We Are L.A. Unified

When they were 10, the twins Madeleine and Melina Adragna walked around the family home, imitating with extravagance and fanfare the opera singers they heard on the radio. The girls discovered the station on their own; neither mom nor dad were interested in classical music.
A decade later, the sisters became women who became utterly serious about opera and singing.The graduates of the Ramon C. Cortines High School of Visual and Performing Arts in 2012 performed an operatic duet Saturday, April 11 at North Hollywood High School.
Their performance was part of a Chorale Music Festival sponsored by the Arts Education branch of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The event, the first in a series of arts festivals entitled “Let’s Celebrate!,” ran from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Madeleine and Melina arrived at Cortines in 10th grade, somewhat disillusioned with music. Melina had stopped singing in her middle school choir, and Madeline had been rudely typecast after playing the part too well of Miss Agatha Hannigan in a seventh-grade production of “Annie.”

“I was told I sounded like an old lady,” she said.

They didn’t let anything stop them. At choir auditions, they stood in line with other hopefuls.
“We threw ourselves into the department,” said Melina. “We dove right in,” added Madeleine.
During their three years at the school, the sisters joined chamber singers and the women’s choir; took classes on the history of jazz and studied jazz vocals; wrote songs (Melina); learned classical guitar (Madeleine); and participated in a program sponsored by the Los Angeles Opera for young voices.

“It never felt like school, or work,” said Madeleine.
They also took full advantage of opportunities the school offers its students to attend performances for free. While seeing one of their first operas, a production of “The Barber of Seville” the girls sobbed uncontrollably, eliciting amusement and respect from veteran opera-goers.
Their favorite opera singer is Renee Fleming. “She has a way of changing and manipulating her voice to fit the music,” said Melina, in amazement. Madeleine and Melina also cried when they saw Fleming sing the lead last year in the Los Angeles Opera’s production of, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
The sisters currently attend Pasadena City College, where they performed in their first opera, “The Marriage of Figaro.” They also work with the LA Opera, which inspires their love of the genre and of the profession.
“These singers are making careers out of it,” marveled Madeleine. “I had thought that wasn’t possible.”
Both women plan to pursue their own singing careers, perhaps in Europe, and to teach music in underserved communities. To help reach their goals, Madeleine and Melina sing six hours per day, often at home, where mom, dad, and two siblings listen to beautiful notes and exquisite melodies.
Someday, perhaps, two young girls who stumble across a classical music radio station, will imitate their vocals.
-Thomas Waldman
To nominate a teacher, student, employee or volunteer, send an email to Waldman@lausd.net or call 213-241-6766. To see more profiles on the Distirct's website, go to http://bit.ly/1Fp25bG