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A touching voice

Local woman, whose voice touches hearts, has stellar reputation on famous opera stages


by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - POST PHOTO: JIM HART During her practice time, Portland Opera singer Allison Robertson only plays the melody notes on a piano while she is singing, but her amazing voice comes across with as much resonant vibrato, tonal color and the thrust needed for any musical climax as if she had returned to a New York City stage.A prophetic 5-year-old Allison Robertson predicted she would become an opera star.

That goal for the little girl, ready for kindergarten in Connecticut, was more than a prediction. It was a foretaste of her life. Singing was so important to the little girl that she was allowed to sing at her kindergarten graduation.

For some reason, the child knew her voice would develop into a vibrant tool that would reach out and touch people’s emotions and spirits.

A couple of decades later, Allison Robertson of Boring has achieved her goal. She’s a member of the Portland Opera Company — a full-fledged member of the American Guild of Musical Artists.

Walking the walk

The path Robertson traveled — from Connecticut to East Coast undergrad universities, to entering a master’s degree program in vocal performance at the New England Conservatory of Music along with several European tours and famous New York City venues all the way to the Portland stage — was challenging and long.

Her dedication to a youthful vision of standing at center-stage enveloped with the sounds of a full orchestra gave Robertson energy to charge ahead — taking no prisoners on the path.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: BETH BERGMAN  - CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: BETH BERGMAN  In the role of Dorabella in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, Allison Robertson tries to resist the romantic passes of Guglielmo.Looking back at her route toward stardom brings to her mind many highlights — times when doors opened after she won several national competitions, including the professional division of the National Association of Teachers of Singing in 2006 and a semifinalist award at The American Prize vocal competition in 2011; sharing the opera stage with well-known professionals; studying under teachers with international reputations; appearing on the stage of the Palace Theatre at the Stamford (Conn.) Center for the Arts; singing in Italian and Latin during a private audience with Pope John Paul II; and joining the Manhattan Chamber Opera as well as singing the dramatic role of Suzuki in “Madama Butterfly” in New York City, a role for which she received several glowing reviews.

Slowing down

But after so many years of competition in auditions — and the killer politics that darkens the spotlights — Robertson’s energy, tenacity and patience waned.

Although she was at the top of her career in what she called the “rat race” in New York City, she kept remembering her trips to Oregon to visit her best friend. Mount Hood and the surrounding natural environment were so different from the big city; the rural life was calling.

Is it the end?

About 18 months ago, she surrendered, “I’m done.”

“I always had the desire to move out (to Boring),” she said. “But I didn’t want to move until my vocal technique was secure.”

After moving to Miami to study under a master, she returned to New York to study under spinto soprano Valerie Sorel — another master with a wide-reaching reputation, who is Robertson’s current teacher.

That feeling of security in her technique came after several more roles, especially the dramatic roles that required acting as well as vocal skills.

Go west, young lady

Robertson’s pathway now led her to Oregon.

She found a peacefulness in the Pacific Northwest, but it couldn’t quiet her voice.

Singing with the Portland Symphonic Choir wasn’t the same as taking the stage in the role of Suzuki in “Madama Butterfly.” So in February 2012 she saw the printed notice of Portland Opera auditions.

“Fine, this is my last (audition),” she said. “I’ll do this one, and that’s it!”

When she went to the auditions, she was a bit depressed, thinking of the cutthroat politics of the East Coast. She had just recovered from the flu, and thought her voice was in “horrible condition.” She was judging herself harshly, but she sang anyway — a Mozart aria.

Passion burns again

“They actually loved it, and they hired me (for the 2012-13 season),” she said. “That rekindled my love and my perseverance for continuing to sing. I’m very grateful to Portland Opera because it has been a wonderful experience since day one.”

She’s also grateful to her parents and her grandfather, who taught her to persevere under all conditions.

“If it weren’t for their love and support,” she said, “I may have picked a different career.”

Life on the West Coast is as different as black from white when compared to her earlier years on the East Coast. Those years were definitely formative for Robertson, but stressful.

To her present abilities, she owes those early years in the spotlight, her many trips to Europe and Canada, her prestigious teachers and the competitive nature of her career.

As a mezzo-soprano with a wide range and a dramatic voice that fills any size theater, Robertson sings with passion and always attempts perfect pronunciation in French, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, English and Latin.

Of late, she’s applied her skills and passion for singing to become a piano and voice teacher in Sandy, passing along the techniques that have carried her this far.

Robertson’s next performance for Portland Opera in May is Verdi’s “Falstaff,” and this summer for Opera Theater Oregon she’ll be one of any kid’s favorite animals in “The Cunning Little Vixen.”

Portland Opera Box Office can be reached at 503-241-1802.

Opera Theater Oregon is located at the Mission Theatre, 1624 N.W. Glisan St., Portland.