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Teen Has the Gift of Song

At age 3, Maria Zoller of Lutz did not speak. And then she found her voice.

At 5, she sang for her preschool.

Her debut song?

“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.

An impressive performance for a child adopted just two years earlier after being rescued from horrible conditions in Romania. At the time, Maria Zoller of Lutz couldn't speak.

Now, at 13, the Imagine Middle School student is the youngest cast member ever accepted into Tampa Bay’s Matinee Opera Players

Maria, whose idols include Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli, and Josh Groban,  practices for about 15 hours a week. Learning new songs in different languages is the hardest part, she said.

But calming her nerves before a show is easy.

“I love to perform and make the audience happy so I always try to relax, breathe, pray to God and my brother in heaven and do the very best that I can,” Maria said.

She takes vocal lessons from Maestro Mario Laurenti, Matinee Opera Players artistic director. The Pinellas Park resident does not typically allow 13-year-olds to audition for his opera program, he said.

But after hearing Maria, he knew she had vocal maturity and potential beyond her years. A talent that Laurenti said should not be compromised by the exposure reality television might garner her.

"If Maria desires to become a professional opera singer, she must keep focused and have consistency with her vocal training.  Many of these reality TV entertainment programs are not based on natural talent and could actually harm her delicate vocal cords by forcing her to belt instead of sing," Laurenti said.

Maria plans to enter an apprentice opera program at the Patel Conservatory when she turns 15.

“Of course it would be a dream come true to become a professional opera/classical singer and to share my voice with the world and make it a better place,” Maria said.

Want to check out this rising opera star? Maria will perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Organic Life Coffehouse & Bakery, 1900 Oak Grove Blvd.

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