Maria Arrigotti will sing opera in Italy this summer
Even a simple cassette recording captures the soaring voice of Carson City native Maria Arrigotti well enough to tempt an internationally known opera director to invite Arrigotti to sing in Italy this summer.
Arrigotti, naturally, accepted.
She will take part in the Oberlin at Casalmaggiore summer music school from June 27 to July 19 in a northern Italian town nestled between Parma and Cremona, not far from Milan.
The highlight will be performing in the intimate 200-year-old Casalmaggiore Opera House.
“I was really surprised because I thought they’d be expecting somebody really good,” said Arrigotti, a third-year math and music major at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Arrigotti, 21, has had vocal lessons since she was 14, but most of her stage experience is with Western Nevada Musical Theater Co., which was founded by her mother, Stephanie Arrigotti. Opera came into her life only two years ago.
“I don’t know a lot of opera, but my teacher has taught me how to sing it,” Arrigotti said.
Katharine DeBoer, head of UNR’s vocal music program, not only introduced Arrigotti to opera but also mentioned her to stage director Nando Schellen when he was in Reno in February to direct Nevada Opera’s production of “Don Giovanni.”
“I told him I have one really exceptional student whose voice would be perfect,” DeBoer said. “Maria is really an exceptionally complete package. She’s very attractive and very smart. Her voice is just emerging as an exceptional voice.”
Robin Sampler, artistic director at Nevada Opera, also praises Arrigotti’s clear voice and solid technical skills for her age, but he looks beyond her voice for her operatic potential.
“What struck me is her brains,” Sampler said. “Maria is always one of the two best prepared for any production. She’s very smart. Directors and conductors are more likely to hire you if you can take direction and learn quickly.”
Arrigotti herself speaks almost dismissively of her voice and college operatic experience, but Schellen hears special qualities in her voice not commonly developed at such a young age.
“I was very impressed. So were my other colleagues,” said Schellen, who will stage several operatic scenes for the opera house presentation at Casalmaggiore. “First of all, she has a very musical voice. Also, she has a voice with some personality and that is what interests me very much.”
This praise comes from a director who worked with young opera singers like Samuel Ramey, Frederica von Stade, Thomas Stewart, Tatiana Troyanos and Neil Shicoff before they became major opera stars.
The summer school in Italy will train 34 singers but Schellen said based on what he heard on the cassette, Arrigotti stands out even in that select group. The three-week school includes training in opera, vocal technique and singing lieder, or art songs.
“There are lots of young singers who can sing ‘Caro Nome’ (from “Rigoletto”), but there are not lots who can sing Sophie (in “Der Rosenkavalier).”
Arrigotti will sing the first half-hour of Act 2 of “Der Rosenkavalier” by Richard Strauss. Sophie, a high soprano role, is a 15-year-old girl set to be married to a lecherous baron, but a young cavalier named Octavian thwarts that mismatch.
“I was not thinking of doing a scene from Rosenkavalier until I saw I would have an Octavian and a Sophie,” Schellen said. “Most of the singers are women and most women are lyric sopranos. You find hardly any young singers who are developed that you say, ‘Yes, I want her in that role (Sophie).’ You need to have a certain maturity to do that.”
Arrigotti’s training is mostly in Italian opera and her favorite aria so far is the ever popular “Caro Nome,” which she performed a month ago at her junior recital at UNR. Schellen, on the other hand, specializes in the German repertory and he senses Arrigotti can handle the transition from Italian to German.
“What I’ve always enjoyed in German operas is someone who sings German in an Italian way,” Schellen said. “Maria can do that.”
Arrigotti, however, is wavering between teaching math or a performance career. At this stage, she wants to earn her master’s degree in mathematics before establishing a professional performing career.
But her stint at Casalmaggiore could dash that plan. She could get recruited to a music conservatory.
“It’s a scary thought,” said Arrigotti, a 1997 Carson High School graduate. “Math is something real, stable. But I’d love to perform for the rest of my life.”