Western Washington University's Opera Studio, under the direction of Jay Rozendaal, presents "Cindrillon," the familiar fairy tale of Cinderella, written by French composer Jules Massenet and set in a rooftop garden.
It's performed in French with projected English captions at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 12; Saturday, April 13; and April 19 and 20; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 14, in room 16 of Western's Performing Arts Center.
Mezzo-soprano Veronica Jensen, 25, in her fourth year of pursuing a bachelor's degree in vocal performance at Western, plays the title role.
Question: What's your background in the performing arts?
Answer: I grew up in Spokane and spent much of my childhood and teenage years involved in musical theater productions at school and at Spokane Civic Theater, school orchestras, dance classes in ballet and jazz, and also in school choirs, where I loved singing jazz.
Q: What have been some of your favorite times on stage?
A: The first role that I enjoyed dramatically was Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors," and I found my comedic streak as Brooke in "Noises Off." I first realized my love for classical singing when I met my voice teacher, Edward Cook, in Bellingham. He is responsible for giving me all the tools I need for a successful career in opera.
Q: Who have been some of your favorite experiences so far?
A: My most memorable experiences singing classical music at WWU include singing Zerlina in "Don Giovanni" under director Katie Weld, singing Ravel's "Scheherezade" with conductor Arthur Shaw and the WWU orchestra, and performing the alto solos from Bach's "Magnificat" with Leslie Guelker-Cone's WWU Concert Choir with the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, directed by Roger Briggs.
Q: What operas and composers do you enjoy?
A: Composers that I always love listening to are Debussy, Strauss, Shostakovich and Puccini. I try to see as many operas at the Seattle Opera as possible. The operas I enjoyed most over the last few years were Seattle Opera's "The Barber of Seville" and the Seattle Opera Young Artist program's "Werther."
Q: What has been your involvement in Western's Opera Workshop program?
A: I have been in four operas (including "Cendrillon") at WWU, and it has been a very important experience learning how to act, sing and dance on stage while upholding a classical vocal standard. I have had the chance to work closely with professors like Katie Weld, Jay Rozendaal and Arthur Shaw, whose expertise in the field of classical music and opera have been invaluable to my education and performing experience.
Q: What has this current production been like for you?
A: Learning the role of Cendrillon (Cinderella) has been an incredible experience for me as the size of the role requires much time to learn and memorize the foreign language text and music, develop vocal stamina, and cultivate dramatic integrity. The entire cast is dynamic and working side by side with my close friends who have leads in the show is something I'll cherish forever. The chorus has a significant role and they are incredibly talented, and so much fun to work with and watch on stage.
Q: If people don't like opera (or think they don't), why would they want to attend?
A: Some people may find opera to be unapproachable as the music is not consistently a part of our mainstream culture and there is often a language barrier. But if there is an opera to try, it is "Cendrillon," because the story is classic, the plot contains both humorous and dramatic elements, and the music is gorgeous and easy to connect with. Also, we're doing the opera in its original language, French, which is beautiful to listen to, and we'll have supertitles with the English translation throughout the entire show.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: My next step is to pursue my master's in music in vocal performance. I just finished my auditions this last quarter for graduate schools. I was accepted at Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and New England Conservatory. I made my decision to attend the Jacobs School of Music at IU, as they do six fully staged, fully orchestrated operas a year on a stage the size of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and they offered me an assistant instructorship position and a scholarship that covers most of tuition. After my graduate studies, I plan on pursuing a performing career in opera in the U.S. and in Europe.