The Arkley Center for the Performing Arts will host two nights of opera music that will also serve as a homecoming for the featured performer.
The Eureka Symphony, under the direction of conductor Carol Jacobson, returns from its winter break with over two nights of music — “Tragedies and Triumphs” — and they will be joined by Humboldt County native, Clara Lisle, who comes back to Eureka from New York. She will perform arias from Handel, Mozart, Puccini and Charpentier and the symphony will close the evening with an orchestral suite from Rimsky-Korsakov.
Jacobson and Lisle know each other very well. It was Lisle’s work with the Eureka Symphony that kicked off her career. They have collaborated since Lisle was a violin player in the youth orchestra.
“I really think one of the main functions of a community orchestra is to help local talent get noticed,” Jacobson said on Tuesday. “I have had quite a few local people come back and play with the orchestra. Clara is unusual in that most of the kids who come through public schools don’t go on to professional music careers, but at the same time, I have some kids I taught who now play for the symphony. It’s so thrilling for me to keep music in their lives.”
Lisle didn’t always have her eye on a career as a soprano and professional opera singer. She began her musical career playing the violin as a child and that wasn’t a decision she made of her own volition — it was a requirement mandated by her mother, Lori Dengler, a Humboldt State University professor emeritus and geology expert.
“I’ve been working with Carol since I was nine or 10,” said Lisle. “Music wasn’t optional when I was a kid. My mom was adamant that her kids would study music as long as they lived under her roof and I’m eternally grateful for that now. Who knows how my life would have panned out without music?”
It probably wouldn’t have Lisle back on the stage, where she had seminal moments as a youth performer. Lisle made her debut with the youth orchestra and she later became the soloist winner while a senior at Arcata High School.
After graduation, Lisle attended the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London to earn a bachelor’s degree where she achieved first class honors in 2013. Lisle is excited to be able to perform a selection of well-known arias — and one not-so-well-known aria by Charpentier — for a local audience.
“As a young artist, you tend to be put into certain boxes and getting the chance to pick some of my favorite pieces was pretty luxurious and it’s exciting to get to do them with the entire orchestra,” Lisle said. “The Charpentier piece is a really beautiful aria that hardly ever gets done; it’s a luscious piece of music and I’m very excited about that.”
Lisle sings as a lyric soprano — a warm full voice that is usually cast as an ingenue: A young woman characterized by innocence and naivete. Depending on the piece she is chosen to perform, her practice and rehearsal time can vary greatly.
“Some of the pieces I have chosen I have been doing for a long time; the newer pieces I have been working on for about six months,” Lisle said. “In the early stages of learning a new piece, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your voice coach working on any translations and getting familiar with the text. You want to see where the phrases go and before even getting started with the singing, you want to get an understanding of the story and the character. Depending on the role and how large it is, that can take quite a long time.”
Lisle said she’s been preparing and training for the upcoming concerts for about six months and she pointed out that the draw of a live performance is that no two are ever the same. Performers need to pay attention, focus and know what’s going on around them because not every production goes to plan.
“It can be difficult. You have to be on top of your singing, on top of your vocal technique, but you can’t allow the audience to know about that focus,” Lisle said. “You have to pay attention to your acting and then take into account the musicians and other singers. Things can go wrong and you need to be on your toes.”
The Arkley Center is expecting some big crowds to fill the seats for the two concerts scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights. It’s general manager Robin Hashem’s job to make sure nothing goes wrong.
“I believe having Clara and the symphony is a home run for Humboldt County; the county does have so much musical talent and anytime we can get the Eureka Symphony and the opportunity to bring people back we try to do that,” Hashem said. “It’s something we like to highlight and I am anticipating a big weekend and when we do have people with local roots it brings people out and hopefully they will turn out this weekend and hear the wonder of the Eureka Symphony live.”
If you go
What: The Eureka Symphony, featuring soprano Clara Lisle
Where: The Arkley Center for the Performing Arts, 412 G Street, Eureka
When: Friday and Saturday, lecture at 7 p.m., performance starts at 8 p.m.
Cost: $19-$49, children under 12 free
More information: https://www.eurekasymphony.org
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.