Arts and Entertainment

Little lady, big voice

Mary Elizabeth Adler can be seen as a member of the children’s choir in this month’s production of “La Bohème.”   - Alisa Newhall
Mary Elizabeth Adler can be seen as a member of the children’s choir in this month’s production of “La Bohème.”
— image credit: Alisa Newhall

For the most part, Mary Elizabeth Adler is your typical middle school girl: she studies, she plays sports and she’s an active member of her school’s orchestra.

But the 13-year-old Bellevue resident has another trick up her sleeve. She sings classical music. And apparently, she does it really well. This month, she’ll perform in her third Seattle Opera production, as part of the children’s choir, in “La Bohème.”

Mary Elizabeth first caught the performing arts bug when she was cast in her elementary school’s production of “Mulan Jr.” She was in third grade and living in Seoul, South Korea at the time.

The youngest of four children - and the only girl - Mary Elizabeth got her first taste for theatre in the Northwest when she participated in a workshop with Village Theatre.

“It just didn’t click with me,” said Mary Elizabeth about her stint with musical theater.

At that point, the young soprano decided to focus on classical training, and at the suggestion of her mother, Julia, joined the St. James Cathedral children’s, and later, young women’s choir.

“I think being trained as a soloist, and singing in a choir and being part of en ensemble is important to developing your voice in all these different ways,” Julia said. “And at a young age you learn so quickly and so fast.”

Mary Elizabeth also began taking lessons with Stacey Sunde, the director of youth music at the church, who trained the young singer until she felt it was time for her to move on. For the past two years, Mary Elizabeth has studied under soprano Nancy Zylstra, who prompted her to audition for the Seattle Opera.

“[Mary Elizabeth] loves music - and is so musical,” Zylstra said. “Some people really are born with music in them...and I feel like that’s true of her. It’s really extraordinary.”

Mary Elizabeth’s participation in “Carmen,” in October 2011, was actually her first trek in to Opera - an experience that found her mom buying her an introductory book about opera. She’s since fallen in love with the art.

“I just love the sound. I love how it’s really big, I love how they don’t use microphones,” Mary Elizabeth said. “I love the combination of the acting, and the costumes and the singing. Just all of that rolled in to one.”

Via her work with the choirs, as well as her involvement with the Seattle Opera, Mary Elizabeth has had the chance to sing in French, Italian, Latin, Chinese, German - and most recently, Hebrew. This spring she also plans to start competing in classical music competitions - an opportunity that was, until recently, restricted to high school aged performers.

As far as choosing singing as a career, Mary Elizabeth hasn’t made any decisions. She admits she has a lot of interests, among them writing and playing soccer. But for now, she’s taking it one day at a time.

“In our family, there are two requirements when it comes to an activity,” Julia said. “Are you having fun? And are you moving forward?”

When asked these questions in regard to singing, Mary Elizabeth responds with a resounding ‘yes.’

The Seattle Opera's production of “La Bohème" runs Feb. 23-March 10 at McCaw Hall, located at 321 Mercer Street. For more information and to purchase tickets, go HERE.

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