Senior with Unique Opera Talent Captures Audiences


Kristin Pearson

Izzi Bergerson

By Kristin Pearson, Orono High School

Walk backstage before any Orono theater performance and you’ll instantly hear an alluring soprano tone. As senior Izzi Bergerson’s voice booms and bounces off the walls of the small concrete room, people listen and marvel at the display. This is not a performance. Instead, Bergerson stands by a pile of brushes and face paint, helping actors with their stage makeup, all while casually belting notes most people could only dream of quietly screeching.

This one in a million talent would seem to stem from a lifetime of practice and dedication. In reality, Bergerson only started her operatic journey recently.

“About a year ago I started really studying the operatic way of singing,” Bergerson said, “I found that it really suited my voice better than any other way of singing. I have a very big voice; a very lyrical voice. My voice teacher started giving me more operatic songs, so I just kinda figured it out from there.”

Over the summer, Bergerson attended a prestigious high school voice camp at the Minnesota Opera House. Partnered with voice teachers from the University of Minnesota, this program accepts only twenty students internationally. At the end of the week long intensive, the students put on a showcase for friends and family.

“It was really interesting because there was a lot of really talented people there, but Izzi stood out. She sounded really good. I personally hate opera, but I didn’t hate that,” senior Zoe Larson said. “Also after she was done singing, a woman nearby, I heard her go ‘oh my God.’”

Bergerson entranced the audience with resonance, tone, and vibrato that would make Renée Fleming herself weep.

“Once she finished singing, the whole audience got quiet, because she was the best one there,” junior Wels Bowen said. “It was really kind of a magical moment.”

This performance opened up all kinds of new doors for Bergerson in the opera world.

“While I was there, I found out about this thing called Project Opera. The director of that recruited me from opera camp. He really wanted to make sure I did it, because he was really interested in me as a person and in my voice,” Bergerson said. “I’m also working on NATS, which is the National Teachers of Singing Competition. So I am competing against other Minnesota students of voice teachers. I’m competing in the classical section, so I have to sing three different arias in three different languages.”

Much of what Bergerson sings is in a foreign language. She spends a lot of her practice time translating the music so she has full comprehension of the content of the music. This has been an important step for her and her emotional portrayal of the music.

“You have to cross the language barrier without saying any words at all. All humans have a base of understanding of each other without speaking the same language. They understand feelings and empathy, so you have to touch your audience’s emotional core,” Bergerson said, “You do that by making eye contact at the right times or looking a certain way. Following your gut is really quite important, if it’s methodical it comes off as manufactured, fake, or a more shallow performance.”

Her operatic journey has been one of finding true passion and new life. She said that the art form has brought her quality of life and emotional well-being to a whole new level.

“When she started to get really involved with it, she started being a lot more happy,” Larson said, “When she was away at her opera camp, I remember Wels [Bowen] telling me, like, ‘I’ve never seen her this happy in my life’ it was really cool to see her mood shift so drastically.”

Her wild and intense pursuit of opera has lit a new fire within her. Bergerson plans to study opera in college and build a career in the field. After bouncing around with different artistic expressions, she has finally submersed herself into opera.

“Basically, singing is really the one thing that makes me super happy in life, so I do it all the time,” Bergerson said.

This story was originally published on The Spartan Speaks on October 25, 2018.