A quintet of University of North Carolina Charlotte music students are living the dream of touring performers, thanks to their participation in Opera Carolina’s Opera Xpress. Nicholas Andruzzi, Nathaniel Corner, Mckeila Ortiz, DeLenn Rumbolo, and Christian Souza are bringing opera to life for elementary students across the region with this year’s bilingual production, “Los Coyotes y Las Conejas.”
This unique educational outreach program, which introduces young audiences to opera through performances at schools and community centers, showcases a 35-minute Spanish/English children’s opera by Héctor Armienta. The talented students, selected for their exceptional skills, are getting firsthand experience of the touring lifestyle, with performances scheduled from October through June.
Brian Arreola, a voice professor at UNC Charlotte and director of the Department of Music’s Opera Workshop program, expressed immense pride in the students’ involvement. “The voice faculty are tremendously proud of our singers’ participation in the Opera Carolina Opera Xpress outreach program,” Arreola said. “It speaks to the level of our students because they are competing with the Charlotte young professional crowd for these opportunities.”
The opera’s demanding schedule, featuring 60 to 75 touring dates throughout the academic year, offers these young performers an unparalleled opportunity to hone their craft. Senior voice major DeLenn Rumbolo, who plays the character “Chiquita,” finds the repetitive nature of the performances both a challenge and a boon. “Getting that many performances has allowed me to grow familiar with the role. I’ve been able to develop Chiquita’s personality and get comfortable with trying different things,” Rumbolo shared.
Opera Carolina’s commitment to nurturing new talent was highlighted by Ashley Lam, senior director for learning at the opera. After being impressed by the UNC Charlotte students during masterclasses, Lam saw the importance of providing professional opportunities to these young artists. “It’s really turning into a great opportunity that enhances the learning that they are doing with their professors,” Lam noted, emphasizing the collaborative effort to develop young musicians.
Looking ahead, Lam hopes to feature UNC Charlotte students in future Opera Xpress productions, recognizing the partnership as a valuable artist pipeline for the opera company and a developmental tool for the students.
For Rumbolo, who is set to graduate this May with aspirations of a full-time performing career, the experience of singing for children has been particularly rewarding. “Small children are some of the best audience members because their reactions aren’t tempered by ‘proper’ audience etiquette,” she said, highlighting the joy of engaging with an uninhibited audience.
Moreover, Rumbolo is heartened by the impact of performing in Spanish, a language still relatively uncommon in the opera world, on Charlotte-area students. The bilingual aspect of “Los Coyotes y Las Conejas” has sparked excitement among students, many of whom speak Spanish as their first language, underlining the importance of cultural representation in the arts.
As these UNC Charlotte music students continue their journey with Opera Xpress, they not only gain invaluable professional experience but also play a pivotal role in Opera Carolina’s mission to make opera accessible and relevant to the next generation.