Native Augustan gives voice to tragic story

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This is the role that soprano Lindsay Davis has been waiting for.

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Soprano Lindsay Davis rehearses for her role as Sister Angelica in Augusta Opera's production of The Passion of Puccini. Sacred Heart Cultural Center provides the backdrop.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Soprano Lindsay Davis rehearses for her role as Sister Angelica in Augusta Opera's production of The Passion of Puccini. Sacred Heart Cultural Center provides the backdrop.

Next weekend, she will star in The Passion of Puccini , an Italian opera by Giacomo Puccini, as Sister Angelica. Her character, a young woman in her 20s, has been sent to a convent by her wealthy, noble family because she had an illegitimate son.

She hasn't seen her son since he was taken from her seven years earlier, Davis said. The opera is set in late 17th-century Siena.

"Her family basically disowned her and placed her in a convent to hide their shame," Davis said.

In this moving opera, Sister Angelica is a gardener who makes herbal remedies for the other sisters in the convent, while praying desperately for word from her family about her son. Her aunt finally comes to see her, and Sister Angelica learns that her son died from an illness two years earlier.

Devastated, Sister Angelica is seized by a heavenly vision in which she believes that her son is calling for her to meet him in paradise. She makes a poison from her flowers and drinks it. Realizing that she has committed suicide, she asks the Virgin Mary for forgiveness and goes up to heaven to be with her son, she said.

"It's very heart-wrenching. It's very beautiful. The music is stunning. It's her tragic story of loss and tremendous love," Davis said.

An Augusta native, Davis started taking voice lessons in middle school. She wanted to sing on Broadway, but her teacher advised her to get a foundation in classical music, which started her on the path toward opera, she said.

A graduate of Lakeside High School, Davis began her college studies at Shorter College in Rome, Ga., and transferred to Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., where she majored in classical music with a minor in psychology. Upon graduation, she entered the Boston Conservatory in Boston, where she earned a Master of Music in Opera Performance in 2006.

"I've been singing ever since," Davis said.

She has participated in several summer programs nationwide and moved to Princeton, N.J., in 2008 to pursue her career. This summer, she will participate in a program in Des Moines, Iowa. Audition season begins in September, and she will travel to New York to compete in nearly 50 auditions for agents and opera companies from all over the world.

"I think my favorite part about opera is that audiences have an emotional reaction they wouldn't normally have. I particularly like the very moving operas, the romantic operas. I like being able to reach the audience and make them feel something that they haven't felt before. I like being able to impact people's lives through song," Davis said.

The talented singer also loves the challenge of opera and can sing in Russian, Czech, Spanish, Italian, French, German and English. She auditioned for the role of Sister Angelica during a Christmas fundraiser for Augusta Opera.

This performance marks a new chapter for Augusta Opera. Founded in 1967, the opera company closed in 2009 because of funding difficulties, said artistic director Tonya Currier.

"There was such an outcry from the community ... that drove several volunteers to bring together people who might want to see things continue. Two-and-a-half years later, we're back," Currier said.

People of all ages love opera, which is reflected in the diverse age range of the opera's cast. The all-female cast of singers varies from teenagers to a woman in her 70s, she said.

"There's an appetite for this type of music in this community, and it's because the Augusta Opera has been here for so many years. But there's also a new, young audience coming up. I think they like the grandeur of it. They're attracted to the excitement, the dramatic aspect as well as the music," Currier said.

If you go

WHAT: The Augusta Opera presents The Passion of Puccini, starring soprano Lindsay Davis

WHEN: 8 p.m. Feb. 25-26 and 3 p.m. Feb. 27

WHERE: Sacred Heart Cultural Center, 1301 Greene St.

TICKETS: $35 adults, $25 senior citizens, $20 students; (706) 364-9114; www.theaugustaopera.com


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