Solana Beach opera singer to host home concert

By Kristina Houck

Twice a year the living room in Virginia and Robert Garland’s Solana Beach home is transformed into an intimate concert hall.

An accomplished soprano opera singer, Garland has held these intimate recitals in Solana Beach for nearly 15 years. She will once again open her home to the public during the “It’s ‘Puccini’ in May!” concert on May 18.

“I started them because I wanted to have something more intimate,” Garland said. “When you do it in a large hall, it’s not as personal. I really wanted to have people experience music in an intimate setting.”

A Solana Beach resident since 1966, Garland has shared her voice with the community for decades.

She has performed for the Rancho Santa Fe Opera Guild, and for local charities, churches and libraries. In 1981, she organized the New Life Opera Ensemble, bringing together musicians to perform at a variety of local venues.

“I was producer, director you name it,” Garland recalled.

A Boston University graduate who majored in Spanish and French, Garland said her education has helped her master the complexity of opera. She sings in 10 languages, including Chinese and Vietnamese, but enjoys singing in Italian and Spanish most.

In 1975, Garland began studying with Del Mar voice teacher Beverly Ogden. She went on to study in New York with Maestro Frank Basilece and also with Howard Fried of the New York Opera. Her first solo performance was held in 1980 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Del Mar.

Now 76, she still trains weekly with her coach Anna Carson.

“I want to be fair to the people that I invite to my home and be the very best I can be,” Garland said.

Garland first launched her home concert series in December 1999 at the home of Estelle Walker, a nearby neighbor and friend.

Accompanied by pianist John Danke, her latest concert will feature operatic arias from Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. Garland’s 18-year-old granddaughter Morgan Kendrick will perform contemporary music, accompanied by her 21-year-old brother, Madison, for one of the pieces.

From the selection of music to the variety of costumes, Garland plans every aspect of the concert.

“I try to make every one very unique,” she said.

Also a composer, Garland has written nearly two dozen songs. She released her first album — a combination of covers and original material — in 1999, and her second album in 2003.

“It’s been pretty much a late lifelong journey,” Garland said. “I knew I had to pursue that part of my life.

“When you have been given a gift and you make up your mind that it is important, you’ve got to do the best you can to give it the best part of yourself. I’m devoted to honoring my craft, so when I finally sing my last note, it’s going to be good.”

When not training or performing, Garland enjoys spending time with her husband of 42 years, six children and 12 grandchildren. She also serves as president of the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society.

“I’m a very fortunate women,” said Garland. “I almost have my cake and eat it, too. My life is very rich.”

The concert begins at 3 p.m. Seating is limited.

To RSVP for the concert, call 858-755-2965. The concert is free, but donations are accepted.

For more information about Garland, visit