In 2017, Rachel Dovsky’s voice teacher appeared in the San Diego Opera’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance.”
“She told me to come see the show because, first of all, it was going to be wonderful, but also because there’s a role in it that she thought I would play at some point in my life,” Dovsky said.
Less than two years later when the 20-year-old Encinitas resident learned MiraCosta College was staging Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera this March, she jumped at the opportunity to audition and won the part of Mabel.
“I really had no idea that I would get the opportunity to play that role in such a short amount of time and so soon in the future,” said the San Dieguito Academy and MiraCosta graduate now attending UCSD. “I am absolutely thrilled to be playing this role.”
Performances are scheduled March 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and March 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 2 p.m. at MiraCosta Theatre. The box office can be reached at 760-795-6815. Tickets also can be obtained online at www.miracosta.edu/officeofthepresident/pio/buytickets.html.
Dovsky, who has performed in theater and musicals since childhood, said she is impressed by the job that Director Tracy Williams and Musical Director Elan McMahan are doing in pulling the production together. The cast includes a mix of talented students and professionals.
“Everyone is so devoted to putting on a great production and is really passionate about this project,” Dovsky said. “It’s quite a feat putting together all of the different voices and parts.
“There are so many layers to this show. Unlike a musical ... this show is almost entirely sung. There’s very little dialogue, which means the music is extremely important because that’s how we’re telling the story — through song.”
Dovsky is uniquely suited to portray Mabel since the vocal part requires a coloratura soprano with a very high range. Coloratura refers to the performance of elaborately, ornamented passages often with wide leaps and trills.
“It requires a lot of vocal ability and hitting very high notes,” Dovsky said. “In this show, I will be hitting Eb above high C and anyone who knows music knows how high that is.”
McMahan called Dovsky “the perfect fit” for Mabel.
“When we heard Rachel audition last December, we knew instantly that we had found the right actor,” McMahan said in an emailed response. “The role of Mabel requires a great deal of vocal technique.
“I would say that in my five years at MiraCosta, the role of Mabel requires more vocal technique than any other role we have cast; Rachel has that technique in spades. ... The agility with which she uses her voice is truly remarkable, especially in a 20-year-old young woman.”
Though she had been singing in community theater for years, Dovsky’s venture into opera came in her mid-teens on the advice of her voice teacher at the time. That’s when she discovered she had a true passion for the art form.
“I gave it a try and realized that opera was for me,” she said. “That’s when I began singing and practicing every day. I’ve also been playing piano since I was 9.”
In 2016 at the age of 17, Dovsky was accepted to study during the summer at the International Lyric Academy in Italy.
There, she worked intensively on improving her operatic singing and learning the role of Queen of the Night in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” a part renowned as one of the most difficult for coloratura. The assignment necessitated that she learn German lyrics at the same time she was attempting to negotiate the words for Italian opera.
The experience culminated in three performances of “The Magic Flute” in the Tuscia Opera Festival with China’s Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra.
“I performed for 500 Italian patrons of the arts who really know their opera,” Dovsky said. “The audience loved it. We had a wonderful conductor. He expected a lot of me, but was proud of my performance. My voice teacher was there and she was very proud as well.”
Contrary to what her accomplishments would lead one to expect, she is majoring in cognitive science rather than music at UCSD. She plans to continue her musical pursuits on the side, a strategy that her involvement in “The Pirates of Penzance” is reinforcing.
The MiraCosta production, Dovsky said, promises to be a delightful treat for audiences, adding that it will contain some surprises those familiar with the script have not seen before.
“It’s just a really good time,” she said. “It is actually opera, but it’s light enough that I think it lends itself to a wider audience.”