By Michael Tseng
The arrival of internationally famed singers Vladimir Chernov and Jessica Chen heralded a Russian opera masterpiece at the Arcadia Performing Arts Center on Saturday Night. Chernov, a cultural treasure and Russian Baritone artist, brought classical Russian and European opera to the community, and performed with his student, Jessica Chen, a Taiwanese singer with international acclamations in various competitions.
Chernov and Chen are both teachers at the UCLA vocal studies department, and have trained over a decade in vocal tone control. Chernov is well recognized for his rich baritone voice and his Italianate interpretations of operas, while Chen is known for her strong role as a dramatic soprano. Joined in the performance was pianist Douglas Sumi, who dedicated the whole night to accompanying the duo.
The trio performed a two-part act of the Night of Opera Romance, featuring Russian, French, and Italian opera, works of composers such as Leonid Malashkin and Giuseppe Verdi. Their performance was met with much enthusiasm, so much so that Chernov performed an extra song as an encore. Chernov describes the uniqueness of the opera, and believe that having erratic motions and sounds will keep the audience’s attention.
“The program must be extraordinary; otherwise, you will lose people. So we chose the three most difficult duets in the opera,” says Chernov. “You need athletic vocal shape, and require tons of energy to sing it well. When people see the program, they will say, that you are insane. But this is important. We want to bring to the public something unknown.”
The opera was narrated by Dr. Stephen Pu, a performing arts teacher at Arcadia High School, who believes that this is a great opportunity for the community and students to experience opera.
“Opera is not something most high schools have. They are singing in French, a big challenge, and opera involves some acting and staging, and a different way of using their voice than popular repertoire.”
Chen privately worked with the Arcadia Choral Society and Arcadia High School’s Chanteurs to train them for their performance of Habanera from the original French opera, Carmen. She states that she has thoroughly enjoyed working with all the talented students and singers in the groups, and encourages them to pursue their passions and dreams in music.
“I think that music is a journey that teaches many lessons throughout life, if the students and singers are passionate for music, they should continue and work towards it, no matter what kinds of difficulties they meet or the circumstances.”
Both students and audience members relished their time in the opera, enjoying the unique cultural experience that only a place like Arcadia can provide. Chernov and Chen were especially thankful for the audience’s support and very happy with the quality of the performance.