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A new rose from Lima by Roddy Wolper
Spring 2004      

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Fresh from a triumphal summer on the Peruvian opera stage, Pamela (Pa-ME-la) Rodriguez-Arnaiz now appears weekly on the Denton campus in gigs that showcase a completely different voice.

These reality-based UNT performances feature her as an Eagle Ambassador extolling the university's virtues — a job she genuinely loves — while leading prospective students and their parents on campus tours.

On stage in Peru, she played a saint and sang like an angel. Peruvian admirers gave her standing ovations while music critics hailed her operatic debut as divine.

On campus, her tours feature her voice in more down-to-earth purposes. The audiences are smaller and less demonstrative, but they appreciate her, too.

"There are nearly always some rave reviews among the comment cards after Pamela leads a tour," says Eagle Ambassador supervisor Jennifer McLendon ('01).

Santa Rosa



At 20, the vivacious music major from Lima already qualifies as an accomplished performer. Working with Sony Music, she launched her singing career at age 13. The next year, at 14, she began writing and performing her own music. During those early concerts she met saxophonist Carolina Araoz, who today is a fellow Eagle Ambassador and her UNT roommate.

Despite her prior accomplishments, Rodriguez-Arnaiz knew going home last May was a step toward extraordinary new experiences. After hearing her sing original compositions on a recording, composer Victor Miranda selected her to star in his new, groundbreaking Peruvian Creole opera — The Rose of Lima — based on the life and death of the patron saint of Peru.

She admits that Santa Rosa has intrigued her since she was a child and says the role was a challenge and a special honor.

The saint, born Isabel Flores de Oliva, was a 16th-century Dominican nun who became known as Santa Rosa of Lima after the Catholic church canonized her in 1671 as the first saint from the Americas.

Budding fame

The torrent of praise for Rodriguez-Arnaiz's performances from Lima's music critics surely could have rocketed a more inflatable ego into the stratosphere. One critic called her opening performance "a day of glory for Pamela." Another proclaimed her portrayal "a tribute to Santa Rosa and Peruvian music." And all through the summer the praise flowed with words like "angelical," "beautiful" and "extraordinarily sweet." But somehow, she took it all in stride.

The one occasion she admits was "overwhelming" came when a group of schoolchildren mistook her for Santa Rosa and began genuflecting and chanting the saint's name.

Their confusion was understandable. Almost every week the Lima entertainment media pictured Rodriguez-Arnaiz in her costume, and at the time the children saw her they were touring the saint's house while she, once again in costume, was outside taping a television special in the garden.

In spite of everything that happened over the summer, it was only upon going home for this year's winter break that Rodriguez-Arnaiz finally grasped the full impact of becoming an operatic sensation. Her performance, and the acclaim it generated, catapulted her to an unexpected level of stardom and national celebrity in her native country.

Unexpected? Yes, but only because she had never before performed in an opera — or even acted on a stage — and she did not know what to expect.

Also, her intense concentration on honing performance skills — usually consuming upwards of 14 hours per day — and the knowledge that the entire cast and crew of 80 people were depending on her never allowed for stopping to appreciate the magnitude of her budding stardom.

UNT roles

Pamela is an Eagle Ambassador at the university.

The opera closed just about the time the Fall 2003 semester was starting, so without much time to breathe or contemplate her fame, Rodriguez-Arnaiz returned to the many roles she plays at UNT. These encompass such challenges as taking as many as six classes every semester, maintaining her academic honor student status, meeting the rehearsal requirements for vocal studies, fulfilling her Eagle Ambassador diplomatic duties and still finding time for hobbies like painting and cooking.

According to McLendon, fan mail from Peru began flowing into the Eagle Ambassador mailbox before Rodriguez-Arnaiz got back to UNT.

"It was apparent that Pamela's admirers searching for her on the Internet had discovered her UNT connections," McLendon says.

Rodriguez-Arnaiz interviewed with Juilliard and other prestigious music schools before deciding to follow in the footsteps of her father, Jose Manuel Rodriguez-Arnaiz ('77), and attend UNT.

Now she regularly tells her tour groups that coming to UNT ranks as one of her most exciting experiences. Clearly, that's a huge compliment.

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