Three of the best-known female singers with Maine roots will come home next week for a benefit concert for PORTopera, the Portland-based opera company that celebrates its 20th season with a performance of “Rigoletto” this summer at Merrill Auditorium.
“Maine’s Divas Come Home” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hannaford Hall at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. The concert will feature Kate Aldrich, Ashley Emerson and Suzanne Nance.
Aldrich and Emerson grew up in Maine, while Nance served as host of the classical music morning show on Maine Public Radio before moving to Chicago last year for another radio job.
All have active singing careers. The program on Tuesday will include arias, ensembles and a surprise or two. They will sing as soloists, in duets and as a trio.
“We all have our individual kind of spice that we will bring to the evening,” said Emerson, who grew up in Bangor and graduated from the University of Southern Maine. Emerson’s first experience with a professional opera company came with PORTopera when she was 19 and sang in the chorus of “Lucia.” She later starred in the leading role in “The Daughter of the Regiment.”
Kate Aldrich, who grew up in the midcoast, graduated from Lincoln Academy in 1992 and has sung all over the world. She starred in the PORTopera production of “Carmen” in 2005.
While Nance has not sung with PORTopera, she promoted the opera company’s shows for many years as host of the “Morning Classical” radio show on MPBN. She has appeared with Chicago’s Intimate Opera Company, the Opera Company of Philadelphia and has sung across the country and in Europe.
“I’m looking forward to working with these ladies,” Aldrich said from her home in Rome, Italy. “We had a Skype conference call to plan this concert, and it’s been a lot of fun putting the program together.”
Pianist Martin Perry will accompany the singers.
The program includes songs from favorite operas and Broadway shows.
They’ll open with “Three Little Maids from School” from “The Mikado” by Gilbert and Sullivan. Emerson will sing “Caro nome” from Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” Nance will solo on “I Have Dreamt” from “Wuthering Heights,” and Aldrich will sing “O mon Fernand!” from “La Favorite” by Donizetti.
Barring surprises or changes, they will close as a trio singing “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady” by Lerner and Loewe.
Aldrich just completed a performance as Leonor in “La Favorite” in Toulouse, France, which she called “a role I was dying to do for a long time.” After a few weeks off and the trip home to Maine, she returns to Europe for a busy summer season. She will sing “Carmen” at the Zurich Opera, the Deutsche Opera in Berlin and in Seoul.
Emerson met Aldrich after a performance of “Carmen’ in Portland, and said she viewed Aldrich as a role model. “I’ve looked up to her as a singer from Maine. It will be nice to get to share the stage with her, finally,” she said.
This past Christmas, Emerson sang her 100th performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. “To have 100 performances at the Met before age 30, I was pretty proud of myself,” she said. “I’m working all the time. I haven’t had to ever have a job other than singing. I am very blessed.”
Nance, meanwhile, juggles her career as host and producer at Chicago’s WFMT with her singing, which takes her across the country and to Europe.
When PORTopera asked if she would sing, her response was emphatic: “Are you kidding me? The opportunity to sing with Kate Aldrich, a woman I have been wanting to meet before I even moved to Maine, I feel like we’re kindred spirits. And I know Ashley very well. I interviewed her many times on the air.”
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: