By April 1, 2021 Read More →

UnpluggedView: Slow And Steady

UnpluggedView: Slow And Steady
by Aaron Rowan

Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know when you’re gonna meet the Reaper. At least that’s the case if you should happen to visit a certain chocolatier in Asheville, NC which makes a truffle-infused with the dreaded Carolina Reaper chilli, among the very hottest peppers known to man. It’s like a game of Russian roulette in a box with one of those mixed in.
But you needn’t travel clear across the country in search of fire and flavor. You’ll find reservoirs of both in the soul of another Carolina – Modesto’s own creative force of nurture Carolina Stevens. I sat down with this multitalented lady to discuss her career as a musical theatre artist, stage manager, director, and most recently, an award-winning filmmaker.

The daughter of two international opera singers, Carolina earned regional recognition in the summer of 2014 when she appeared at the Valley Talent Project after her third year of auditioning and just before leaving for college in southern Oregon. Her contribution to the show was a take on ‘Taylor the Latte Boy,’ a comedic musical theatre piece inspired by some real-life flirtation with a barista. The rendition put her in a dead heat with another young vocalist, Alida McKeon, in the ears of the judges, who ultimately chose to award a double grand prize to the two ladies.

Two summers later, Carolina embarked on a unique adventure to Kathmandu, where she would serve as stage manager on the first western-style opera produced in Nepal: ‘Arjuna’s Dilemma,’ an adaptation of a Hindu epic tale. “Arjuna’s Dilemma was a wild experience – while I, as a 19-year-old only halfway through college, felt very underqualified, I was simultaneously the most qualified person in Nepal for the job!” recalls Carolina. Nepal has burgeoning and energetic theatre scene and music scenes (though not particularly in the western classical style); but far less training is available, particularly for non-actors, which is why Carolina was brought in to stage-manage. She also taught a 2-day stage management workshop for the locals. The opera was staged outdoors in the courtyard of an ancient palace, during the tail end of Nepal’s monsoon season. Several tech rehearsals were rained out, with one having to be finished by candlelight. The lack of infrastructure led to other interesting technical issues; for instance, many of the stage lights were intended for nightclubs and kept getting stuck in the “disco” setting, changing color with the beat of the music. Carolina pulled it all together, and you can enjoy the full 8-part recording of ‘Arjuna’s Dilemma’ on YouTube channel ARC3. It’s sung in Hindi, Sanskrit & English, and mixes jazz with western and Indian classical musical styles – a thing of beauty all around.

The calamitous year that was 2020 started off with great promise when the opera adaptation of a Jane Austen novel came to town under Carolina’s direction. During that January weekend, Regency-era culture swept downtown Modesto with the first JaneCon event, complete with dance sessions, costume workshops, and lectures about that historical era. But the shining centerpiece was the U.S. orchestral premiere of ‘Mansfield Park,’ which played out on the stage of our historic State Theatre. “Mansfield Park allowed me to really explore the directing style I had started to establish: using theatrical tools to heighten intimate stories while staying grounded in realism and character,” Carolina says. The piece also ushered in a new era for Opera Modesto: its Story-Into-Song literacy initiative.

This month sees the unveiling of Opera Modesto’s latest project, a cinematic version of contemporary opera ‘The Race.’ The work is an amalgamation of Aesop’s fables, commissioned by OpMo as part of its Story-Into-Song series. Carolina co-directed this feature film, with a cast of nineteen young opera vocalists bringing the tortoise and the hare and several other critter characters to life. It’s already earned prizes in just about every technical category recognized in movie award shows and was an official selection of festivals in Hollywood, New York, Toronto, Barcelona, Rome, Romania, India, Venezuela, and a few other points on the map. The accolades included two best director prizes for Carolina and her co-director Michael Everett. You can enjoy this fun fantasy feature this month, streaming on-demand from April 9-30, with unlimited views for ticket holders. Learn more at

Upcoming endeavors for Carolina include co-directing a Russian-language concert for Opera Modesto, which will be on-demand in May. You can follow her creative journey at See you next month when we give the breakdown on another Modesto musical favorite; and soon and very soon, at the resurrection of our listening-concert series.

Intimate performances. Infinite playlist. MODESTO UNPLUGGED.

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