Oakdale High School sophomore Darby Schmidt is preparing for an experience she didn’t fathom three short years ago. Later this month Darby, along with her mother Amelia Schmidt, will step onto the Rogers Theater stage at Gallo Center for the Arts as chorus members of the Townsend Opera’s production of “Madame Butterfly.”
Two performances will be staged with one on Friday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. and the other on Sunday, April 29 at 2 p.m. The production includes a cast of regional, national and international performers.
“I’ve sung my whole life. I grew up musical,” mom Amelia said, noting she just began taking voice lessons a few years back, after connecting with her daughter’s teacher Annalisa Winberg.
It was through the encouragement of Winberg, that the mother/daughter duo entertained the idea of trying out for an opera. Darby has performed in two past Oakdale High School musicals and is currently rehearsing for the spring production of The Secret Garden.
“It’s written in Italian, so we sing in Italian, so that’s very different,” Darby said of the transition from high school musical to opera singer.
The 15-year-old also shared the language barrier poses an extra challenge with the blocking, as everything is in Italian.
“What’s difficult, even in the staging and where we have to go,” Amelia agreed, “is everything is in Italian. We have to really pay attention to a lot of cues to get our movements accurate.”
The Schmidts learned they would be a part of the production in February. Since then they have been busy with weekly rehearsals and, as of late, choreography for as much as three hours each Saturday.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Darby said of sharing the experience with her mother.
“It’s been a fun bonding experience,” Amelia echoed. “I mean you never know (with mother/daughter), but we have a really strong relationship and I feel music has drawn us closer as well. It’s exciting to see her especially develop this talent.”
“Working with Annalisa, she’s really helped me with my resonance,” Darby said of her teacher and coach. “She’s really helped with my technique a lot and I’ve really seen that improvement.”
Amelia shared that a critical difference in opera is the lack of microphones and the necessity for the performer to be able to project and maintain the quality in their voice.
“Your voice has to carry to that very back row,” she said. “That (for me) is a little bit of a worry.”
Fear and anxiety aside, both women agree the production is an opportunity they are thrilled to be a part of.
“It’s been so much fun,” Amelia said. “It’s been fun for us to do together and I’ve always enjoyed opera.”
“When Annalisa told us this was an opera I was excited for the opportunity,” Darby said. “I haven’t done an opera.”
For additional information and tickets visit www.galloarts.org.