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West Jordan Journal

Lynette Owens proves opera is quite the operation

Sep 21, 2018 04:54PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Lynette Owens in the titular role in Lyrical Opera’s production of Puccini’s “Tosca” seems unimpressed with Scarpia (played by Tyler Oliphant) (Lyrical Opera)

By Bob Bedore | bob@mycityjournals.com 

“Every theater is an insane asylum but an opera theatre is a ward for the incurables.”

The words of famed Austrian conductor Franz Schalk may seem to fly over the heads of most, but for those who have lived a life in the world of opera, very few words will ring truer. While people may get “bit by the acting bug,” opera can take over your life and make you feel as if you’ve been swallowed by the bug. 

West Jordan resident Lynette Owens knows that feeling all too well. Owens knew that she was a singer since birth and performed her first solo at the age of 4. And there has been very little slowing her down since then. The musically gifted Owens (she also plays several instruments and orchestrates her operas) has sung all over the world, including as a soloist at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in Mozart’s “Requiem and “Vesperae solennes de contessore” with a 300-voice choir. She received a 10-minute standing ovation 

And while there has been a lot of music in her life, opera is her passion. 

“My junior high choir teacher started singing with the Utah Opera and handed me tickets,” Owens said, remembering her introduction to the operatic world. “It was the company’s first production, ‘Tosca.’ I vividly remember watching it with awe, wonder and amazement, and felt my soul was experiencing its personal heaven. I loved the virtuosic, rich voices, the drama and even the dying.” 

Owens would later play the title role of Tosca in the same musical in Lyrical Opera’s 2015 production.   

After the introduction to opera there was no stopping this firecracker of a performer. She continued her thirst for musical knowledge through high school, performing leading roles in musicals and playing in orchestras throughout, and then went on to college with both music and academic scholarships. 

Upon graduating, she competed nationwide for opera apprenticeships and received and completed one with Sarasota Opera, then came home to sing with Utah Opera Co., for two years under the mentorship of Glade Peterson. She covered leading roles and performed comprimario roles, sang in educational outreach programs and soloed in concerts. She moved to New York City where she lived for four years training with Metropolitan Opera coach Joan Dornaman during which time she received apprenticeships with Des Moines Metro Opera and was a NYC winner of the prestigious MacAllister voice competition. 

Owens then moved to Switzerland, coaching with opera singing conductors and was a recorded soloist with the Da Camera Choir. Lynnette moved back to Utah and re-auditioned for Utah Opera Co., which frequently engaged her as a soloist with the Utah Symphony. She was one of their first Studio Artists singing the leading role of Fiordiligi in Mozart's “Cosi fan tutte, covering leading roles, singing comprimario roles and touring with their Educational Outreach program. 

There have been many standout moments in her history, performing live can lead to many unplanned moments. Lynette remembers a time she was living out a dream of being a soloist with the Utah Symphony singing alongside the great tenor George Dyer. She was dressed in a shoulder-less dress with plastic boning to hold everything in place. 

“As the hot lights poured down on me, the boning became more and more pliable and began bending lower and lower,” she remembers, shaking her head. “I knew it. The audience knew it. Everyone, including me, was holding their breath thinking they might get an unintended show.” Luckily, things held up and Lynette has learned to use metal boning in her dresses, including for her performance at Carnegie Hall. 

In 2013, she founded Lyrical Opera and has worked tirelessly to not only bring outstanding opera to Utah but also a chance for performers to live their art. 

“Being an opera singer often means making a choice,” Lynette said, talking about the fact that opera companies often import their talent and if you want to make a living in opera you have to be on the road a lot, and that means not having a family. “The hardest part about singing opera is having to choose between family and a career. It shouldn’t have to be a choice.”

Not only does Lyrical Opera provide a chance for performers to sing some of the great operas while still allowing them to remain home, but it also has provided many innovations that have separated it from other community-based companies around the globe. 

First, Lyrical Opera uses a fully orchestrated backing track, created note by note, instrument by instrument, by Owens. Accompaniment like this didn’t exist in the operatic world until Lyrical Opera brought it to light. It was one of the things that Lynette was told “couldn’t be done.” People soon started learning that she takes that kind of talk as a challenge, not a warning. 

Lyrical Opera then combines those tracks with projected scenery that contains the “supertitle” translations. The effects of the rear-projected scenery is stunning and provides a visual look that goes far beyond what most think of when they see “community” productions. And the supertitles gives everyone a chance to follow the story. 

Opera is mostly sung and, more often than not, in a non-English language. Having the translation appear for all to read makes a Lyrical Opera experience a great one for many.

But it’s not just the technical achievements that make Lynette’s company shine; the talent that she has been able to collect locally really stands out. Lyrical Opera Theater gives great exposure to local artists allowing them not only a chance to perform but also to increase their skills. They also have a goal to lay the ground work for future generations of both opera singers and opera lovers. 

Lyrical Opera performs what could be called the “greatest hits” of opera. The shows are those that many will have heard of at some point. The spring opera for 2019 will be “La Taviata,” an opera that is beloved around the world and preformed often. To help raise money for this, Lyrical Opera is hosting a Masquerade Party on Oct. 20 at the Cottonwood Country Club. More information on both of these events can be found at LyricalOperaTheater.com. 

Opera is a truly unique experience, and thanks to Owens, many people in Utah can experience it. Her love of performing and sharing her gift is something that will never go away. She is the very definition of Franz Schalk’s “incurable.”