Young Singer Brings New Hope To Opera
While opera audiences age, this 15-year-old singer from Gaithersburg is trying to interest Girls Scouts nationally in this art form.
By Michael Doan, Patch Contributor | May 9, 2017 10:18 am ET
Though opera audiences seem to be growing older, new hope for young people's love of
this art form emerged at Opera NOVA's Spring Fling in Arlington on April 29.
Mina Swaminathan, age 15, of Gaithersburg, made her Opera NoVA debut, singing Giovani Paisiello's "Se Tu M'ami. Mina, who attends Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts in Washington, is launching a Girl Scouts project to "Open up to Opera" on a nationwide scale.
And one spectator, Jenna Francesca Goldberg, age 8, said she was impressed by the lovely voices of the
singers, "especially when they sang high, high high." An aspiring actress, she often takes the lead role in her school productions.
These girls seemed to be carrying out Opera NOVA's mission of spreading this high art form from the costly
opera houses frequented by older, rich people to newer, more diverse audiences
at low cost.
Peter Fallon, a candidate for County Board, noted Opera NOVA's long contribution in introducing young
students to a theater production by professional vocalists of an opera designed for them. "It has democratized access to its performances by building new audiences of seniors and those who are marginalized in the county," he said.
Fallon was joined by such speakers as Tom Weiner of the Arlingtones and Kelvin Manurs from Nauck, who
stressed the importance of keeping Opera NOVA as it fills a social need that affects the overall culture of Arlington.
The audience at the National Rural Electric Coopertive Building also heard music from Artistic Director Jose
Sacin, and soloists Jocelyn Hunt, Alex Albuquerque, Grace Gilday, Sissel Bakken, Eduardo Castro, Jenni McGinnis and Annie Gill.
Opera NOVA recently completed a highly successful production of Scott Joplin's "Treemonisha" in April and
plans a condensed version of Rossini's classic Cenerentola (Cinderella) next year, along with concerts benefiting seniors and young people.
Photo of Mina Swaminathan, age 15, of Gaithersburg. Credit: Paul Schomburg
Aiding Children of Imprisoned Parents.
David Ryan is one of five nationwide recipients of a certificate of excellence award!
David Ryan of Opera NOVA in Arlington is one of five nationwide recipients of a certificate of excellence award from Opera Volunteers International to be presented June 20-23 at its annual convention.
When Ryan moved to the Washington Metropolitan area, he was naturally attracted to the Washington National Opera. David Ryan has volunteered with Opera NOVA for 12 years, and is now the the treasurer and administrator of Opera NOVA. President Miriam Miller says, “he has given countless volunteer hours clocking in more than 30 hours most weeks.”
Opera NOVA seeks to provide audiences with the chance to enjoy opera performances locally, to create performance opportunities for aspiring artists in the community, and to produce inspiring programs for youth and seniors.
Opera Volunteers International has given Opera NOVA of Arlington Va. two major awards for its performances for children and seniors.
The nonprofit that supports opera will provide $2,000 for Opera NOVA’s production of the the opera “La Cenerentola”, or Cinderella, which was being performed for school children in mid-March and will be shown to the general public June 29 and 30 at Gunston Middle School.
A major factor in the award was Opera NOVA’s achievement in getting children of imprisoned inmates to come to a performance for free.
Opera NOVA also won a Project of Special Merit award for its development of senior audiences for opera. “OVI recognizes Opera NOVA’s leadership and volunteer efforts in creating opportunities for seniors to lead a richer life through exposure to opera,” the citation said. The opera company has provided low-cost daytime concerts and opera performances for seniors for many years.
OVI has as its goal to “encourage the expansion and development of programs that recruit, develop or train volunteers for participation in all phases of opera company support.” Opera NOVA has previously won many local awards, including from the American Association of University Women.
“La Cenerentola” will be shown to the general public at 6 p.m. on June 30. First, there will be special performances for home schoolers, summer campers, paraochial, private and public school students on June 29 at 10:30 a.m. and to seniors at 2 p.m. June 29. On June 30 at 2 p.m., families of military personnel and children of imprisoned parents will see the program.
Opera NOVA’s president, Miriam Miller will receive the awards at OVI’s Lifting Many Voices conference in St. Louis June 20 to 23.
For information contact Opera NOVA @ firstname.lastname@example.org /703-536-7557
Opera NOVA: José Sacin: Opera Beyond the Stage
By Tionge Johnson, Opera NOVA
‘The Three Tenors’
Sunday, Oct. 28, 3 p.m.
Reinsch Auditorium, 2807 North Glebe Road, Arlington.
The year is 1989. A Peruvian teen and his family arrive in the U.S, and a year later discovers the world of opera: a career he would embark on well into adulthood.
That Peruvian teen was José Sacin, artistic director of volunteer-run organization Opera NOVA in Arlington and world-traveling baritone performer. Sacin explained that it was a VHS tape he and his family watched of a concert they’d seen before called “The Three Tenors” that sparked his interest. It was a concert that inspired Sacin and three other performers, Eduardo Castro (“La Cenerentola,” “Don Giovanni,” “Cosi Fan Tutte,” “L’Elisir d’Amore,” “Count Rodolfo”) and Alex Alburqueque (“La Cenerentola,” “Monkey See, Monkey Do”) to organize and perform “The Three Baritones” concert to be held at Reinsch Auditorium at Marymount University at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28.
“When I first arrived to the states, I wasn’t involved in opera at all,” said Sacin. “But I started getting into it when I saw that VHS tape, around the time that I started studying at George Mason University.”
Sacin was an undeclared major at George Mason until he met Patricia Miller, director of vocal studies in opera. At the time he was taking a music elective class with professor Dr. Martha Giles, and was introduced to Miller through Giles.
“I knew I wanted to sing a little opera because I loved the ‘The Three Tenors’ concert so much that I started imitating it, “ said Sacin. “Dr. Martha Giles heard me sing and told me I had a really nice voice, so she felt that I had to meet Patricia Miller, someone she felt would best encourage me to study music and opera, ” said Sacin. “I then got so immersed with opera that I would just listen to any opera I could.”
Patricia Miller taught and worked with Sacin about three quarters of his college career. Sacin describes Miller as more than just a mentor and colleague. “I’ve always stayed in touch with Patricia,” said Sacin. “I have great respect for her, respect for her experience, and value her friendship. “
Sacin credits his exposure to opera at George Mason as the gateway into a whole new music genre.
“When I was a student at George Mason, I used to work at the music library,” said Sacin. “I’d be sitting around with a whole collection of laser discs. I would spend most of those eight hours or so, thinking to myself, “OK, today I want to look at this opera, then I’ll sit down and get the score and look at the recording or video the next day. I still research and try and discover new operas, but at that time it was so new and exciting to me that it almost become an obsession,” said Sacin. “I went through so many operas and just wanted to keep learning and learning.”
It was also at George Mason where Sacin met Alburqueque and Castro (also Peruvians), where the three began a lifelong friendship through a shared passion for music.
“I’ve known Alex for about 10 years and Eduardo since the mid-90s,” said Sacin. “I met Alex through Eduardo at George Mason and met Eduardo through his sister. We then started hanging out at the Student Union there, which had a group of Latin Americans like us. Once Eduardo’s sister found out I sang, she told me, ‘Oh, my brother sings!’ you guys should meet,’ and so we met and have been working together since then.”
It was from there that Sacin’s opera career began and continues to this day. He has worked with Opera NOVA as artistic director, performer, and conductor for children and classical operas, while also traveling to countries like Japan, Italy, Spain, and Russia to perform. He has lead roles in Opera Camerata in Washington and has sung with the Washington National Opera. Now, Sacin is looking forward to performing in “The Three Baritones.”
#“We hope we can cover lots of varieties of music that people will like, as well as trigger them into finding new styles of music,” said Sacin. “We (Alburqueque, Castro, and Sacin) have sort of the skeleton of what it will be. So far we are planning to start with a standard aria and then in the second half start with an ensemble with some solos in between, possibly from ‘Don Giovanni,’ ‘Carmen,’ and maybe a little from ‘West Side Story’.” There will also be Zarzuelas and other Latin-American music.
To Sacin, opera goes beyond what audiences see on stage.
“There is this misconception that opera is boring or outdated,” said Sacin. “But there is this excitement about it because it’s happening right there. People (performers) are reproducing this in real time, so there is a difficulty to it. It’s like the Olympics, you don’t know if they’ll make the jump or not. There’s an element of risk. When a singer goes for a high note it can be very risky and that’s what makes it exciting, especially when the outcome is successful. It’s the opposite of a movie, where there’s no risk because its been edited. But with opera, the performers are achieving a very difficult task right there, so there’s a thrill in anticipating what will happen.”
The Reinsch Auditorium is at 2807 North Glebe Road, Arlington. Tickets ranging from $10 to $25 can be purchased at or 703-536-7557 or or at the door.