Rosalinda Verde and the Visalia Opera Company
Nov 21, 2014 12:00AM ● Published by Brandi Barnett
Opera ExposedDecember 2014
By Fache Desrochers
It’s a fact of life that some people are simply a force of nature: powerful, inherently fascinating and immune to obstacles in their path. Rosalinda Verde, the young founder of the Visalia Opera Company, is every inch this kind of natural marvel. Born and raised in Visalia, she knew from an early age that singing was going to be her life’s work. “I think I asked my mom when I was 3, ‘When are you going to put me on stage?’” Verde recalls. “This was after I had seen one of Michael Jackson’s music videos, and I thought, ‘I want to do that, too.’ But I never got into any classical training when I was young. It was always pop music, Hispanic music, singing in people’s backyards…that was my passion.”
Verde’s M.O. is simple, but mighty. Step 1: Choose a direction. Step 2: Go that way with all the power in your being. Before she became the visionary behind the Visalia Opera Company, Verde put this same optimistic determination into her pursuit of a musical education at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “I had no idea what I was getting into,” Verde says. “When I auditioned for the music program, I walked into the auditorium, and there were all these girls dressed to the nines with entourages of instructors and stacks of sheet music, and I’m thinking, ‘Um…I have a boom box.” As modest as she is compelling, Verde insists that she can’t imagine how she was selected for the program. But to her college instructors (and anyone with a pulse), it was clear that her raw ability paired with her intense passion rendered her more than qualified. After securing her place at Point Loma, Verde auditioned for the San Diego Opera Chorus, where the love for opera hit her full-force. “There was nothing I had experienced so far that was better than being on that stage and singing with 80 other operatic voices,” Verde says.
Her desire to share opera with others runs deep, as do her family ties and local roots. Even though there are those who might not think that an opera company could thrive in Visalia, Verde was characteristically undaunted when she moved back to the area and founded it. A part of the Arts Consortium, the Visalia Opera Company has so far staged two fully-fledged productions since its launch in 2010: Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. But it is the company’s recent third production that was unlike anything most had ever seen: A Mariachi Opera called El Bracero which will ran for one night (November 15) in Oval Park, served free menudo, and delivered an operatic performance to local audiences in a truly unique way.
Verde’s plan for the Visalia opera company is twofold: In the immediate future, her goal is to expose as many people to opera as she can. However, she is under no delusions about the reservations that many people have about the art form. “People don’t think opera is relatable,” Verde says. “So we work hard to make sure we have translations and narrations, so people feel connected to what they are watching. Because the story is the key to getting your heart and mind involved.”
And in the long run? Well, true to form, Verde’s long-term vision for the Visalia Opera Company is nothing short of splendid. “My grand vision is to make Visalia an opera hub by building on what we have,” says Verde. “And why not? Look at the Sundance Film Festival. That’s in a tiny town in the middle of Colorado. Why shouldn’t Visalia be an opera hub?”
Like the operas that inspire her, Verde’s visions are magnificent. But at the end of the day, one suspects that it is her personable warmth and homegrown passion that will play the biggest part in making the dreams of the Visalia Opera Company a reality. “Sometimes I don’t feel as though I’m the most qualified person to start an opera company,” Verde says with a shrug.“But whatever! I can find people who can help me get it drummed up somehow.” Verde smiles slowly, contagiously.“This is an odd example, but you know lengua burritos? Soooo good! But because it’s tongue meat, people are like, ‘That’s disgusting.’ But I say, ‘Have you tried it?’ And it’s like that with opera. Let me show you what opera is. Let me show you how delicious it is.”
Visalia Opera Company • (559) 802-3266