Emilie Kealani on WHYY's "On Stage at Curtis"

“It’s inspiring to see women of color that look like me dominating in our field. It really carves a path for us young singers.” —Emilie Kealani

Season 18 of WHYY’s acclaimed On Stage at Curtis series continues with a portrait of Emilie Kealani. The acclaimed Filipino-American soprano from San Francisco entered Curtis in 2022 and studies in the opera program with Joan Patenaude-Yarnell as the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Fellow. As a young child, she performed in school plays and sang pop songs around the house, a love for the spotlight that ultimately led to dipping her toes in musical theater and pursuing a career in classical music and opera.

A student of Curtis alumna Rhoslyn Jones (Opera ’06) before she arrived at Curtis, Ms. Kealani was inspired to audition for the school and continue her studies in the environment where her former teacher flourished. During her gap year, prior to attending Curtis, she flew back and forth between the coasts, auditioning for young artist programs, working at a bakery called Butter Love in her hometown, and working for Horizons Unlimited, an inspiring non-profit in San Francisco that helps at-risk youth in the Mission District.

Click HERE to watch the On Stage at Curtis episode, or click the video below.

Featured performances in the episode are taken from rehearsals and recitals Ms. Kealani presented with master opera coach Grant Loehning. These include the “Presentation of the Rose” from Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier, Musetta’s aria “Quando m’en vo” from Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, and Emily’s Aria from Curtis alumnus Ned Rorem’s (Composition ’44) final opera, Our Town.

In the episode, Ms. Kealani discusses her most memorable performance moment as an apprentice artist at Santa Fe Opera, the three leading roles she’s embodied with Curtis Opera Theatre (Dalinda in Ariodante, Miss Jessell in The Turn of the Screw, and Adina in The Elixir of Love), the impact of Curtis on her artistic growth, and her future plans after graduation. She also talks about her efforts to provide collaborative opportunities for AAPI and BIPOC artists: “At school, we have CAP Projects (Community Artist Projects), and it’s also going to double as my master’s project as well. I’m trying to create a space for us to collaborate or make music together for women and artists of color.”

Visit Emilie Kealani’s official website and read a Q&A with the artist from last season here at Curtis.

Photo credits: 1.) Courtesy of Nichole MCH Photography. 2.) Portrait of Ms. Kealani, courtesy of Tira Howard and Santa Fe Opera. 3.) Production image of Ms. Kealani as Adina with the cast of Curtis Opera Theatre’s The Elixir of Love by Ashley E. Smith/Wide Eyed Studios. 4.) Photo of Ms. Kealani and pianist Adrian Zaragoza by Micah Gleason Photography.

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