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Opera Students Depart for National Competition in New York City

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – JANUARY 6, 2014Three music majors at The University of Texas at Brownsville said they are prepared and eager to compete at the National Opera Association Convention being held Jan. 9-12 in New York City.

Robert Reyna, a baritone, plays Sulpice, a sergeant in the regiment; Connie Lopez, a mezzo-soprano, plays the role of a noble woman, the Marquise de Birkenfield.

Accompanied by Dr. Daniel Hunter-Holly and Dr. Nicole Asel, Assistant Professors in the Department of Music, and staff pianist Laura Brumbaugh, students Connie Lopez, Azalea Laredo and Robert Reyna depart Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Lopez, Laredo and Reyna will represent UTB in the Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition, where they will be up against four other schools from across the nation. Selected by the National Opera Association from audition videos, the finalists were announced shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The trio has been rehearsing before, during and after the holiday break, culminating in a closed dress rehearsal for about 35 guests on Sunday, Jan. 5.

Ann and Robert Buchanan were among the patrons in attendance at the rehearsal.

“The students did beautifully in their rehearsal,” said Ann Buchanan. “Bob and I think the group will represent UTB very well; with their voices, they have a good chance of bringing home a first-place award. In any case, they will benefit greatly from this experience and will bring back wonderful memories.”



The Buchanans have devoted their lives to music education in Brownsville; Ann, as Head Choral Director at Hanna High School, and Robert as Vocal and Elementary Music Supervisor at Brownsville Independent School District. Before leaving the rehearsal and reception on Sunday, these faithful supporters of the UTB music program made a donation to help with the students’ expenses in New York.

“We try to support our local students as much as possible,” Buchanan said. “Bob and I both came from elsewhere, but we continue to tell students here they do not have to go any further than UTB to receive a quality music education. We have superb instructors here, and we know students leave this music program ready to be successful performers or amazing music teachers throughout the Valley and beyond.”

Dr. Juliet V. García, UTB President, and members of the UTB administration joined the Buchanans and other local opera supporters who attended the dress rehearsal, and all congratulated the students on a beautiful performance and wished them well for the upcoming competition.

“This has been hard work, but we are enjoying every minute of it,” said Laredo, a senior vocal performance major. “We are singing in French, so that makes it even more challenging.”

The scene, selected by Hunter-Holly and Asel, is from Gaetano Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment.) Reyna, a baritone, plays Sulpice, a sergeant in the regiment; Laredo, a soprano, plays Marie, a young woman who was adopted by the Regiment many years before; and Lopez, a mezzo-soprano, plays the role of a noble woman, the Marquise de Birkenfield, who tries to turn the Regiment’s daughter into a proper young lady.

Azalea Laredo, a soprano, plays Marie, a young woman who was adopted by the Regiment.

The trip to New York will be a first for the students, with the exception of Reyna, a junior vocal performance major who graduated from Harlingen High School in 2010; he once accompanied his father when he was driving a truck to New York.

“We just turned around after unloading and headed back, so I didn’t really see anything,” Reyna said. “I was trying to pay attention and help my dad find the right streets. Other than that, my travelling has been mainly in Texas.”

Laredo, from Monterrey, Mexico, who graduated from high school in 2010, has previously traveled to North Carolina and Michigan. She was accepted to two out-of-state music workshops this past summer – the Greensboro Light Opera and Song program in Greensboro, North Carolina and the Up North Vocal Institute in Boyne City, Michigan.

“They were both wonderful programs where I learned a lot, and such beautiful places,” Laredo said. “Especially Boyne City, right on the shores of Lake Charlevoix, is magnificent.”

Connie Lopez, a music education major who graduated from Harlingen High School South in 2011, also attended a summer program, the Druid City Opera Workshop at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

“We are all looking forward to this opportunity to represent UTB, and we want to do our best,” said Lopez. “However, I am glad we will perform our scene on Wednesday, taking the stress off for the second and third days of the convention – there will be so much to do and see and learn.” 

For more information on the Bravo Opera Company and the Department of Music, contact Dr. Hunter-Holly at 956-882-7178 or daniel.hunterholly@utb.edu.  ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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