UTEP, El Paso Opera Performers Generate ‘Curbside’ Appeal
Last Updated on June 16, 2022 at 12:00 AM
Originally published June 16, 2022
By Daniel Perez
UTEP Marketing and Communications
A trio of singers from Opera UTEP plan to sharpen their vocal technique and learn production values during their summer “research” that includes free concerts at parks throughout El Paso.
The undergraduate singers from The University of Texas at El Paso – Abner Astudillo, Jessica Broaddus and Ana Lucía Garcia – began to perform with resident artists from El Paso Opera (EPO) during a series of 40-minute shows that highlight that international music style.
EPO started #CurbsideOpera in 2020 during the pandemic to give its singers a chance to perform before socially distanced crowds at open-air venues. Those impromptu performances brought a level of joy and camaraderie to a community burdened by the coronavirus. In its second year, the program added EPO junior artists from UTEP.
Garcia, a junior music education major, said she always has loved to perform and #CurbsideOpera gives her the chance to share her passion with people beyond her peers and voice teachers.
“To bring (music) out to the people is what I absolutely enjoy about performing,” Garcia said.
For the June 14 show at Mission Hills Park in west El Paso, Garcia performed “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto” from the opera “Don Giovanni,” and “Part of Your World” from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” That evening’s artists, who stood on a portable stage, sang selections in French, English, Spanish and Italian supplemented by a pre-recorded piano accompaniment. Approximately 30 people attended the show and their reaction seemed to be “bravi tutti,” or “well done, all.”
Cherry Duke, voice instructor and director of Opera UTEP, was among the supportive audience members. She said it is important for UTEP to participate in these kinds of activities because they promote the University’s strong music program, hone the students’ skills, strengthen the partnership with EPO, and expose the community to opera.
Duke secured funds from the College of Liberal Arts Community Engagement initiative to pay the trio of singers for their participation, which also includes work as production assistants for the EPO production of “Frida” on Aug. 27, 2022, in the Abraham Chavez Theatre.
“This is a tremendous learning experience for our students,” Duke said before the Mission Hills concert. “They will have close interactions with professional artists in leading roles. Most undergraduates never get this kind of opportunity.”
Duke praised each of the students who earned their positions through their professionalism and eagerness as well as their talent as singers and performers. What they learn as EPO junior artists will help them when they will have to produce concerts, musicals or similar big events as professional music educators after they graduate.
“These kinds of community projects are so important,” Duke said. “They will help make the students into fully formed teachers.”
Also in the audience was Steve Wilson, DMA, professor and chair of the Department of Music. He praised the event as another example of UTEP’s efforts at community engagement, and noted how it benefits the student performers. He said these activities offer great real-world experiences. It teaches students how to perform outside a concert hall, and helps them to build their comfort level as a public performer.
“Anytime you can perform in front of people, it’s a win,” Wilson said.
Astudillo, a rising sophomore music education major, called #CurbsideOpera a memorable experience. The Canutillo resident said that he was involved in choral singing in high school and earned a small role in the spring 2022 Opera UTEP production of “Luisa Fernanda.”
“I like this environment,” Astudillo said about the opportunity to engage with the audience. “I get to perform and share my voice and my talent. It’s fun.”
Mariana Sandoval, the EPO office manager and resident artist, said #CurbsideOpera helps the junior artists to grow as performers and gives El Paso audiences a better sense of opera and of the area’s homegrown talent.
Sandoval, who earned her M.M. in Music with a concentration in vocal performance from UTEP in 2021, said EPO’s “Frida” would expose the UTEP students to every aspect of a production beyond the on-stage performance.
“It’s a very fulfilling experience to see the teamwork it takes to put on an opera,” Sandoval said.
Visit epopera.org/community to learn more about upcoming #CurbsideOpera events.