A University of Arkansas at Little Rock student spent her summer performing in a prestigious summer opera program.
Mya Little, a junior music major and education minor from Little Rock, participated in the Festival International Opera Summer Program in Italy from June 30 to Aug. 5. The festival is a true international opera experience, presenting a unique opportunity for young artists to work with internationally renowned professionals, immersed in an environment with opera singers from all parts of the world.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for singers to expand musical horizons, immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of Italy, and showcase talent on an international stage,” said Dr. Lorissa Mason, director of choral activities at UA Little Rock.
While Little has never performed in an opera prior to this summer residency, she took on the challenge of singing the role of Cardella in the opera “Lo frate ‘nnamorato” by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. She described the character as a feisty, funny maid who loves to gossip, argue, and know what is going on.
“When I first walked into the room, I was not an opera singer, but I knew I would become one,” Little said. “I do what I do to the best of my ability and take direction from my coaches, teachers, and directors and bring the best of me to my performance. I did a lot of growth as a person, a singer, and an entertainer during this program.”
Diane Kesling, Little’s voice coach at UA Little Rock, recommended Little to Carroll Freeman, a director at Festival International Opera, and she was able to attend the program as an invited singer. She had approximately three weeks to prepare for her summer program.
She is very grateful to members of the community for rallying around her to help her go on the trip. Little held a benefit concert in North Little Rock that helped raise more than $3,000 to cover airfare and the cost of the summer program. She is also thankful to Sen. John Boozman and his staff, who helped Little receive an expedited passport so she could travel to Italy on time.
During the program, Little participated in voice lessons, coaching sessions with Italian coaches, masterclasses with prominent stars, performances in weekly concerts, and tours in Italy’s cities.
“The rest of the time was mostly me doing independent studying, being in the practice rooms for hours, and staying up late to learn my lines,” Little said. “I met some really cool people, and I especially enjoyed working with my teacher, Tyler Nelson. He was great, patient, and had a lot of knowledge to give.”
Little plans to graduate from UA Little Rock in December 2024. Afterwards, she will continue to perform but also wants to create a nonprofit organization that will be a fine arts and performing center for youth. Her nonprofit is inspired by her own experience as a displaced teenager who left the state in order to live with a family friend and attend high school in Texas.
“My end goal is to create a boarding school for at-risk and underprivileged youth,” Little said. “I’ve met so many community leaders that I’ve been inspired by, and I want to become someone who helps people like me when I was a displaced young girl who just wanted to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”