Even if you don’t understand Italian, or know much about opera for that matter, a few lines from a Puccini aria sung by Sweet Briar College student Erin Rogers, even in the din of Josey Dining Room, are enough to make your spine tingle.
On Saturday, March 29, Rogers will perform her senior honors voice recital, “Intimations of Devotion” in Sweet Briar’s Memorial Chapel. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and admission is free.
The program will be sung in English, German, French and Italian, and will include two arias, one by Mozart and the other by Puccini. The balance of the concert consists of “art songs.”
Rogers will be accompanied by Jana Ross on violin and Anna Billias, a pianist whom the singer holds in high regard. “Working with a musician of her caliber and excellence is a continually rewarding experience,” she said.
Rogers’ goal is to be a professional opera singer, something her voice teacher, Marcia Jones Thom, also can envision. “Erin has many more years of hard work ahead of her, but I have always believed that she had the potential to sing on the professional stage. I believe that opera will be her ‘calling.’ ”
Someday, Thom said, she imagines Rogers singing “Wagnerian literature, which means that her voice still has many years to grow and mature. There is a big sound in that throat. She is a wonderful performer and it has been an honor to teach her.”
Over the past four years, Rogers, a soprano who grew up in Miami and Montana’s Paradise Valley, has performed in numerous Sweet Briar productions, including the lead role in last spring’s “The Old Maid and the Thief.” More recently, she sang in numerous events at the inaugural Sweet Briar Fringe Festival.
Rogers also has performed with the concert and chamber choirs, and participated in master classes and Sweet Briar’s opera workshop. Last summer, while studying in Italy, she lent her talents to two events at the Arezzo Festival.
In planning what amounts to her senior honors thesis, Rogers wanted the name of her recital to “reflect the constructed program. The pieces I am singing suggest or intimate different forms of devotion based on what I have either directly understood or interpreted to be present in the poems and the music.”
She also was inspired by William Wordsworth’s ode, “Intimations of Immortality from Recollection of Early Childhood,” which she studied in an English class at Sweet Briar.
Although most of the songs are romantic in nature, they aren’t all about love in the conventional sense. As an example, Rogers gave Irving Fine’s “Childhood Fable for Grownups,” a three-song series she will sing as her English set.
“These pieces were dedicated by the composer to particular friends and colleagues and convey the presence of devoted friendship,” she said.
Rogers’ devotion to singing, particularly to opera, is obvious. She’s a music major with a concentration in applied voice and also has a large collection of books on the subject, a hobby that earned her a Nicole Basbanes ’04 Book Collecting prize in 2007.
When she graduates in May, Rogers plans to study with a private voice teacher for one to two years to build her repertoire, strengthen her French, German and Italian skills and prepare for auditions for graduate school in voice or opera.
When Rogers visited Sweet Briar as a prospective student, she had planned to study music, but not seriously. She thought she’d take a semester of private voice lessons, if possible, but major in art history.
As a first-year, she began her vocal studies with music professor Allen Huszti who encouraged her to pursue a degree in music.
“That first semester of studying with him raised my interest and started to show how much I enjoyed singing and studying music,” she said. “I just kept taking voice and haven’t stopped.”
When Huszti retired in 2006, she began taking lessons from Thom, who is an opera singer. By this time, as a sophomore, Rogers said her interest in music as a major and career had “solidified.”
“I began to realize that this was something I wanted to pursue in graduate school and as a career,” she said.
Rogers credits several members of Sweet Briar’s music faculty with helping to pave the way. In addition to Huszti and Thom, her advisor Nick Ross, Rebecca McCord and College dean Jonathan Green also have encouraged her.
“The support and encouragement I received from my professors and courses in the music department were instrumental in my path and in the choices that I made,” she said.
For more information on Rogers’ upcoming concert, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Suzanne Ramsey
Category: Performing Arts