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Photo courtesy of Peggy Sears

Michael Redd, Ashten Smith and Robert Hamilton in the famous Pearl Fishers duet by Bizet. Nadir and Zurga reminisce about the lovely priestess, Leila.

Many of the singers in CSUB's presentation of opera scenes Friday night won't be around town much longer, so catch them while you can.

"We've got a really interesting group," said opera program director Peggy Sears. "There are a lot of these students out there, applying to graduate schools, or getting ready to graduate."

Sears is also on her way out, officially retiring at the end of this school year. In the meantime, she is giving her students a chance to stretch themselves with arias and scenes from a challenging repertoire normally reserved for mature singers. Scheduled for the program are scenes from Verdi's "Rigoletto," Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Old Maid and the Thief," Georges Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers," and a full helping of Bizet's "Carmen." Sears said while her job is to match the music to the voices of the singers, the singers themselves made some suggestions.

"The older singers wanted to sing some real stuff," Sears said. "And who is going to turn down 'Carmen,' especially when you have the voices."

"It just happens to be that kind of a crop," Sears said.

The performers include David Ortiz, Joaquin Calderon, Almalinda Duran and Krystal Angulo singing selections from "Rigoletto;" Elizabeth Provencio, Tori Provencio, Robert Hamilton and Ashten Smith singing a scene from "The Old Maid and the Thief;" Hamilton and Michael Redd singing the famous duet from "The Pearl Fishers;" and Lawrence Lyons, Adrianna Medel, Kristen Falls, Angulo and Tori Provencio singing scenes and arias from "Carmen."

Lyons, a tenor, said singing the role of Don Jose in "Carmen" was a personal stretch for him.

"He falls head over heels for Carmen, erratically so," said Lyons, 23. "He's not my style; he's weak.

"Vocally, he's a little difficult -- he's older, the part is for a spinto. Other than that, it fits my voice. When I get older, I definitely think that it will fit my voice."

Hamilton, also 23, is a bass who plays two very different types of parts. In "The Old Maid and the Thief," he sings the role of Bob, the thief, a wanderer; in "The Pearl Fishers," he sings the role of Zurga, the leader of a group of fishermen.

"It hasn't been the easiest thing to do," Hamilton said of performing the two roles. "I just have to let myself go and do it."

While performing opera may seem to be all about the singing, it is also about acting, as opera is dramatic music.

"I just have to make those words that I'm singing part of my being at that moment," Hamilton said. "And that's how I prepare for the role."

"'Carmen' is more about Don Jose than about Carmen," Lyons said.

"He evolves; he goes from being this very prim and proper person to being head over heels in love with Carmen, and becomes a thief."

"Carmen is still Carmen," Lyons said.

The scenes are directed and staged by Sears, with costumes by Roger Upton and sets and lighting by Ray Finnell. Most of the scenes will be sung in English; subtitles will be provided for those selections sung in another language. Soo-Yeon Park Chang is the accompanist.