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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Opera student is active in the arts

    Katherine Wells, 32, is a doctoral student in music arts with an emphasis on vocal performance. She will perform a solo voice recital Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Crowder Hall.

    Admission is free.

    Arizona Daily Wildcat: What was the thing that first drew you to opera?

    Wells: Well, I started taking voice lessons as a freshman in my undergraduate program. And I always kind of wanted to sing Broadway, but after a short period, my teacher was like, “”No, you have an opera voice.”” I think the thing that really inspired me to want to learn how to sing opera was I attended a performance of Mozart’s “”Die ZauberflÇôte,”” which is “”The Magic Flute,”” and it was just a concert version, but when the soprano was playing Pamina …sorry I’m using all these opera terms.

    Wildcat: It’s OK.

    Wells: The soprano came out and sang this gorgeous aria, and I went to my teacher and I asked, “”Can I learn to sing like that?”” and she said, “”Yes.””

    Wildcat: How do you know even as a child, or at any age, if you have an opera voice, if you’re able to really take your voice into that area?

    I find that a lot of people in our society are turned off to opera before they even give it a chance.

    Katherine Wells,
    doctoral student

    Wells: I always loved singing as a child. I actually wanted to be a rock star and my parents bought me a guitar, which I never learned how to play, and I think my brothers broke it. But, I always had the desire to sing. I always loved singing growing up, and it became obvious I wasn’t inclined to be a pop singer or rock star, so it just kind of naturally happened in voice lessons with my teacher.

    Wildcat: How much training does it take to really develop an opera voice?

    Wells: I think the training is a lifelong process. When you’re young you start with opera scenes and art songs in the studio. Art songs in the studio are very important. But it is a slow process because, unlike other instruments, your voice is part of your body, so as you grow, age and mature, your voice also grows and ages and matures. It is kind of something where some people are ready sooner than others, but I think it is still a lifelong process that kind of continues.

    Wildcat: Even though you are going to school right now, are you able to work with children in the community?

    Wells: Yes, I am an OMA (Opening Minds through the Arts) artist with TUSD (Tucson Unified School District).

    Wildcat: What kind of activities do you do in that program?

    Wells: We teach. We work with first graders through the art form of opera and storytelling, which is what we do with opera. We are also acting, teaching first graders language arts skills.

    Wildcat: Do they write their own opera?

    Wells: Yes, they do. The fall semester we’ve been focusing on the writing objectives that go along with the curriculum for TUSD, and in the spring we guide them as they develop an improved dialogue and storyline with a beginning, middle and end. Then, we also guide them to compose their own lyrics and music. But the kids do it all themselves. It is pretty amazing, the things that they’ll come up with, and then they perform it for all their parents at the end of the school year.

    Wildcat: What kind of projects are you currently working on?

    Wells: Right now I am understudying for the music department’s production of “”L’amico Fritz.”” I am an OMA artist. I have my recital (Monday). I am also directing a children’s musical in Phoenix for a church, and I also teach voice lessons.

    Wildcat: What’s the biggest misconception people have about opera that you are finding yourself always being faced with?

    Wells: I find that a lot of people in our society are turned off to opera before they even give it a chance. They have a stereotype in their mind of something from Bugs Bunny or like a cartoon where the opera singer weighs 500 pounds and is going to be really loud and difficult to listen to. But I think if people would just go and experience an opera, like a Mozart or a Rossini opera, something fun and beautiful, then they would see that, number one, opera singers are sometimes very beautiful to look at and that their singing is very beautiful.

    Wildcat: Where do you think those ideas have a foundation? Where are their roots?

    Wells: Well, I think that the stereotypes that are associated with opera singers and a bigger or larger person wearing a helmet with horns. That, of course, is a stereotype based on Wagner, the types of singers with dramatic voice types, because it has to be a bigger voice to cut across bigger orchestration like you find in the operas by (composer) Richard Wagner. And, sometimes, bigger voices do come in bigger packages, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, in a lot of the other operas that were written, you don’t have to have this gigantic voice to sing it. You don’t always have to have a bigger person.

    Wildcat: Is it true that opera singers, when they’re performing with the orchestra, don’t have a microphone, or any kind of body mic or anything?

    Wells: Yeah, for the most part, yes. I’ve heard of one opera house that maybe mics people but, in general, never. It is all about resonance and placement, and that’s what we go to school for. We learn how to do that, to project it, to project our voices.

    Wildcat: And, to always reach the deaf old lady at the back of the house.

    Wells: Exactly. You have to sing like your grandma is sitting in the back row.

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