Opera Trio Debuts in Pacifica

Le Voci Divine takes stage at the Mildred Owen Concert Hall for the first time.

A single voice, both delicate and robust, resounded through the hall. Gorgeous tones floated through the dimly lit room, as the audience was soothed with the pure beauty of each note.

Soon, the single voice was joined by two others, and the languorous harmonies began to flow.

Le Voci Divine entered hand-in-hand Saturday night at the Mildred Owens Concert Hall to debut their newly formed trio with a night of stunning opera performances and tremendous grace.

The trio, comprised of mezzo-soprano Twila Ehmcke, soprano Rachel Rosales, and soprano Susan Gundunas, was also the inaugural performance of the San Francisco Bay Opera Company.

“The hardest thing was finding the opening piece,” Ehmcke said. “And then I found Hildegard. She stands for everything the San Francisco Bay Opera stands for.”

The performance showcased pieces from ten operas, but began with the music of Hildegard von Bigen, an 11th century composer who believed that music was sacred, and combined mind, body, and spirit.

The trio is brimming with talent, each soprano experienced in performing throughout the world.

They are accompanied by Paul Harris of the San Francisco Opera, a pianist and opera coach who has performed everywhere from San Francisco to Vienna.

“This is such a great facility with all of the volunteers,” he said. “I was a friend of the atmosphere.”

The concert was presented by Pacifica Performances, and introduced by Artistic Director Morning Nichols.

Nichols noted that the founder of Pacifica Performances, Mildred Owens, was an opera performer herself, and would have been proud to see such talent on the stage.

“She loved the opera; it was just her joy,” Nichols said. “She loved drama and all types of performance, but classical was her heart.”

The pieces that took stage ranged from 11th century compositions by Hildegard von Bigen to the more modern beauty of Turandot, first performed in 1926.

The three women were elegantly dressed as they sang compositions of Mozart, Gluck, Bellini, Handel, Verdi, Puccini, Dvorak, Bizet, Hildegard von Bingen and Strauss.

Though they may have been singing to a small audience, the gifted women sang as if they were center stage at the Teatro alla Scala.

The trio would hit notes at such heights that most in the audience would need an elevator to experience, then trickle down softly to the meaty mezzo lows. The range of each individual astonished many in the audience, as soft melodies would suddenly crescendo to climatic moments.

The artists would transition from playful bouncing beats to heartbroken harmonies in a matter of moments, to provide the audience with a variety of operatic experiences.

Pacifica resident Sarah Glew said the performance of Les Tringles Des Sistres Tintainet from the opera Carmen was her favorite of the night, because of the chemistry between the performers.

“They play off of each other so there’s more electricity,” she said.

Glew said she has been an opera fan all her life.

“It’s better than television,” Glew laughed.

For Ehmcke, the piece that speaks to her most deeply was the trio performance of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier Suite.

“It’s a beautiful piece of music I’ve had the honor to sing,” Ehmcke said. “It has profound meaning to me.”

The trio piece, Ehmcke said, is what inspired her to create Le Voci Divine. After having performed the same song with Rosales in New York City, she ached to perform it again with the same magnetic beauty. Joined with Gundunas, who performed with Ehmcke in The Phantom of the Opera, the three gifted artists began creating brilliant music together that will surely find success.

“We’ll come back,” Ehmcke said of another performance in Pacifica. “We were birthed here.”


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