Survive or suffer ‘Death by Aria’


“Death by Aria”: It’s all about survival. The singers want to survive to the third and final round. The audience wants to survive hearing hours of operatic singing and multiple different arias.

Maddi Dayton
Soprano opera singer Kelsey Thacker made it past the first round with her acting and facial features.

Arias are solo pieces or extensive melodies in an opera accompanied by a full orchestra that move the plot. They are performed in many languages and require extensive facial expressions to express the context of the piece. Therefore, the purpose of the “Death by Aria” event in Orem is to last, whether one is singing or viewing the competition.

The Utah Vocal Arts Academy partnered with the Utah Lyric Opera to host a opera competition yesterday at the Orem Library. It is one of multiple final concerts for the participants of the Vocal Academy’s summer program.

“It came from the idea that I wanted (the singers) to have as many performing opportunities as they could while they were here,” said Isaac Hurtado, founder and owner of the Utah Vocal Academy and a BYU alumnus. He said “Death by Aria” came from an event by an opera company he sang at 15 years ago.

Elisabeth Coleman, a BYU graduate student and participant in the competition, started opera singing when she was little by learning from her grandmother. She performed in BYU’s “Marriage of Figaro” last year and will title in BYU’s “Manon” in the fall. She was excited for the new challenge the competition gave her.

She had to figure out what the audience and what the judges would want “as opposed to what I do best,” she said. She worked on her arias for the past year, but the summer camp “has given me a really great opportunity to sing a full operatic role.”

The summer camp consists of students, ranging from juniors in high school to college graduates who are preparing for careers in opera. “BYU singers really showed up this year,” Hurtado said. Having the most BYU students than ever before, he continued, “I think we (consist of) about 50 percent BYU voice majors.”

The competition ranked three out of 20 total singers as they tried to please the general public and judges with their presentation of arias. However, the six judges — a tennis coach, a mortgage broker and a German teacher, among others — had no association with music.

“It’s not serious. It’s jokes. It’s fun,” Hurtado said. “But the singing will be serious; it will be good.”

Tasha, a recent UVU graduate in vocal performance, went to the concert and said, “I just like watching people sing.” She had worked with a lot of the singers before and was excited to see them.

The opera singers’ voices rang through, as their training requires them to have rich, full sound that can cut through an orchestra. “It’s always aiming for that bigger sound, but in a healthy way,” Coleman said. “It’s figuring out what your body is capable of and amplifying it.”

This is the first of many performances for the students in the Utah Vocal Academy’s summer program. Two full operas, “Falstaff” and “The Gondoliers,” are still to come.

For more information about Utah Vocal Academy’s future events, visit:

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