Operatic opportunity


Singer Alexis Gutierrez wants people to know his name.

Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photo: Singer Alexis Gutierrez sings Italian lyrics outside at the University of New Mexico. Gutierrez and two other UNM music program students will take part in the International Lyric Academy in the summer program in Italy. The program runs from July 2 to July 22.

And this summer, he will get his chance.

Gutierrez, 20, will travel to Rome, Italy, and take part in the International Lyric Academy as part of a student program where he will sing a comedic opera with others from around the world.

The Belen resident, who is a sophomore at the University of New Mexico, was selected by an Italian official from the academy to participate in the International Lyric Academy to receive professional coaching and voice lessons during his time in Rome and Viterbo, Italy.

He said two other students from his program will also attend the academy.

Gutierrez is a 2009 Belen High School graduate who auditioned after his instructor at UNM said the official would be in town for a short period of time to hear student perform.

“I felt like, he’s here, why pass it up?” Gutierrez said.

The UNM student must raise $1,800 before he can go on his trip that runs from July 2 to July 22.

The trip will include his participation in two performances ― one in Rome and one in the city of Viterbo, an ancient city in the center of the country. The opera, “Gianni Schicchi,” is by Giacomo Puccini, who was an Italian composer who lived during the post-Romantic era.

But the path Gutierrez took to get to Italy is probably a little different than the other students who will attend the academy this summer.

He said most students start their music training as early as 4 years old.

Gutierrez started playing the guitar in eighth grade and went on to discover an interest in singing after his high school teacher noticed that he had a natural ability.

He went on to compete in high school choir competitions around the state and said he was motivated by the fact that his teachers had confidence in him.

In addition to school competitions, Gutierrez said he also learned to sing diverse music such as Italian, French, German and Greek in solo performances.

He learned to translate music using the international phonetic alphabet, an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based on the Latin alphabet, on his own. The alphabet is a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language, which was created by the International Phonetic Association.

“I was like, ‘If they think that’s good, I thought, why can’t I get better?’”

He said he developed an interest in music because “it was something new.” For him, music was an art form that none of his friends or family members took part in growing up.

Now, he sings solo and also can play folk and flamenco on the guitar.

“(Music) was just like a getaway,” Gutierrez said. “I liked it because I could get away from everything else. Music was just a relaxing thing to do for me. I found out I was good at it and it became more of a habit.”

Gutierrez said he hopes the opportunity in Italy will broaden his horizons and open up doors for the next stage in his music career. He said after he is finished performing, he would like to teach music one day.

For now, his double major in education and music is keeping him busy. But the 20 year old has his eye on a possible audition at the Santa Fe Opera House one day.

At UNM, the training could be considered by students almost as intense as any audition.

He said students in the music program must memorize their music by the first week of school and know the meaning of words from operas in various languages.

Gutierrez spent much of last summer translating and interpreting music for his upcoming fall classes that began in August. Students must know what the words mean in order to deliver the correct pitch and annunciation during a performance.

The Belen resident is a part of UNM choirs that include jazz and concert choir.

Gutierrez said the UNM program is tough and prepares young musicians to audition for professional jobs.

“You don’t get (the words) wrong,” Gutierrez said. “That’s just how you are trained. If you do get it wrong, you are out within that first week. It is a very strict program.”

The musician said he is nervous for the opportunity that he didn’t know was coming.

During the trip, he will share an apartment in downtown Rome and be in walking distance from a theater and rehearsal room.

“I’m excited, but very nervous,” he said.

Gutierrez said his early beginnings as a curious student led to his latest opportunity to flourish in an age-old art with a chance that not many students get.

Now, he said he wants to make the most of that chance and have success in his performances overseas.

“I want people to know that I’m good at what I do.”

-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.