The divas who don’t wear Prada

Posted: Thursday, December 07, 2006


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The soprano, Dr. Mari Hahn, says the term, “diva” usually has positive and negative connotations.

“We want to concentrate on the positive the flashy performance of content with a lot of heart,” Hahn said.

The Performing Arts Society will present Hahn with fellow diva Hayden Dewitt, a mezzo-soprano, and pianist Rosie Humphrey in an evening of operatic arias, musical theater and cabaret music in duet.

Hahn is a Japanese-born, Canadian soprano who has been acclaimed for the diversity of her repertoire and the quality of her voice. She currently is the head of the voice division in the music department at the University of Alaska Anchorage.



Dewitt has traveled the globe performing in what Hahn calls her “fach,” or specialization as a lyric mezzo-soprano. She often performs in “trouser roles” — a woman who takes the part of a young, male protagonist.

Rosie Humphrey is pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in music at UAA and may often be heard playing for UAA faculty members Walter Olivares and Hahn.

The title of the concert, “The Divas who don’t wear Prada,” refers to the recently released film “The Devil Wears Prada.” This reference to pop culture plays on the rise of opera in pop culture, and though a person may never have attended opera before, he or she may still be familiar with the repertoire. Such companies as Pepsi, Sony, Dunkin Donuts and Ford Motor Co. have featured opera in their commercials.

In film, Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” underscored the famous scene from “Apocalypse Now” wherein helicopters bear down on a Vietnamese village. Richard Gere rescues Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman,” as Verdi’s “La Traviata” blares from his limousine.

“I think it can only be positive,” Hahn said of the trend. “... It’s a way for people to become more curious about opera as an art form.”

The concert will include such composers as Offenbach, Puccini and Mozart. The divas will not, however, be limited to opera. The audience will be treated to musical theater numbers and cabaret songs from Gershwin, Kurt Weill and Edith Piaf.

Benjamin Jackinsky, producer for the Performing Arts Society, was in attendance when Hahn gave a different program in their last season. He said people should expect “some sort of interaction with the audience. I mean, she doesn’t stand and sing formally next to the piano, she works her way through the crowd.”

Hahn echoes the sentiment.

“We like to present this sort of content in a very accessible way.”

The Performing Arts Society presents “The Divas who don’t wear Prada” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna. Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students, and are available in advance at Northcountry Fair, River City Books and Sweeney’s in Soldotna. In Kenai they will be available at Already Read Books, Charlotte’s and Veronica’s. Visit www.performingartssociety. org for information.

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