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The Sounds of Success

Three Conservatory of Music alumni have recently made their debuts with the San Francisco Opera and a current class of opera singers took tops in the nation for their spring 2013 production. All proof that Pacific has primed them well for success on the national stage.

On a Singingly Successful Path

There are careers and there are passions, and some students are lucky enough to combine the two when they discover Pacific's vocal program, which boasts a strong tradition and a string of recent stars and successes.

Marco Stefani '09

"There is no question in my mind that without my education at Pacific, I could not pursue this career," says Marco Stefani '09.

That has held true for Conservatory of Music graduate Marco Stefani '09 who went on from Pacific to earn a master's degree from Indiana University, make his debut with the San Francisco Opera, and singing at the Rossini Opera Festival in Italy, where he studied at the Academia Chigiana.

Irene Roberts, a 2006 graduate, also made her SFO debut recently and debuted with the MET in the same season. And her classmate, Katie Carlson '06, a soprano, recently performed in the San Francisco Opera performance of Verdi's "Requiem." She is scheduled to perform as a soloist at Carnegie Hall in March 2014.

Not to be outdone by recent graduates, a current class of opera singers has been honored as the best in the nation for their March 2013 performance of The Merry Wives of Windsor.  The National Opera Association awarded the Pacific production with its top prize in the Opera Production Competition. (View a video from the performance>>)

For Stefani and Roberts, such professional success at a young age is unusual in the opera world, according to Associate Professor of Music Daniel Ebbers. "Opera singers generally don't fully develop their talents until their late 20s and early 30s. What we can do at the college level is to provide great vocal instruction and performing opportunities," he says.

Stefani credits his performance experiences at Pacific—including singing for Dave Brubeck's 85th birthday—as well as classroom fundamentals to his success.

Irene Roberts '06

Irene Roberts '06 made her debut performance with the San Francisco Opera the Metropolitan Opera in the same season.

"There is no question in my mind that without my education at Pacific, I could not pursue this career," he says.

Pacific offers rigorous language training and individual instruction, says Ebbers, but the biggest advantage for student singers at Pacific is in performance opportunities.

"Larger music schools have big productions every year, but they have graduate students who get the leading roles," Ebbers explains. "Our draw is that we have only undergrads, so they get the roles and the experience on stage."

Irene Roberts says this experience continues to help her career.  "I still experience challenges in rehearsal, performance, or role preparation, and I often look back to the fundamentals I learned at Pacific," she says.

Roberts and Stefani are recent opera successes from Pacific, but they follow in the footsteps of former Pacific students like Susanne Mentzer '76, who has sung leading roles at the MET for 20 years, as well as on recordings and PBS broadcasts; Elizabeth Vrenios '62, who toured the world as a soloist and who was the President of the National Opera Association; and Linda Watson '78, one of the most sought-after sopranos in the world for Wagnerian roles and record-holder for the number of Ring Cycle recordings. She performs in Wagner's Der Ring Des Nibelungen, recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Christian Thieleman (DVD, Deutsche Grammophone, June 2013), which was just nominated for a GRAMMY.

Opera is not a career path for everyone, acknowledges Stefani, "But there is nothing quite like the feeling of performing for an audience."