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April 27, 2022

MSM Spotlight:
Daiyao Zhong (BM ’19, MM ’23) in Le nozze di Figaro at MSM from April 28 to May 1

Daiyao Zhong (BM '19, MM '23) as Cherubino in MSM's Graduate Opera Theatre production of
Le nozze di Figaro

Master’s degree candidate Daiyao Zhong (BM ’19, MM ’23) talks about Le nozze di Figaro, her studies at MSM, and why people should come see the production!

[ Note: this interview was conducted in advance of the opening of Le nozze di Figaro, which had four performances from April 28 to May 1. ]

Chinese-born mezzo-soprano Daiyao Zhong is a first-year Master’s student under the tutelage of Mignon Dunn, who completed her Bachelor’s degree at MSM in 2019.

She’s performing the role of Cherubino in the upcoming spring opera production Le nozze di Figaro taking place April 28 to May 1 in MSM’s Neidorff-Karpati Hall.

Daiyao has taken part in many performances at MSM, including this past fall when she sang the role of Public Opinion in Orpheus in the Underworld. In 2018, she sang in Mozart’s Requiem, conducted by Kent Tritle, as well as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for the opening concert of MSM’s Centennial celebrations. She was also the alto soloist in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy for the Neidorff-Karpati Hall grand reopening concert in November 2018.

Daiyao Zhong as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro

Tell us about this production and your role.

Daiyao: I could go on and on for days about this, but I don’t want to deprive the excitement our audience will experience when they explore our show by themselves! Here, I’ll just quote our director: “It’s a story about love, lust, power, relationships, and more. What do we get from producing a show that was written hundreds years ago? There’s something to explore. There’s something that never changes from the past. What has changed, and what has not?”

My role, Cherubino, is a “pants role,” which means it’s a male character played by female performer. He’s a 14-year-old page in the castle, just starting to become curious about everything — especially women. He’s reckless, amorous, and passionate. Wait til you meet him! You’ll love him.

How have rehearsals been so far?

Daiyao: The rehearsals have been more and more intense, yet also more exhilarating the closer we get to the performances. We’ve come a long way… from each of us getting our roles assigned, studying the character, correcting and polishing our musicality and diction with our wonderful coaches, to working with our phenomenal Maestro George Manahan and director Lawrence Edelson, adding the orchestra, stepping on the real stage… Especially since the first Sitzprobe when the orchestra joined in, I can feel everyone is pumped with adrenaline! It’s solid because all of us have put so much into it, and we started from scratch, step-by-step, and now we’re completing the final grand picture. I can’t wait for the audience to see our performances starting this Thursday!

Daiyao Zhong (BM '19, MM '23) as Public Opinion in MSM's fall 2021 production of Orpheus in the Underworld

What have been some highlights from the first year of your Master’s degree studies?

Daiyao: I was honored to participate in Mozart’s Requiem as the alto solo, conducted by the legendary conductor Kent Tritle this academic year. It’s such a breathtaking masterpiece! Being part of it has been my dream since the first time I heard it. More than that, our performances were chosen to be aired by WQXR, New York City’s classical music station, featured in the McGraw-Hill Young Artists Showcase! I also just had my recital in February! It was a very special program to me, consisting of pieces that have been integral to my personal development over the past year. I’m delighted to share them with my beloved and supportive friends and colleagues.

What is your favorite Cherubino aria?

Daiyao: That’s a tough question… Both of them are so lovely and expressive! I feel the lyrics in my heart echoing in different situations. However, I personally am partial to the first aria, “Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio,” because the lyrics consoled me during the pandemic when I practiced this aria at home. Cherubino says that he wants to express his feelings to everything, the fountains, mountains, flowers, the winds… And his hopeless words are taken away with them. He asks himself then, “what if he has no one to hear him?” He says, “I’ll speak love to myself!”

My anxiety triggered by the pandemic was relieved after I sang those lines. As a stage performer, it’s incredibly painful to leave the beloved stage for such a long time. Luckily, everything is getting back on track gradually now, and we can continue delivering music to audiences. However, it’s good to know that even if no one else is appreciating us, we still have the most loyal audience who will always be there — ourselves.

“MSM has the most comprehensive curriculum for singers that extends from classical to contemporary, musical theater, and more. As our school motto says, ‘those who excel reach the stars,’ and it keeps encouraging me and my fellow classmates to strive for success in this spirit.”

Why did you choose to study at MSM?

Daiyao:  Here at MSM, I have the great privilege and honor to study with my teacher Mignon Dunn, who was the leading mezzo-soprano at the Metropolitan Opera and other important opera houses around the world. I mean, it’s exciting enough to just talk to a legend like her, not to mention to have the opportunity to study under her tutelage.

Plus, MSM has the most comprehensive curriculum for singers that extends from classical to contemporary, musical theater, and more. As our school motto says, “those who excel reach the stars”, it keeps encouraging me and my fellow classmates to strive for success under this spirit.

Why should people come to see the performances?

Daiyao: It’s a classic, and you’ll never be bored with Mozart! We’re doing the traditional stage set with a young talented cast who are about to launch their careers. All of us have put tremendous effort into the show, and we’re extremely confident and ready to deliver our best performances to our audience!

I want to paraphrase the lines from the movie Dead Poet Society: “We don’t make music or sing songs because it’s cute. We make music because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.” To quote Walt Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

Our verse now will be the mainstage opera Le Nozze di Figaro coming up on Thursday April 28 until Sunday May 1 in the afternoon. Get your tickets quickly!

Daiyao Zhong (BM '19, MM '23, second from left), singing Mozart's Requiem with the MSM Symphonic Choir and MSM Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kent Tritle

7:30 PM

2:30 PM

MSM Graduate Opera Theatre presents
Le nozze di Figaro 

George Manahan (BM ’73, MM ’76), Conductor
Lawrence Edelson, Director

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte


Adults $30
Seniors and Students $15
MSM students free admission with i.d.

This production is dedicated to the memory of:

Paul Frank (1939 — 2021), former President of the Arthur and Mae Orvis Foundation


Rosalie J. Coe Weir (1930 – 2018)

MSM also presents the production in honor of the Baisley Powell Elebash Fund in recognition of their long-time generosity.

Neidorff-Karpati Hall
130 Claremont Ave
New York, NY 10027

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