A Viking in the opera


Lori Rogala dressed as a Valkyrie (Courtesy of Lori Rogala).

Aliya Recania

Being an English teacher at DVC, Lori Rogala has a passion for helping her students learn, grow and find themselves through reading and writing. With how much she enjoys interacting with interesting people, it’s no surprise she is also a dedicated opera singer who performs in various shows.

She sang and participated in theater at Acalanes High School, which had a strong vocal music program. Rogala did honor choirs, competed and even had lead roles in plays such as “Anything Goes,” “What a Life” and other works.

Her singing continued in college, where she attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and sang in a touring jazz group, as well as a chamber group and women’s group. For graduate school in San Francisco State University, Rogala sang in several chamber groups. After college, she sang in Oakland with a group called Cantare Con Vivo. They sang numerous works like “Brahms Requiem,” “Bach B Minor Mass” and Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis.”

“I’ve been able to keep up with singing, but never got to return to any acting. So the opera is great fun in that respect,” Rogala stated.

In 2008, a friend of hers with an opera background told her that the Festival Opera in Walnut Creek was holding auditions for their opera chorus. Festival Opera was ranked by critics as one of the top opera companies in the Bay Area after the San Francisco Opera Chorus.

“I was terrified,” Rogala admitted. “But my friend convinced me that I could make it and after studying Italian and singing a duet with her, we were in!”

During that year, Rogala played chorus parts and small roles in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” “La Traviata,” “Turandot,” “Otello,” Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Charles Gounod’s “Faust.”

Rogala worked with Festival Opera every summer and played many parts called for the chorus. She’s played townspeople, gypsies, Chinese peasants and even fairies.

“I’ll forever be grateful that my dear friend, Beverly Jane, a trained and very talented opera singer locally, talked me into going to that audition and for believing in me,” Rogala said.

She continued to happily perform in those productions until someone from the chorus called Rogala and invited her to an audition for the part of a Valkyrie in Wagner’s opera “Die Walkurie.” “Die Walkurie” is with a smaller opera company called Verismo/Valhalle productions, which opened last weekend and will be playing for two weeks in a row.

Rogala’s cheerful attitude and dedication isn’t just shown on stage. Other DVC staff have stated that she is friendly everywhere she goes and is loved by her many students.

“I can always tell Lori Rogala is coming down the hall because she is whistling some complicated tune or singing an aria,” Dore Ripley, who shares an office with her on campus, said. “Her cheerfulness rubs off on everyone and it sometimes helps me see the goodness in people and reminds me that students aren’t just trying to annoy me, but that they are often inexperienced and really need someone to help them get through the day, reassure them about an assignment or complicated school application, or just give them a little advice about life in general.”

She enjoys the challenge and how much she improves with time. Her time with Festival Opera was only during the summers and this is the first time she’s doing both opera and teaching at the same time. Rogala finds joy in performing on stage with so many talented artists and she’s ecstatic to be living her passion.

“Now that my kids are in college, I have more time to myself, so this is how I feed my soul,” Rogala said. “With music and acting and wearing silly costumes. At the heart of it all though, it always comes down to meeting more great people, and that always brightens my world.”