Gala concert gives voice to alumni singers, inspires music students

Four Clark alumni, all of them professional singers, took the stage in Razzo Hall on Jan. 27 to showcase their operatic talents and inspire current students who envision a career in music.

Clark Arts presented the Alumni Gala Concert featuring Darlene Ann Dobisch (’95), Zhanna Alkhazova (’02), Thaddeus Bell (’98) and Tara Goodhue Alcorn (’07). They were accompanied on the piano by Clark University faculty member Sima Kustanovich.

The evening highlighted work from a variety of operas, oratorios and musicals and attracted a good number of current Clark students, many of them music majors.

Dobisch opened the concert singing Scoglio d’immota fronte from the opera “Scipione” by George Frideric Handel. A prominent soprano oratorio and solo recital singer in Germany, Dobisch credits Clark for giving her the solid underpinnings for a music career. “Clark has hugely influenced my positive outlook on life,” she said in an interview. “The faculty was always there for me, and while the music department was small, it gave me the foundation I needed.”

After studying voice at Clark, Dobisch went on to study at the University of Michigan, and in 2000 she moved to Germany. “I knew I had a better chance in Europe. I studied at the Luebeck Conservatory, and started landing important roles soon after,” she recalled.

Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” has been a prominent influence on Dobisch’s life, thanks in large part to Clark. “I’ll never forget when I was eighteen, sitting in a music class at Clark, when the professor put on ‘The Magic Flute.’ It was like someone shot me with a gun, it was absolutely magic.” Years later in Germany, she was cast in the pivotal “Magic Flute” role of Queen of the Night and performed the opera in a German subway station as a way to bring classical music to a broader audience.

The structure of the Gala Concert and the laid-back, sometimes comical, vignettes and descriptions before the songs put the audience at ease. Before each new song, one of the performers would briefly summarize the opera from which the pieces had been chosen. “I have never understood the uneasiness people have with operas,” said Dobisch. “All of the stories are so rich and incredibly intense, there really is no difference between that and other forms of entertainment.”

Duets were interspersed throughout the evening, giving a rich sense of camaraderie on stage. Alkhazova and Alcorn sang Sull’aria duettino (Susanna and Countess) from the opera “Le nozze di Figaro” by Mozart, and their chemistry was palpable.

“I’ll always be a Clarkie. It’s a crucial link between the four of us, and it’s so grounding,” Alkhazova said. An up-and-coming opera singer in New York City, Alkhazova raved about her Clark years. “It was such a fantastic experience for me. I had opportunities I never would have at a larger university. The faculty is just as talented and helpful as they would have been if I went to a conservatory-based undergraduate program. Instead of being lost in such a competitive setting, I was celebrated and nurtured.”

After his time at Clark, Bell pursued a master’s of music in vocal performance at New England Conservatory. He became a music educator, serving as choir director for several middle schools. His two duets with Dobisch, and one with Alkhazova, were clear crowd favorites, and an obvious highlight for him as well.

Alcorn has stayed close to her Clark roots, singing roles with Greater Worcester Opera, including Ida in “Die Fledermaus.”

Closing out the second act were a few non-operatic pieces. Alcorn sang a beautiful rendition of If I Loved You from the musical “Carousel” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, followed up by Bell delivering the spiritual It is Well with My Soul.

The four Clarkies began to wrap up the evening by singing a hilarious ensemble piece called Libiamo from “La Traviata.

The final piece supplied a fitting conclusion to the concert. Dobisch, Alcorn, Alkhazova, and Bell pulled out their black binders and sang the Clark alma mater: “Oh Clark we here have gathered to thee from east and west to pledge with deep devotion the college we love best!” The audience laughed and sang along, briefly unifying the Clark students, both former and present.

“It’s so exciting to imagine myself really having a career in music,” said Ashley Hames ’13, a vocal performance major at Clark. “Sometimes it feels so impossible, but seeing them up there was the motivation I needed.”

~ Alix Joslyn ’12