Student heads to New York for opera competition

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Graduate student Ani Maldjian won first place in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Western Regional Audition on Oct. 22 at the University of Southern California, and will compete in the national semifinals in March 2006 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

“I am so excited,” Maldjian said. “It has been such a dream of mine to sing on the stage of the Met, and to be doing this in my youth is amazing. I just know I’m going to have a blast.”

Maldjian will sing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, accompanied with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, said David Aks, CSUN Opera artistic director.

“Because the rest of the world kind of notices her,” Aks said.

Deanna Murray, music professor, said the semifinals are a step for Maldjian to eventually transition to the Young Artist Program.

“She’s ready to go on to New York,” Murray said.

The Metropolitan Opera National Council holds annual auditions in 16 regions in the United States and Canada.

“I felt so shocked and so happy,” Maldjian said. “I felt like I won the lottery or something.”

Maldjian said this year was her first time auditioning for the Metropolitan Opera National Council.

“I felt so proud and so accomplished, and most of all thankful to God for this blessing,” she said.

“Before she had the audition, she was ready to win,” Murray said.

Aks said he was thrilled to see Maldjian receive first place at the Western Regional Audition.

“It never really crossed my mind she would actually win because you never know (competition),” he said.

Maldjian said the audition was a three-round event. She said the second round was the most difficult because the pressure to make the finals builds up.

“She pulled it all together,” Murray said about Maldjian’s performance at the western regional finals.

Murray said she has taught opera for 18 years and attending the competitions excites and moves her.

At the western regional audition, Murray said she takes notes about each singer’s performance.

“And Ani started to sing, I put a pen down and I started to cry,” Murray said. “It was really, the whole audience was just ‘oh,’ this is very special.”

According to Aks, each of the 11 finalists at the western regional auditions’ finals sang two opera pieces.

The first piece was the singer’s choice and the second piece was the judges’ choice, Aks said.

“(The) first piece, she was one character, and second piece she was completely different character,” Aks said. “And they both (were) very successful.”

Maldjian’s first piece was from G.F. Handel’s Se pieta di me non senti, which she sang as Cleopatra in “Julius Caesar,” that opened on Oct. 28, an opera recently performed at CSUN, Aks said.

“I was very involved with the character and really understood who she was in depth,” Maldjian said.

Maldjian said the aria, a solo piece sung in an opera, describes Cleopatra’s plea to the gods for pity, which she added was the most vulnerable and desperate time of Cleopatra’s life during the opera.

“The piece really touches me in a special way and I really connect with it,” Maldjian said. “I knew I could do my best with this aria versus starting with any other aria.”

Aks said Maldjian’s performance was a sad, yet gorgeous piece.

“She sang absolutely beautiful,” he said. “She just looked like she’s suffering on the stage.”

Maldjian’s second piece was Donizetti’s “O luce di questamima.”

Maldjian said, after the first one, she felt really good about her performance.

“I felt even happier about my second piece because my nervousness was almost gone and I was having a lot of fun,” Maldjian said. “Overall, I was very happy and would have been happy with any outcome.”

Aks said Maldjian has the ability to communicate many emotions whenever she sings on stage.

“She pours herself completely into what she’s doing very, very passionately,” Aks said. “She’s a born performer.”

Murray said Maldjian has excellent language skills and always works with different coaches to increase her ability to perform.

“She works (harder) than anyone I know and she also learns music very quickly,” she said.

According to Aks, Maldjian studied with Marilyn Horne, a world opera singer, at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara last summer.

Maldjian will perform the role of June in “Wet,” which is about water crisis in the world, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in December.

“I plan on continuing to work very hard in this field and strive to be the best I can be, and even better, no matter what obstacles I face,” Maldjian said.

Maldjian is currently learning the music and is rehearsing for the show with other artists, including Jonathan Mack, Paul Berkolds, and Arlene Thomas, Maldjian said.

“After I do what I can, the rest is in God’s hands, whose plan I will follow,” she said.

Aya Oikawa can be reached at aya.oikawa.73@csun.edu.