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Rachel Dovsky of Encinitas will be playing the lead role of Mabel in the MiraCosta Community College musical from March 7 to March 17. Courtesy photo
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Rising opera star and Encinitas college student performing in ‘Pirates of Penzance’

Watch out Andrea Bocelli, there’s a young vocalist in the upcoming operetta, “The Pirates of Penzance” ready to make her mark.

Rachel Dovsky of Encinitas will be playing the lead role of Mabel in the MiraCosta Community College musical from March 7 to March 17. To make sure the show is a hit, the college has hired Elan McMahan of the Old Globe Theatre as the musical director.

“The best thing about singing opera is being surrounded by other people who share the same intrinsic motivation to create music,” Dovsky said. “Several summers ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy and perform in the International Lyric Academy’s production of ‘The Magic Flute.’”

This was a formidable experience for her in solidifying her desire to pursue opera professionally.

“Working toward a musical performance with a group of devoted singers brings me such great fulfillment,” she said. “My favorite aria that I have sung thus far is ‘Der Holle Rache Kocht’ in meinem Herzen,” a German piece from ‘The Magic Flute.’ This aria requires tremendous emotion and coloratura vocal agility. I look forward to revisiting this piece of music once I have more vocal training and hopefully performing it better the next time.”

Student, too

Dovsky, 20, is a UCSD student working toward a B.S. in cognitive science and is no stranger to the stage. She produced several concerts for Holocaust survivors while she was in Israel, and she is planning to return there after she graduates probably to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

One of the youngest actors ever nominated for an Aubrey Award, she was also a first-place winner of the Rancho Bernardo Chorale and has performed many times as a professional vocal soloist at local retirement communities. 

Dovsky is looking forward to the MiraCosta production and said she has been singing “as long as I can remember, but I participated in my first musical theater performance in second grade and from then on, developed a deep passion for singing.”

She added her mom supported her all throughout her life to find opportunities to grow as a performer and pursue this art form she loves so much. Her mentor is her older sister, Hilah, an entrepreneur and expert in the field of human-centered design, who inspires Dovsky to set large goals for herself.

“She has supported me through every major decision I have needed to make in my life, and I am so grateful to have her,” she said.

Why opera?

Dovsky chose opera as her genre because she believes it allows her to cultivate and utilize the fullest potential of her voice.

“It can often take several months to truly learn a new piece of music and even then, there is always room for improvement,” she said. “It is as much an intellectual endeavor as it is a creative one, requiring the ability to sing in different languages, implement proper breath support, and an understanding of vocal anatomy. In addition, the voice continues to develop well into adulthood, lending itself to great longevity in classical music performance.”

The fascination for opera she said began when she was 16 years old.

“I began the transition into classical vocal repertoire/opera,” she said. “This is when I began voice lessons. My voice teacher suggested that I try out classical singing for several reasons: the technique for singing classical music is fundamental in supporting a long, healthy musical career. It is the basis for singing any other type of music.”

“And at this time, I discovered my ‘head voice,’ the high register of the voice, and he wanted me to develop it further,” she said. “From then on, I have been receiving consistent operatic vocal training. In addition, my background playing piano and with music theory allowed me to dive right into classical music lessons.”

Excited for Pirates

She can’t wait to play Mable in “The Pirates of Penzance,” considered a light opera by Gilbert and Sullivan.

“This role is exciting because it challenges me as a coloratura soprano,” she said. “‘Poor Wandering One,’ Mabel’s aria in the show, includes beautiful cadenzas, lovely melody, and even culminates on a high Eb.”

“The Pirates of Penzance” tells the story of Frederick, who has spent his formative years as a junior pirate. He plans to mark his 21st birthday by breaking free from the Pirate King and beginning his courtship of Mabel. You’ll meet a band of fool-hardy pirates, timid policeman, and a quick-tongued major general along the way, she said.

Dovsky said she practices her music daily and is currently building up her vocal stamina for the upcoming performances of “Pirates,” so it is important that she warm ups her voice every day and practices this challenging repertoire.

“I like to record my voice lessons so that I can listen to them later and reinforce what I learn each week,” she said. “We use a lot of imagery in my voice lessons to concretize otherwise abstruse musical concepts. Classical singing takes great focus when done correctly. When I practice, I try not to go on ‘auto-pilot but rather, actively think about my breathing and technique with every new line.”  

Return to Israel

In terms of her experiences in Israel she explained after graduating from San Dieguito Academy in 2016, she had the incredible opportunity to spend a year there.

“I participated in a women’s learning program that emphasized biblical studies and artistic training,” she said. “I received piano, voice, and choir lessons during my time living in Jerusalem. I learned of a group of Holocaust survivors who met once a week in a local community center.

“I coordinated a group of girls from my school to go and perform for them on several occasions. Each time, I created a program of music ranging from classic Broadway to Hebrew folk to opera. It was such a joy to share my love of music with this brave, resilient group of people.”

Besides the upcoming MiraCosta production and her other endeavors, as mentioned, she likes to perform at area nursing homes for the elderly.

“I have a dear friend who lives at SeaCrest Village nursing home,” she said. “Since I was little, I have been going to visit her, music books in tow, to give mini ‘concerts’ of music I was learning. Those experiences gave me confidence as a performer. Now I give real concerts at these nursing homes where I present all different types of music.

“Most recently, I gave my annual Hanukah concert comprised of English and Hebrew Jewish music. The residents of these homes are such thankful audience members and I truly enjoy bringing my music to them,” she said.

Other activities

In her spare time, Dovsky enjoys weight training and calisthenics-based work outs.

“It is amazing how much you can learn on the internet,” she said. “At first, I turned to YouTube to learn how to work out with proper movements, form, etc. Now, I have so much fun creating my own dynamic workouts full of handstand, pull-ups, pistol squats and weights. I have also found that staying active helps me as a singer. Performing can be taxing on the body and sometimes stressful too. Having a consistent workout routine helps me feel more prepared, both physically and mentally, when I step onto the stage.”

As for the future, she would love to make an album at some point, but right now is focused on developing better vocal technique and expanding her repertoire of music. However, for now, it’s all about the upcoming MiraCosta College show, one she thinks audiences will love because there is truly something for everyone: action, a love story and great comedy.

“We have an incredibly talented group of young performers who are devoted to telling this comedic and classic tale,” she said. “The director, Tracy Williams, does an excellent job of providing us with direction, but also allowing us the space to make our own unique character choices.

“Musical director Elan McMahan leads us through the musical score with such enthusiasm and skill. We are so excited to share this beautiful story with audiences in just a few short weeks,” she said.

“The Pirates of Penzance” performances:

March 7 (Preview), 8, 9, 14, 15, 16 at 7:30 p.m.

March 9, 10, 16, 17 at 2 p.m.

Box Office: 760-795-6815