Singers tune up for master class in opera


Six contenders will have a chance to work one on one with internationally acclaimed mezzo soprano Dolora Zajick.

The program is a creation of Villa Musica, a non-profit community music education program that organized the master class, which will take place Saturday, Oct. 7. The event will provide an opportunity for other vocal students and voice teachers to benefit from the learning experience.

The way a master class works is that students perform a piece before an accomplished teacher in their field. The master then provides instruction and suggestions to the student.

“It’s a great learning experience for students, a chance to sing in front of a leading soprano and get feedback,” said Ruth Kiefer, executive director of Villa Musica.

Open auditions for the master class were held, with the six participants selected by Zajick herself. More than 20 singers applied, from as far away as Serbia. All of the singers chosen are studying voice and considering a professional music career. All are San Diegans, except one student from Utah.

“There are people around the world who would die to have the opportunity to sing for her,” Kiefer said.

The advice Zajick offers the six performers will be helpful to other aspiring singers and teachers, which is the reason admittance tickets are being sold. Audience members will have a chance to direct inquiries to the mezzo soprano during a question-and-answer session.

Alize Rozsnyai, 16, of Rancho Bernardo is one of the six candidates who will perform before Zajick. She has been studying with a private teacher for four years and received the first-place voice award from the Music Teachers Association of California.

“I’ve always had an interest in performing,” Rozsnyai said. “I’ve been singing and dancing since I was 3. I would like to sing professional opera as a career. I don’t know what specifically she can help me with, but I’m excited for anything she has to share with me.”

Zajick is recognized as the leading contemporary dramatic mezzo soprano. She studied at the Manhattan School of Music in New York and was later accepted in the San Francisco Opera Merola Program. She has performed in venues around the world and is best known for her interpretations of three major roles in Verdi operas. In addition to performing, she has recorded numerous operas and a solo album.

Kiefer’s voice teacher, Sarah Agler, attended college with Zajick 20 years ago. When Zajick approached her about managing a summer opera program for young people, Agler suggested that Villa Musica become involved. They will host the launch of Zajick’s initiative next summer in San Diego.

Villa Musica was founded in November 2005 by Kiefer and Fiona Chatwin, the organization’s artistic director.

“The idea for this really comes from my experience of attending public music school in Germany,” said Kiefer, an amateur singer. “When I came to San Diego seven years ago, I realized very quickly there was nothing like that here.”

Chatwin, a singer and voice teacher who recently completed a doctorate in musical arts from UCSD, shared Kiefer’s desire to make music more accessible to a wide variety of people. A second objective of Villa Musica is to create a place where music teachers can collaborate and exchange ideas with other instructors.

“Our mission is to provide high-quality music education to people of all ages and backgrounds, to give the general public the chance to make music a part of their lives,” Kiefer said.

Starting this month, Villa Musica is coordinating ensembles for community choir, guitar and flute. In January, they will offer a series of workshops for singers, including an acting skills for singers by Kellie Evans-O’Connor, director of opera at San Diego State University.

Master Class for Singers with Mezzo Soprano Dolora Zajick will be held Saturday, Oct. 7, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of the La Jolla Presbyterian Church at 7715 Draper Ave. For more information about this event, call Villa Musica at (619) 723-8820 or visit the Web site at Tickets cost $20 and $10 for voice students with student ID.