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Event benefits study abroad

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published April 11, 2013 at 2:42 a.m.

Stephanie Smittle

Stephanie Smittle and her local pop group, the Smittle Band (aka The Smittles), have recorded and released two CDs - Bright Street and Tales From Tattletown - while circulating through central Arkansas’ club scene.

Now Smittle is turning her talented voice to opera. And she’ll soon travel to a part of the world where opera is a way of life.

“As it turns out, I’ve been offered a somewhat unexpected opportunity to live in Arezzo, Italy, from June 3 to July 19, to study and sing the [lead] role of Fiordiligi in [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte at a theater in a neighboring town, Cortona,” she says.

“So we are in a fundraising mode, and the guys in the band, along with my good friends, Louise Terzia and Stephen Koch, have decided to help out, along with some of our musical collaborators and friends.”

Terzia and Helen McCumber are organizing the fundraiser tonight at North Little Rock’s The Joint. Smittle will sing with different combinations of performers, including Koch, Lyn Noricks, Wythe Walker, Ray Wittenberg and Bill McCumber as well as “a Yiddish folk song or two” with the Meshugga Klezmer Band (Peter Miller, Jim Harper, Rand Retzloff and Roland Gladden).

Friends also likely to participate: Steven Juain Young, Arkopolis and special guest Jim McGehee.

Smittle realizes the challenges she’ll be facing in her studies abroad, including two hours of Italian classes every morning.

“Like most singers, I have the delicate task of ‘sounding’ fluent in a language I don’t speak [Italian], and that will involve carefully translating the words so the right meaning and mood comes across, then making the pronunciation as true to the native speakers as possible,” she explains. “Oh, yeah, [while doing] all this in character, so I have a lot of work to do!”

Last year, Smittle was coached by faculty members of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music at workshops in Dallas and New York and learned about the “Oberlin in Italy” opportunity: a group of conductors, teachers and dramatic and vocal coaches from around the globe convening for summers in Arezzo for a quarter century. Her voice teachers, Heather and Edward Crafts, told her there was an opportunity for a role in Cosi fan Tutte.

“They encouraged me to put together a recording of the Mozart aria required,” Smittle recalls. “Unfortunately, I didn’t know that particular aria, and it is a beast! So, I sent a recording of another Mozart aria I did know, with a promise to send the Fiordiligi aria within a few days. I locked myself in a room, learned it, recorded it that weekend and sent it to the Oberlin program’s staff, who invited me to join them this summer.”

Terzia expects her friend is on the road to operatic greatness: “I’m planning to hear her sing at La Scala in Milan, one day soon !”

The Smittle Band 8-9:30 p.m. today, The Joint, 301 Main St., North Little Rock

Tickets: $10 (501) 831-5255

Weekend, Pages 34 on 04/11/2013

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