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The Business of Song

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mariana Lopez Levi works with Opera San Antonio at the Tobin Center.

Trinity A.L.E. intern Mariana Lopez Levi expands repertoire at Opera San Antonio

by Carlos Anchondo '14

Mariana Lopez Levi ’17 has physical proof that she’s always wanted to become a music teacher. Going through old family belongings, Lopez Levi recently unearthed a self-portrait she drew as a five-year-old. Below the image a caption reads, “When I grow up, I want to be a music teacher.”

“Apparently it has been set in stone forever,” Lopez Levi says, laughing.

At present, Lopez Levi is a summer intern with Opera San Antonio and a music education major at Trinity University. She secured her internship through the Arts, Letters, and Enterprise (A.L.E.) program at Trinity, which granted four paid summer internships to Trinity undergraduates for 2015. Each student earns one hour of credit, free campus housing, and is mentored by a Trinity faculty member who serves as his or her A.L.E. liaison.

A singer herself, Lopez Levi says she is proud to be a member of the small team at Opera San Antonio. She says that she was drawn to the nonprofit because she was eager to learn about all of the “behind-the-scenes” work that makes an opera possible.

“I just love opera,” Lopez Levis says. “Here I’m learning a lot about the music business itself, from how to budget a production to drafting contracts to doing the casting. It’s really interesting to see the administrative work behind everything.”

When the majority of people attend an opera, Lopez Levi says, they might only think about the amount of time performers spend in rehearsal. Lopez Levi calls an opera production “an art form that encompasses many different art forms,” from song and dance to costume and set design.

“It really is a grand form of art,” Lopez Levi says. “Opera is something that brings all of these art forms together.”

One of Lopez Levi’s current projects is to create an educational guide for students who attend the opera. The guide tells readers about what the opera is about, the different voice types, the opera’s structure, how an opera differs from a play, and includes activities for students ages fourth grade and above.

In the fall, Opera San Antonio will feature Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, which Lopez Levi calls a “crowd favorite” and a “beautiful opera.” Lopez Levi is particularly excited to tell people that she was part of the team behind the opera’s production.

While Lopez Levi says she does her share of administrative work, like fielding phone calls and making copies, she also serves as a brand ambassador for the opera. Due to Opera San Antonio’s age – it was established in 2013 – she says some people are simply unaware that the city even has an opera.

“It’s important to bring awareness that we have an opera in San Antonio,” Lopez Levi says. “I also like to share general knowledge about how big an opera production truly is.”

Lopez Levi, whose favorite opera is Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, says she has loved singing since taking music lessons as a young girl, when a music teacher told her mother that she had a pleasant voice and a good ear. More singing lessons followed, and Lopez Levi began singing in choirs and as a soloist.

At Trinity, Lopez Levi is a member of the Trinity Chamber Singers, the all-female a cappella group The Acabellas, and the Mu Phi Epsilon music fraternity. From Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, Lopez Levi says that Trinity is an excellent place for anyone unwilling to settle on just one area of study.

“You can learn so much about the different things that interest you,” Lopez Levi says. “You don’t have to limit yourself to your major or one area of learning because it’s such an expansive school.”

For Lopez Levi, her favorite part of an opera is listening to the singing, as she has a deep admiration for the singers’ abilities and their capacity to tell “beautiful stories with beautiful music.”

“I just like to sit there and take it all in,” Lopez Levi says.

Lopez Levi and the other A.L.E. interns began their internships on May 18 and will work through July 24. Lopez Levi says she enjoys earning practical experience and learning how to “face a challenge” head-on, whether it involves tracking ticket sales, making cold calls for a fundraiser, or interacting with visitors at Opera San Antonio’s downtown office.

Only just hitting her stride, Lopez Levi looks forward to bringing the skills she’s learning at Opera San Antonio back to music education at Trinity and maybe taking a few of her peers to watch Cio-Cio-San and Lieutenant Pinkerton in all their glory.

Carlos Anchondo is a writer and editor for marketing communications and a 2014 Trinity graduate. He can be found on Twitter at @cjanchondo or canchond [at]  

The Arts, Letters, and Enterprise (A.L.E.) internship program provides Trinity University students with internship opportunities in areas of personal and career interest. The program exposes students to the interchange of ideas between the liberal arts and sciences and the practical needs of running a business enterprise.