Budding Portland opera star heading to Berlin to sing

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PORTLAND — What makes opera a joy, according to budding opera star Sydney Kucine, is that it is storytelling through music.”

Kucine is a Casco Bay High School graduate and Portland native who has been invited to study at the Berlin Opera Academy in Germany this summer.

To get to there and help pay for her housing, coaching, language classes and other expenses, Kucine is hoping to raise about $2,000 through both a GoFundMe page and an upcoming benefit concert.

The concert will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 10, at the Williston-Immanuel Church on High Street, where a freewill offering will be taken. The event includes music by Mozart, Debussy, Strauss and more, followed by a reception.

Kucine, now 22, just earned her undergraduate degree in vocal performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in California. While in Berlin she will sing the role of Papagena in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

In addition to two fully-staged performances of the opera, Kucine will also sing at a gala concert staged by the opera academy. This will be her third trip abroad to study opera.

During the summer of both 2015 and 2016, Kucine also took part in an immersive Italian opera training program offered by Oberlin College and Conservatory.

While in Italy she sang the roles of Fortuna from “L’incoronazione di Poppea,” Susanna in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and La Prima Conversa in “Suor Angelica.”

Kucine was first introduced to opera by Jaye Churchill, a local voice coach and founder of the all-female Musica de Filia choirs. It was when Kucine was in eighth grade that Churchill acquainted her with an aria from Puccini’s opera “Gianni Schicchi.”

And that was it. Kucine was hooked.

Puccini has now become her favorite composer and she’s even visited his house in Lucca, Italy.

In addition to operas by Puccini, Kucine said, “Some of my favorite or dream roles are Juliet in “Roméo et Juliet,” Violetta in “La Traviatta,” Gilda in “Rigoletto” … and someday, when I’m much older, Anna from “Anna Bolena.”

Starting in the fall, Kucine will begin pursuing a master’s degree at the Mannes School of Music in New York. Her career goals include “performing at opera houses around the world,” especially the Teatro Alla Scala in Milan and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

“Studying opera is not easy,” Kucine said. “But when I sing opera, I know that it can touch people. One aria can stir emotions and inspire people. It’s a feeling like no other to move others through the (power of the) human voice.”

There are many challenges involved in becoming a professional opera singer, the least of which is learning to sing in a foreign language, she said.

“But,” Kucine said, “I think a career in opera suits my personality because I do love to travel. I love new places and immersing myself in other cultures.”

She’s already fluent in Italian and hopes to become fluent in both German and French as well.

“This summer I will be taking German classes daily and be immersed in Berlin’s culture,” Kucine said. “To me, it’s important to have fluency in these languages because my dream is to be an international opera singer.”

While the world may be calling, Kucine still considers Portland home, with family living in both Portland and Scarborough.

Kucine said she wouldn’t have gotten this far without the love and support of her mother, Barbara Kucine, as well as the help and mentoring provided by Churchill and Deborah Voigt, her voice teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory.

“Debbie is such an amazing singer and person. She’s a world-renowned opera soprano … and knows what it takes to have an international career. We talk about managers, agents, traveling, competitions and how to treat your colleagues, all of (which) are so important to a singer’s success.”

At Casco Bay High School, Kucine said, all the teachers were supportive, but she specifically thanked Principal Derek Pierce and staff members Stephanie Doyle, Leslie Appelbaum and Brooke Teller.

The first time Kucine sang opera in public was during a Winter Carnival talent show at the school.

“I wasn’t sure how the whole school would react to hearing me singing opera for the first time so I was a little nervous,” she said. “After I was done singing there was enormous applause, teachers were crying and students were coming up to me saying, ‘Wow, I have never heard live opera before and that was awesome.’

“The fact that I could move a huge room of people through singing made me think, I must do this for my career.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

Portland native Sydney Kucine, left, singing the role of Susanna in Mozart’s  “Le Nozze di Figaro” in Italy last summer.