NU grad sings her way to the top

Kris Anne Bonifacio

North Shore Retirement Hotel, 1611 Chicago Ave., hosted Opera Idol 2011 last week, and Elda Peralta, an Evanston resident and a Northwestern alumna who earned her master’s degree in music and vocal performance in 2010, won out of six other finalists. The Daily spoke to Peralta about the competition, her NU experience and her future career plans moving forward.

Excerpted from full interview:

Daily: How did you first get into opera singing?

Peralta: I was majoring in music education during my undergrad years at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif., and I had to choose a musical instrument as part of that major, so I picked voice. I had never been exposed to classical music ­- I’ve been to a couple of operas in elementary school, but I didn’t grow up listening to classical music. So I started taking voice lessons as an undergrad, and their focus is the bel canto technique, which is classical music. I asked, “Is that opera?” And they said yes. I didn’t like the idea, but I put effort into it. Six months later, my teacher told me to do this competition, so I did it for the experience, and I was able to get second place. That kicked off the adventure. It first scared me because of the sound that came out, I was like, “What is this coming out of my mouth?” But that’s what got me into it.

Daily: How did you find out about the competition?

Peralta: I had seen posters about it since last year around the (Music Administration Building). I didn’t get a chance to participate in it last year, and I knew it was coming up again this year. I saw it on this website where singers find out about auditions and competitions.

Daily: How did you choose which pieces to do?

Peralta: The first round, I did a French piece, “Nobles seigneurs, salut!”, from the opera “Les Huguenots.” I also did a Spanish piece, “Pregon,” by Oscar Espla. These are beautiful pieces, and they show off different things. The first one can be kind of fast at times, and the Spanish piece is kind of slow. They make you have to connect the melody, so I chose those two. They’re good ways for you to be able to act and show off a character. During the final round, I sang “Una voce poco fa” from “The Barber of Seville,” which we did at NU a couple of years ago. I was able to sing the role in the song from that piece. That piece also requires a lot of agility. It’s a very fun piece where you really have to act out the character and play the character really well. You always have to choose what works best for your voice.

Daily: So you won the grand prize, which is a full scholarship and airfare to attend the Sherrill Milnes & Friends workshop. How do you feel about winning that?

Peralta: It’s a fantastic prize to experience. I will get to work for two and a half weeks with incredible people in the business and people who are knowledgeable and have the experience. Sherrill Milnes, for one ­- he’s great and he’s a very well-known singer in the industry. I want to go there with a learning mindset and ready to absorb everything I can but enjoy the experience at the same time. It’s going to be fun. Not everybody gets to do what they love, and that’s what I’m doing.

Daily: What was your favorite memory as a graduate student at NU?

Peralta: I was very fortunate to participate in four operas at NU. The first one was “The Consul,” and that was around May 2009. I did “The Barber of Seville” in the fall of 2009, and then I was in “The Marriage of Figaro” in winter of 2010. The last one was “Ghosts of Versailles” in 2010. I just had such an awesome time doing these. It was great experience singing and getting to dress up, and they were a lot of fun. At the same time, being able to explore music that has been around for so many years and bring it to life and learn in the process was also incredible. I learned to work with directors, colleagues and conductors that they brought in from professional circles.

Daily: What are your next plans with your career?

Peralta: I’ve been working with Chicago Arts Orchestra, and we just finished doing a concert that was a collaboration with a NU professor, Dr. Drew Edward Davies. We got to perform pieces that have never been performed for over 200 years, so that was a great experience. I’m going to do another concert with them in May. I’m planning on auditioning and getting more work around the area to get voice experience, and some doors will open up hopefully.

Daily: Do you have any advice for aspiring opera singers?

Peralta: Work passionately, and above all, just appreciate that we are able to do these things. And don’t give up.

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