Alumni Q&A: Mezzo-soprano Alice Chung '14 on her Merola Opera Program experience

Alice ChungUCSB Music alumna Alice Chung (Music Minor/BA Sociology ‘14), a former student of Professor Benjamin Brecher and Dr. Linda Di Fiore, spent the summer of 2017 performing in San Francisco with the Merola Opera Program as a 2017 Merola Artist. The mezzo-soprano shared some of her favorite memories from the summer and gave us an inside look at the audition process for this prestigious program.
Q: Congratulations on being selected as a 2017 Merola Artist! Can you tell us more about the program and how you were involved?
A: Thank you! I was given the opportunity to sing the Schwabacher Summer Concert, which is an extended scenes concert, fully staged and with a full orchestra. For the concert, I sang Augusta Tabor from The Ballad of Baby Doe and Santuzza from Cavalleria rusticana. I also covered Popova in The Bear and sang in the Female Quartet for Holst’s Savitri for their triple bill. As a Merolini, we had opportunities to coach and work with some of the most amazing musicians and directors in the field. We had the chance to sing on the beautiful stage of the War Memorial Opera House for the General Director auditions and the Merola Grand Finale. It was truly an unbelievable learning and performing experience and one that is unique to the Merola Opera Program. Following the program, Merolini leave not only with much love and support from many donors, sponsors, and audience members, but also the opportunity to request financial support for career-related activities through the generous Merola Board and Career Grants Committee.  
Q: What was the audition process like for the Merola Opera Program?
A: There are two rounds to the audition process. Each auditionee has approximately five minutes in the first round. Then, within the same week, there will be a callback for those who are given one. The callback is approximately ten minutes, during which you may be asked to sing different arias on your package and interviewed. I believe the most important part of your callback is to show who you are as a person and artist. You have the best people across the table to judge one’s character, talent, and potential.
Q: You have had many great experiences in the opera world. What is your favorite role that you have played so far?
A: I have to say, I thought this would have been the easiest question to answer. Truthfully, I’ve found that I have many favorite things in each role I’ve done. The more I work on a role, the more hidden gems I find. It’s really an honor to delve into these characters, and I can only hope that I can present my findings to the audience as well as I’ve come to understand them. But, if I had to pick one, I would have to say Zita in Gianni Schicchi. Zita was the most entertaining role I’ve performed, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Q: How did your time at UCSB in the Voice Program prepare you for a career in opera?
A: I was really lucky to find myself among colleagues and mentors who believed in me and an academic institution that let me enroll in so many non-major courses. What I appreciate most about my time at UCSB is the quality of academics, musicianship, and work ethic. I had wonderful teachers (and GTAs) in voice and diction, and an abundance in knowledge regarding the past and present of the music field.
Q: What do you miss the most about UCSB?
A: I miss everything about UCSB! During my years at UCSB, I was surrounded by such wonderful colleagues and people who supported each step I took. I especially miss the atmosphere of UCSB, the beaches and weather in Santa Barbara, and of course, the quality of care that UCSB gives to their students.    
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I have a couple of competitions coming up. I will be singing Giovanna in the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s production of Rigoletto. I will also be singing a song of Mahler’s Rückert-lieder with the Conservatory Wind Symphony. I will also be singing the Beethoven Choral Fantasy with the Kansas City Symphony. In the summer of 2018, I will be returning to Central City, Colorado, to cover Azucena (one of my dream roles) in Verdi’s Il trovatore.
Korean-American mezzo-soprano Alice Chung has been praised for being a “force of nature” (SFCV) and "soaring with impressive power (KCMetropolis)." Ms. Chung was recently seen in San Francisco, participating in the prestigious Merola Opera Program. She sang excerpts of The Ballad of Baby Doe as Augusta Tabor and Cavalleria rusticana as Santuzza in the Schwabacher Summer Concert. This past fall, Ms. Chung performed the role of Madame Larina in the new production of Eugene Onegin with Lyric Opera of Kansas City. She also sang Die Hexe in Hänsel und Gretel at the Conservatory of Music and Dance in Kansas City. Other roles include Eduige (Rodelinda), Sister Lillianne (Dead Man Walking), La zia Principessa and Zita (Suor Angelica/Gianni Schicchi), Mama McCourt (The Ballad of Baby Doe), Mrs. Grose (The Turn of the Screw), Dritte Dame (Die Zauberflöte), Cecilia March (Little Women), and Mariana (Luisa Fernanda). Ms. Chung has also appeared with Pasadena Opera Guild, Opera Santa Barbara, OperaWorks, Chautauqua Opera, and Central City Opera. This coming spring, Ms. Chung will be singing the role of Giovanna (Rigoletto), and this summer, she will be returning to Central City to cover Azucena in Il trovatore. Ms. Chung received a minor in music and a BA in sociology in 2014 from UC Santa Barbara, where she studied voice with Professor Benjamin Brecher and Dr. Linda Di Fiore
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Alice Chung