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INTERVIEW: Ashley Galvani Bell And Antón Armendariz Diaz On New Bay Street Online Class: "Introduction To The Joys Of Opera"

T.J. Clemente

Ashley Galvani Bell and Antón Armendariz Diaz. (Photos: Carlos Keyes and Courtesy)

Soprano Ashley Galvani Bell is a unique talent. Her ability to sing and interpret opera has moved audiences all around the world, including the Bay Street Stage in Sag Harbor. Now due to the coronavirus pandemic cancellations of her live shows, Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center for the Arts is presenting a new online workshop titled Introduction to the Joys of Opera, an enlightening and empowering survey of opera led by Galvani Bell and stage director Antón Armendariz Diaz. The class is open to kids and adults ages 13 and up and will be held as part of Bay Street's new online programming platform, Bay Street To-Go.

In a conversation with both Galvani Bell and Armendariz Diaz (who is in Spain), the duo expressed their excitement about how wonderfully well the experimental program is progressing. "We didn't know what to expect. It is so much more personal than I could ever imagine. I am so excited about this Zoom experience in the future," she said.

A little background on Galvani Bell: her sold out performance as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni earned high praises from Opera News. She has performed as a soloist in the United States, Italy, Spain, France, and Russia. In 2018-2019, she made her Carnegie Hall debut as soprano soloist in Haydn's Nelson Mass and Schubert's Mass in C, debuted as Madama Butterfly with Townsend Opera, and debuted as Mimi in La Bohème with both the Mississippi Opera and the Natchez Festival. She has performed as Elle in the critically acclaimed performance of La Voix Humaine at the Rioja Forum in Spain and at the New York Opera Fest.

When asked about how the Introduction to the Joys of Opera program came about Galvani Bell said, "We were scheduled to do our annual Bay Street opera. It was going to be a combination of Mary Queen of Scots by Friedrich Schiller, and the opera Mary Queen of Scots by Donizetti. When, because of the coronavirus situation, Bay Street couldn't guarantee a date I asked if I could be involved with their new online programs. I have worked with Anton, he actually co-directed our show here at Bay Street with my brother last year, so I asked him to join me, and he said yes. The class is not only an introduction to opera, it is a class not just for those sophisticated in the knowledge of opera, but for people of all ages who want to get an introduction to opera and who also love Broadway, and that's one of the themes of our class - showing opera's connection to Broadway and how opera can be for anyone."

Armendariz Diaz debuted as a soloist with the Coral Santa Maria de la Redonda in 2002 in Spain. In 2008, after several master classes he discovered he was a tenor, and has been working to solidify this new register. Since his debut as an opera singer, he has been recognized for his powerful and visceral acting. His repertoire includes a wide range of Spanish song, baroque, Italian chamber music, and oratorio. In opera he has sung the roles of Don Basilio in Le nozze di Figaro, Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte, and Don Gasparo in La Favorite. He debuted as a director with Rioja Lirica, directing L'elisir d'amore, Cosi fan tutte, Don Giovanni, El sueño de Mozart, among others.

Armendariz Diaz was focused on the widespread reach of the online classes at Bay Street. "I am in Spain, we have one student in the Middle East and Ashley is in New York, as are others and through Zoom we are all connected live for the class. This is just wonderful," he relayed.

They both left no doubt that participants of Introduction to the Joys of Opera will come to understand the power behind the music, its impact on society, and why it has been a successful medium for centuries. Ashley Galvani Bell and Antón Armendariz Diaz stressed they will discuss the myriad of ways that opera has influenced live theatre and popular music, with sessions that are designed to be informative yet stimulating.

Classes will be held for eight weeks starting May 14 through July 2, meeting on Thursdays from 4 to 5 p.m. via Zoom!

For more information about Bay Street programming, visit www.baystreet.org.

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