and Marika Stuurman as Susanna. 

Pianist: Iven Feng
Director: Jorell Chavez
The next scene was Act 1 Scene 1 and 2 from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro performed on Friday by Daniel Illig as Figaro and Nicole Koh as Susanna.


Pianist: Iven Feng
Director: Jorell Chavez

Act 2 Finale of Handel’s Alcina followed with Evelyn Barash as Alcina, Vincent Leung as Ruggiero, and Simone Moore as Bradamante.

  • Ms. Barash succeeded at acting out the hysterical nature of the character. 
  • Mr. Leung and Ms. Moore sounded tender to each other and were a convincing stage couple. 


Pianist: Ava Soifer
Director: Rhoslyn Jones
Act 2 Finale of Handel’s Alcina followed with Clover Austin-Meuhlick as Alcina, Jackie Day Ruggiero, and Tara Scown as Bradamante.

  • The same character was interpreted in a completely, yet in the same way interesting, way by Ms. Meuhlick. 
  • Ms. Day and Ms. Scown were very good actresses through their singing and movements. 


Pianist: Ava Soifer
Director: Rhoslyn Jones

Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme performed by Nicole Koh as Mimi, Shana Marshall as Musetta, Forrest Nolan as Rodolfo, and Daniel Illig as Marcello.

  • Ms. Koh and Mr. Nolan started the scene with the mood of lovers separating even though they still love each other. 
  • Ms. Marshall and Mr. Illig were very comedic and interpretive singers. When Rodolfo and Mimi were expressing love for each other, these two manifested a grotesque lover's quarrel with slaps being interchanged with kisses and vice versa.  


Pianist: Jennica Li
Director: Todd Wedge
Same same.





Pianist: Jennica Li
Director: Todd Wedge

Mozart’s Die Entfürung aus dem Serail was performed next by Clover Austin-Meuhlick as Kostanze, Lumi Sugazawa-O’Niel as Blonde, Nolan Ramirez as Belmonte, and Greg Porter as Pedrillo.

  • Ms. Meuhlick was great at acting out the words she was singing. 
  • Ms. O'Niel and Mr. Porter had similar interpretations producing the feeling of close lovers. 
  • Mr. Ramirez and his beautiful voice sounded great with Ms. Meuhlick. 


Pianist: Jeremy Rosenstock
Director: Jorell Chavez
Same.






Pianist: Jeremy Rosenstock
Director: Jorell Chavez

Next were two scenes from Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow: “Maxim Girls” and “Women! Women! Women!” The cast consisted of Jamie Zimmer as Zozo, Brianna Sabella as Lolo, Haley Ebert as Dodo, Hope Nelson as Jou-Jou, Madeleine Muzio as Frou-Frou, Nia Lewis as Clo-Clo, Julia Lin as Margot, Kyle Miller as Danilo, Kevin Lopez as Popoff, Gregory Porter as St. Brioche, Elio Bucky as Cascada, Giovanni De Leon as Nisch, Ian Scheiman as Khadja, David Alvarez as Novikovich, and Joshua Cousin as Bogdanovitch.  

  • The final numbers of Act 1 were entertaining.
  • Sources from the audience claim that the first cast of girls danced the can-can better than the second cast. 


Pianists: Mina Benothman and Kevin Luong

Director: Rhoslyn Jones
Next were two scenes from Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow: “Maxim Girls” and “Women! Women! Women!” The cast consisted of Nicole Tityunnik as Zozo, Maya Goell as Lolo, Ava Kennedy as Dodo, Olivia Harkins as Jou-Jou, Kathlyn Simotas as Clo-Clo, Ella Stewart as Margot, Kyle Miller as Danilo, Dorian Cunningham as Popoff, Max Tarlov as St. Brioche, Elio Bucky as Cascada, Shayron Laurent as Nisch, Gabriel Bibliowitcz as Khadja, Julian Cuyjet as Novikovich, and Seth Siegel as Bogdanovitch.



  • In addition to what was said in the previous column, the anonymous sources claimed that the boys danced the can-can better than both of the girl casts. How crazy is that? 





Pianists: Mina Benothman and Kevin Luong

Director: Rhoslyn Jones


-Intermission-

            I just want to leave a nice big space of appreciation for all the intermissions in the world and say how fabulous it is to have them.

 
April 18, 2014
April 19, 2014
Act 1 Scene 2 from Georges Bizet’s Carmen was the first scene performed after intermission. Jamie Zimmer was Carmen, Elio Bucky was Zuniga, Nolan Ramirez as Don José.

  • Ms. Zimmer (who provided the videos that you see here) was an excellent actress in the Carmen scene. 
  • The chorus fought convincingly and sang beautifully.
  • You probably thought that the cigarette girls' fight was staged. No, it wasn't. The audience was watching a manifestation of a natural love in a female collective. Just kidding. That's another one of my brilliant jokes. 
  • Mr. Bucky and his authoritative voice established the order in his quarter. 
  • Mr. Ramirez perfectly displayed Don José's inability to resist Carmen's charms by his romantic voice.  




Pianists: Ava Soifer and Alice Kubo
Director: Kristen Brown
Act 1 Scene 2 from Georges Bizet’s Carmen was the first scene performed after intermission. Meche Oppelt-Perez was Carmen, Samson Nguyen was Zuniga, and Joshua Cousin was Don José.


  • In contrast, Ms. Perez commanded the scene and even Zuniga could not resist. 
  • Mr. Nguyen interpreted Zuniga as a softer and less strict police chief. 
  • Mr. Cousin created the image of the very kind Don José.














Pianists: Ava Soifer and Alice Kubo
Director: Kristen Brown
Act 1 Scene 7 from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro was performed by Lumi Sugazawa-O’Niel as Susanna, Ryan Doyle as Basilio, and Evan Wong as the count.

  • Ms. O'Niel was very good at acting out the emotions and feelings of her character, Susanna.
  • Mr. Doyle stole the spotlight with his sinister character and good comedic aspects. 
  • Mr. Wong did an excellent job and committing to the role and the envious and constantly jealous Count. 


Pianist: Cristina Rey 
Director: Jorell Chavez
Act 1 Scene 7 from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro was performed by Lumi Sugazawa-O’Niel as Susanna, Forrest Nolan as Basilio, and Samson Nguyen as the count.

Pianist: Cristina Rey 
Director: Jorell Chavez

  • In comparison to Mr. Nolan's Rodolfo, his Basilio was the complete opposite of the romantic lover that Rodolfo is by plot. This dramatic difference was done by Mr. Nolan fabulously. 
  • Mr. Nguyen managed to make his interpretive anger funny for the audience. 
Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito was next with   Julia Lin as Annio and Nia Lewis as Servilia.

  • Ms. Lin, despite being a girl, did great job at pretending to be a boy. Trust me, that's hard. 
  • Ms. Lewis portrayed the young lady desperately in love very well and their voices blended perfectly together for this romantic duet.
  • The staging was very imaginative. Everyone liked the door.


Pianist: Desirée Phlegar
Director: Rhoslyn Jones
Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito was next with Sam Siegel as Annio and Marika Stuurman as Servilia.


  • This evening, we had an opportunity to  hear this duet performed by a countertenor, Mr. Siegel, and soprano, Ms. Stuurman. 
  • Mr. Siegel put more masculine tenderness into his interpretation of Annio. 
  • Ms. Stuurman's interpretation of Servilia's vulnerability and deep love was perfectly served by her voice.    
  • Both casts kissed in a ridiculous way. 


Pianist: Desirée Phlegar
Director: Rhoslyn Jones
Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge was performed by Hope Nelson as Geraldine, Allison Shapiro as Sally, Nolan Ramirez as Bill, and Raymond Sabatelli as David.

  • Ms. Nelson was very artistic and formed a stable and consistent character, who desperately wanted to buy that hat with peacock feathers. 
  • I've never heard this opera before, but Ms. Shapiro made me want to find out more. 
  • Mr. Ramirez's acting versatility turned him into another convincing character. 
  • Mr. Sabatelli was in a good voice.    


Pianist: Ava Soifer
Director: Todd Wedge
Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge was performed by Anika Dearman as Geraldine, Erica Wan as Sally, Nolan Ramirez as Bill, and Sean Goldring as David. 


  • Ms. Dearman's Geraldine was a different version of this character than Ms. Nelson's. She showed less passion to that hat with peacock feathers, but she precisely wanted it as another item to add to her wardrobe. 
  • Ms. Wan demonstrated the love to her mother in a steady and convincing emotional mood. 
  • Mr. Goldring highlighted convincingly his character's dream filled with guilty pleasures.  


Pianist: Ava Soifer
Director: Todd Wedge
Sull’aria from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro was performed by Mackenzie Nemoff as Susanna and Drew Jackson as the countess.

  • This is one of my favorite scenes from Figaro and Ms. Nemoff and Ms. Jackson left me content with their performance of this beautiful duet. 


Pianist: Ava Soifer
Director: Jorell Chavez
Sull’aria from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro was performed by Erica Wan as Susanna and Simone Moore as the countess.

  • Ms. Wan and Ms. Moore had a great ensemble with each other. 

Pianist: Ava Soifer
Director: Jorell Chavez
Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, performed by Arlyss Hays as Brigitta, Tara Scown as Laura, Anika Dearman as Marta, and Allison Shapiro as Iolanta, was the next peformed.

  • Being a Russian speaker, I can say that the girls did a great job at learning the words. 
  • Ms. Shapiro did a great job at portraying the blind Iolanta. 
  • Ms. Scown and Ms. Hays blended beautifully with their voices when they were presenting flowers to Iolanta. 
  • Ms. Dearman's voice radiated humanity, love, and kindness towards Iolanta. 


Pianist: Alex Tong
Director: Kristen Brown
Same.





Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra by Gioacchino Rossini was performed next by Vicky Huang as Elisabetta and Shana Marshall as Matilda.

  • Ms. Huang did a great job at being the vicious and aggressive queen she was supposed to be by character.
  • Ms. Marshall, known to us as the violent Musetta, did a great job at switches roles and becoming the hurt Matilda.   


Pianist: Me
Director: Todd Wedge 
Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra by Gioacchino Rossini was performed by Olivia Cosío as Elisabetta and Evelyn Barash as Matilda. 


  • Ms. Cosío, known to us as Angelina, now transformed into the vile and cruel Queen Elisabetta.
  • Ms. Barash was very contrasting with her character's emotions.   
  • Both of them were great actresses.
  • An anonymous source from the audience claimed that this scene was the highlight of the show.  
  • By the way, Rossini's first name was actually misspelled in the program. It was written that Rossini's first name is Giocomo (which is Puccini's first name), when in fact it is Gioacchino. Big difference. Unfortunately both of these guys are dead and could not possibly fight for the correct spelling of their names. Unless, of course, they come in a nightmare as ghosts seeking justice...   


Pianist: Me
Director: Todd Wedge
The Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten was next, performed by Sarah Shannon as the Governess, Sam Siegel as Miles, and Maya Goell as Flora. 

  • Ms. Shannon was very good at playing the loving governess who was trying to figure out what was going on with the children. 
  • Mr. Siegel did an excellent job at portraying a young child scared and abused. 
  • Ms. Goell was very convincing in her portrayal as the annoying little girl. Personally for me, the doll used as a prop was the scariest thing I have seen. 
  • Anonymous sources claim that when Ms. Goell was singing the lullaby to her doll, and then suddenly and aggressively said "Go to sleep", the audience gasped in horror. No ghost or hand could compare to the horror produced by Ms. Goell's acting. 
  • Anonymous sources claimed that the hand and the ghost of Miss Jessel were not visible that much Friday night as they were Saturday night. 


Pianists: Rachel Ng and Ava Soifer
Director: Kristen Brown
The Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten was next, performed by Momoye Yamamoto as the Governess, Antonio Johnson-Smith as Miles, and Kathlynn Simotas as Flora.

  • Ms. Yamamoto had a good interpretation of this complex character. 
  • Mr. Smith had a different portrayal of Miles than Mr. Siegel's portrayal of Miles. Mr. Smith's interpretation showed a boy not so much scared as Mr. Siegel's boy but  more confused and lost with what has happened to him. 
  • Ms. Simotas showed another type of a sibling: a calmer one than Ms. Goell's. She loved her doll more than Ms. Goell did. I'm still afraid of that doll. 
  • Ms. Goell and Mr. Siegel were also the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint's hand, and at some point the spotlight fell on Miss Jessel's ghost and it had a horrible effect on the audience. The ghost was scary scary scary. 

Pianists: Rachel Ng and Ava Soifer


Director: Kristen Brown
Last, but not least, was the Witches Chorus from Giuseppe Verdi’s M-play-opera. Because I am a superstitious person, I refuse to write out the whole name. Think what you want. (If you accidentally guessed what the opera is and said the name out loud, please spit three times over your left shoulder and knock on wood. It helps, if you’re lucky…)


  • This scene was funny and scary at the same time. 
  • An insider note is that both Saturday and Friday night, the crown prop was always neglected to be found and the chorus acted out the scenes without it. 

Pianist: Ava Soifer
Director? Kristen Brown
Same. 





Because I was not actually sitting in the audience and couldn't judge everything for myself, I have collected some information from friends who were sitting in the audience. One comment was that The Merry Widow scene was "really funny and amusing, especially seeing the guys dance". Violinist Anna Chen said that the Vibravo Men's Ensemble "was a wonderful way to start the evening performance". Another member of the audience said, "I was surprised that people of our age can sing like that." (Let's keep our fingers crossed that they meant it in a good way.) Just kidding. I'm funny, right? Dancer Flor Garza said that she liked the interaction between the singers, and I must agree with her. Clarinetist Sarah Evenson said that she loved the scene from La Boheme. "They were really good."   

I, as an insider, was delighted and encouraged by the combined talent and hard work of the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts Piano Department and the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts Vocal Department, and I hope to see and be part of other impressive concerts in the future. 


















Round of applause to department heads Ava Soifer and Todd Wedge for putting together these wonderful concerts. A special thanks to directors Chip Grant, Jorell Chavez, Rhoslyn Jones, Todd Wedge, and Kristen Brown. Thanks to the Theatre Tech Department for the spotlight!

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