St. Rose of Lima
New Rose From Lima
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
"There are nearly always some rave reviews among the
comment cards after Pamela leads a tour," says Eagle Ambassador supervisor
Jennifer McLendon ('01).
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.
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
performance "a day of glory for Pamela." Another
proclaimed her portrayal "a tribute to Santa Rosa and Peruvian
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
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
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
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
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.