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Student Spotlight: Christopher Gutierrez '21
“Opera will always be close to my heart, because I don’t think you can remove opera from your heart once it’s welded in.”
This month’s Student Spotlight is Christopher Gutierrez, a Villanova senior and resident student from Los Angeles. Christopher’s great passion is opera: attending, performing, and promoting. He’s brought that passion to Villanova and has spread the opera bug to not a few of his fellow classmates and teachers.
“My love for Opera began after I saw Tosca at the L.A. Opera in 8th grade. Mrs. Agnello brought me and a few other students from KIPP L.A. Prep to see the show and I think it was the first time I ever cried at a live performance” says Christopher. “It was at one of the final arias, E Lucevan Le Stelle sung by the tenor Russell Thomas. It was just so beautiful and ever since then I’ve been hooked."
The following year Christopher applied for the 90012 Program at the L.A. Opera, which enables students in grades 7-12 to attend four operas a year accompanied by a chaperone. Christopher was accepted and started regularly attending operas with his grandmother. “I grew up listening to mariachi music with my grandmother and a lot of those Mexican ballads have the same kind of sonorous tenor singing so the opera appealed to us both immediately.”
After he spent his 9th grade year as a participant in the 90012 Program, he took on more responsibility and became an Ambassador for the program in his 10th and 11th grade years. This year, he was chosen to be a co-chair of the program and has been working closely with the L.A. Opera to promote and expand the program and its impact on the Los Angeles community.
Besides his involvement with L.A. Opera community, Christopher has also been involved in the local opera scene here in Ojai as well as spearheading several initiatives at Villanova. “In my sophomore year I performed in Nightingale & The Tower, a Ojai Youth Opera original production as well as performing in Villanova’s musical theater program.” Christopher has a beautiful tenor voice and has sung the Panis Angelicus for Mass when Villanova hosted Bishop Barron as well as for Fr. Barnaby’s ordination. He has also been a dedicated advocate of the art form in the Villanova “Art History and Opera Appreciation” club which he founded and currently runs with Ms. Hedrick. “The club is basically a lecture series which then launches us into larger discussions on the value of art. The more abstract you get the more insights you tend to get, so it’s always a thrill to discuss things like art for art's sake with my fellow students.” The club also organizes several trips to the opera each year through the generosity of the L.A. Opera and the Santa Barbara Opera. The students have attended La Boheme (Santa Barbara, 2018), La Clemenza di Tito (Los Angeles, 2019), Madama Butterfly (Santa Barbara, 2019) and Roberto Devereux (Los Angeles, 2020).
Christopher will attend Columbia University in the fall on a 4-year full scholarship and hopes to continue his involvement in opera. “I plan on majoring in Psychology and Classics at Columbia, but I will always keep opera in my back pocket...maybe even my front pocket! I am currently taking voice lessons with the renowned teacher Vladimir Chernov so I am excited to see where that takes me. I’ve really appreciated my time at Villanova and all that it has enabled me to do. It’s allowed me to form great relationships with my teachers, especially Mr. and Mrs. Carroll and Ms. Hedrick as well as countless others.”
Christopher said he decided to go to Villanova because of the kindness of the students. We’ve been so proud to watch Christopher pass on that same kindness to the next generation of Wildcats with his welcoming demeanor on campus and his willingness to invite others into his passion for opera.
Tune in next month for our next Student Spotlight to learn more about the amazing things these Wildcats are doing!