Dovsky is Queen of the Night


Growing up in Encinitas performing in musical theater, Rachel Dovsky eventually turned her focus to opera. In the new discipline that takes years to perfect — most performers study opera in graduate school before taking the stage full time — Dovsky never dreamed that she would be playing the Queen of the Night role in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” in the Tuscia Opera Festival in Italy at the age of 17.

But that’s exactly what she did this summer, spending last month in Viterbo, Italy, studying with the International Lyric Academy (ILA) of Rome and Viterbo. The amazing experience culminated in three performances of “The Magic Flute,” accompanied by the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra from China.

“It was life-changing,” said Dovsky, a 2016 San Dieguito Academy graduate who will be giving a local concert on Sept. 4 to show some of what she learned.

“The combination of being in Italy, putting on an opera (‘The Magic Flute’ was in German) and putting on concerts where I was singing in Italian for Italian people … it was a big experience. I learned so much music.”

And to think, the young soprano auditioned for ILA on a whim. Since there isn’t much opportunity for young people to perform opera in San Diego County, Dovsky had been practicing with her current voice teacher, Rebecca Steinke, for about six months when ILA agent Claudio Ferri offered a tryout in February.

“(Steinke) said there’s a great opportunity, there’s this agent coming from Italy, why don’t you just audition for the experience,” Dovsky explained. “Two months later, I got an email saying they wanted me to be the Queen of the Night in the opera.

“I was not expecting that at all, considering I sang one of the most basic art songs for my audition.”

The modest Dovsky earned the part, which is usually given to highly-experienced vocalists and performs a song at a very high pitch, because Ferri noted her unusual strength and power in the upper register.

Called a summer intensive, the Festival put the opera on stage almost immediately, meaning Dovsky and the other performers had less than six months to memorize the music before traveling to Italy.

“I had about six months to learn my music and it was a big job. It’s in German and I don’t speak German,” said Dovsky, who did a good enough job that her performance of “Der Holle Roche” — one of her songs from “The Magic Flute” — earned her the top prize at the Rancho Bernardo Chorale spring concert in Poway.

The ILA finds apartments for the performers — Dovsky’s roommates were a grad student from Florida and a college student from Iowa — and they spend six days a week on voice lessons, masters classes and working on/performing concerts and the opera. That left Sundays for exploration and Dovsky said she and her fellow performers used that day to “see how far we could get on the train … just go places.”

A visit to Orvieto — which included touring underground caves in the town, which was built on a hill like a fortress — on Dovsky’s last day in Italy was one of the most memorable parts of the trip.

But for this teen opera enthusiast, the biggest highlight was the chance to learn about the craft, which she plans to pursue in college, starting next fall at Chapman University, and then probably in grad school.

Singing has been a part of Dovsky’s life since she fell in love with the art form while doing a musical as a Flora Vista second-grader.

Living in Encinitas her whole life, Dovsky has done more than 30 musicals at all different community theaters around San Diego County, including at SDA, where Dovsky enjoyed singing in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Mary Poppins” the past few years. Another recent favorite was an Escondido performance of “The Secret Garden.”

But now that she has discovered opera, Dovsky is all in.

“As I got older … I realized that opera was my true passion and I’ve been transitioning into that for the past few years,” Dovsky explained. “I enjoy the academic aspect that is not there in musical theater. Having to learn a foreign language, the proper technique for it, getting the breathing right … it just requires so much focus and concentration so that you can hit all of these notes.”

Music runs in Dovsky’s family as three of her grandparents were very musical, though she never met them; dad Mike works in software quality assurance by day but also sings and plays guitar; and younger brother David, a junior at SDA, is an accomplished piano player. Rachel has two older siblings too, and mom Sylvia is an optometrist.

In the year before heading to college at Chapman, Rachel Dovsky is off to Israel next week for a gap-year program, where she will study the bible and learn Hebrew — while continuing her voice lessons —through June 2017.

And before that, the Sept. 4 farewell concert, along with piano accompanist Fontaine Lang, is one last chance for friends and fellow Encinitas residents to see this gifted young singer. Presented by the Katherine Tailor Foundation, the concert is at an auditorium in Encinitas, and fans should call 760-331-7721 or send an email to to RSVP and learn the exact location.

It won’t be in front of 400 people at an ancient church in Italy, but Dovsky’s already done that.