A Lockport School District music teacher is taking her talent for opera to new heights.
Karen D’Angelo, who teaches vocal music at North Park, Lockport High School, and Lockport High School West, recently returned from a three-week trip to Italy traveling and performing with Operavision Academy.
D’Angelo has been singing opera ever since her undergraduate studies at SUNY Fredonia, but never pursued it professionally until the last few years.
“I wasn’t really serious about it, especially after I got married and started raising children,” D’Angelo, who is married to Lockport High School English teacher Peter D’Angelo, said. “Now that my oldest is in college, I’ve felt a strong desire to take it up again.”
The lyric, coloratura soprano studies the Bel Canto style of singing with her Canadian voice teacher, Dr. Mary Lou Vetere, who is an internationally-known voice coach.
Vetere, along with her vocal coach, American opera star Aprile Millo, coordinated the inaugural three-week intensive program “Operavision Academy” D’Angelo attended this summer.
During the Operavision Academy, opera students trained at Centro Stud Italiani in Urbania, Italy. Students were submerged in opera culture and history during the three weeks, as well as performing in several notable venues.
The first week, the students performed in Bussetto, the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi, outside of the museum honoring acclaimed soprano Renata Tibaldi, who died in 2004.
The second week, the group performed at a 12th century castle in Massa, Italy, at a benefit concert for the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, which assists young performers with scholarships and study grants. The foundation is named in part after Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini, widely considered to be the second-most important opera composer after Giuseppe Verdi. Puccini’s granddaughter, Simonetta Puccini, sat in the front row of the concert.
“She doesn’t have any children, so she’s the last of the Puccini line,” D’Angelo said. “It was so exciting to meet her.”
The group also performed at a home for retired professional musicians in Milan, which was founded by Verdi in the 1890s. Verdi is buried in the middle of the courtyard, and the students were able to pay respects to him two at a time, D’Angelo said.
The students then performed “Va, pensiero” from Verdi’s “Nabucco” at the site, joined by residents of the home.
“All of the residents had careers in music,” D’Angelo said. “We even had a 92-year-old woman singing along with us- it was a very touching concert.”
Several notable members of the opera and entertainment industry worked with the Operavision Academy students during their trip, including Maestro Richard Bonynge, an Australian conductor and pianist; Melanie LaPatin, a choreographer for “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance?”; New York City drama coach and Opera News writer Scott Barnes; and New York City accompanist and vocal coach Earl Buys.
Now back stateside for the school year, D’Angelo has a series of concerts coming up.
She performed Friday evening at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Buffalo, performing arias by Verdi, Vincenzo Bellini, and Gaetano Donizetti.
This September, she’ll be performing at “Opera For an Awesome Afternoon!” at Christ United Methodist Church in Buffalo, 3 p.m. Sept. 12, as well as a free concert at the Kenan Center’s Taylor Theatre at 12:15 p.m. Sept. 15.
D’Angelo’s accompanist is her longtime friend, musician Ivan Docenko, who is an accompanist for Buffalo State College, does keyboarding for the Buffalo Tango Orchestra, and serves as an organist at a church in East Aurora.
“He’s just an amazing musician,” D’Angelo said.