Bella Kuta is the very model of a major superstar of the future.
The multi-talented Davenport 17-year-old already has a packed performing resume that could make some professionals blush.
Homeschooled (with her four younger siblings) and dual-enrolled at Davenport Central High, Bella is a veteran of several Quad-City community theaters; Opera Quad Cities, Iowa All-State and OPUS Honor Choirs, short films, and local and national TV commercials.
Her latest gig will bring the very vocal soprano this weekend to Waverly, Iowa, where she’ll be part of the prestigious Meistersinger Honor Choir Festival at Wartburg College. It is designed to bring together the finest singers from high schools across the region to collaborate with world-class artists and perform their music with the highest level of artistry.
High school choir directors from five states nominate their top high school singers for the Meistersinger Honor Choir Festival, featuring guest artists and ensembles. The program will feature a 250-student mixed choir and 100-voice all-female choir. Bella was picked to not just be in the larger choir, but to solo in one choir piece and sing a separate solo on her own, an Italian aria.
“She’s an extremely talented young woman,” her private voice teacher, Mark Swessinger, said Friday. “She has an impeccable ear, and an ability to learn music very quickly. Her singing voice is stellar — it’s rich and warm and quite beautiful.”
Compared to other girls her age, Bella “has a much more mature sound to her voice,” he said. “And like I said, it’s rich and it’s warm and it’s very even from top to the bottom. It’s a very smooth voice.”
“It’s just lovely, lovely, pretty, pretty – equally at home in pop and in classical,” Swessinger said. One of the Wartburg music professors is an old friend of his. “He texted me immediately afterwards, and told me told me how amazing she was,” Swessinger said.
The festival choir itself is selective, but to “be chosen as a featured soloist is very selective,” he said. “They pared down from a whole bunch of kids to just a couple. And for her to be chosen for that is a big, big deal.”
Among other QC students chosen for the choir are from Rockridge High — Mallory Flynn, senior soprano, Malorie Workman, senior alto and Vaughn Myers, senior baritone — under the direction of Curtis Fischer-Oeschlager.
A pleasant surprise
Bella was surprised to be a featured soloist both in the mixed choir and on her own.
“I auditioned for both; I didn’t have the highest expectations,” she said Friday. “I hoped to maybe get one. I ended up getting both, which is really awesome.”
Bella was nominated by Davenport Central choir director Michael Reese, and is going to Wartburg Sunday to start rehearsing, and will get private lessons with music professors, ahead of the concert Monday at 5 p.m.
“It will be a really good experience to hear from a lot of different people,” she said.
“At Wartburg, I did an All-State camp last summer to practice music,” Bella said of a three-day choir camp to get ready for All-State auditions. “That was a really wonderful experience, because they have an amazing staff.”
She got to be in the Iowa All-State choir (among several Central students) this past November at Iowa State University, with a televised concert on Iowa PBS. “It was really awesome.”
Bella has been accepted at Wartburg, among 30 college acceptances total, and is waiting to hear about financial aid and scholarships before making a decision. She auditioned at Wartburg last weekend and was notified she could get full tuition paid (the estimated fall 2023 cost is $49,323 a year).
Bella said Wartburg is among her top choices, which are all in the Midwest. As the oldest of five kids, she prefers to be close to home since many of her siblings also perform.
She’s studied voice with Swessinger for the past six months, and has taken private voice lessons over seven years.
An early start in theater
Her uncle did theater through the Rock Island-based Center for Living Arts, and Bella loved seeing shows there.
“My mom says before I could even talk I was singing,” Bella said. “I was obsessed with ‘The Little Mermaid’.”
The first show she was in was “Grease Jr.” at CLA, at age 7, and played the title role of “Annie” when she was 8. She was with Center for Living Arts through 8th grade.
Bella has been in choirs since middle school, and her mom (Allison Kuta Bergthold) started homeschooling her after the COVID shutdowns in March 2020, partly since her younger siblings already were being homeschooled. She’s been dual-enrolled at Central, taking several classes there.
“I’ve been able to focus on things that I like,” she said of homeschool courses. “I did a class on analyzing film and literature — books that were turned into films, to look at the details.”
This semester, Bella also will sing with the St. Ambrose University choir. She was very impressed to be in the SAU spring 2022 production of the “Little Women” musical, and plans to try out for the straight play of the classic story this year at Playcrafters.
Among her theater highlights was playing the title role in “Mary Poppins Jr.” at Spotlight Theatre, with her little brother Ben (11) in the cast. Bella was a nun in “The Sound of Music” at Spotlight, in which Ben and her sister Betsy (8) were in the cast.
A talented family
Ben Bergthold was featured in Countryside’s “Newsies” in summer 2021. Bella plans to audition for Countryside’s “Footloose,” to be done this summer.
Kuta is her mom’s maiden name (whose married name is Bergthold). Bella sang with three Opera Quad Cities concerts last summer, and was a soloist for Handel’s “Messiah,” last month, led by Opera QC president Ron May.
“I just really love singing, so choir’s always been a great experience,” Bella said. “I do actually really like classical music. That’s the style you get to sing the highest, and I love being able to sing the higher notes.”
She’s always loved theater as well, including close friendships she forms with each company.
Opera is also fun “and it’s so pretty and there are really some amazing people we have in opera around here,” Bella said.
She plans to be a vocal performance major. Bella has acted on numerous QC stages, recently including “Romeo & Juliet” (Genesius Guild), “Little Women” (St. Ambrose), “The Lightning Thief” and “Sound of Music” (Spotlight) and several shows with Haus of Ruckus at Mockingbird on Main.
“T Green and Calvin Vo are so fun and such talented artists,” Bella said of the comedic Haus of Ruckus. “They’re just really great, fun people to be around.”
“Usually, they only have adults in their shows,” she said. “I felt really honored to have the opportunity to be in something that would technically be just adults could do it. It’s really fun and they’re so accepting. That’s one of the most welcoming, tightest-knit communities I have seen in the theater community here. That I think is my favorite at the moment.”
A female Mercutio
Bella has acted in Rock Island’s Genesius Guild (summers in Lincoln Park) starting before her freshman year. Her fourth Genesius production was last summer as one of her favorite characters, Mercutio in Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” playing a gender-flipped version, in a skirt.
“I had requested, it might be really fun to play a female Mercutio,” she said. “Mercutio is such a fun character — a fireball; he’s so witty and fun. It was amazing to portray that character. Normally, I play the ingenue, or the motherly roles. I really like getting an opportunity to try all kinds of things.”
The sword fight in a skirt felt like dancing, Bella said, noting most all the cast were high school students, directed by Kitty Israel.
“Dying is very fun — one of the most fun things to do,” Bella said of being stabbed in the show. She also hopes to do Genesius Guild again this summer.
Modeling and talent agencies
Bella started modeling with Rock Island-based SK Models when she was finishing grade school, including local commercials.
Her mom found Big Mouth Talent Agency in Chicago, and she read there in 6th grade, signing on and soon got a national Lunchables commercial, filmed in Chicago.
“In the cafeteria, we had a TV playing, and they played the Lunchables commercial,” Bella said, noting her friends freaked out when they first saw her. She also did a “Go Go Squeeze” applesauce commercial. “They’re a good snack when you’re on the go.”
One of Bella’s favorite experiences of her life was when she and Ben filmed a national commercial for Cedar Point amusement park, in Ohio on Lake Erie. That was between 6th and 7th grade, and Ben was 6 years old then (who also is represented by Big Mouth).
A callback for auditions was for “a chemistry read,” to see how actors play off each other. Bella and Ben were paired together (the casting director didn’t know they were related, since they have different last names).
“My mom picked us up from school one day and he was freaking out because he got cast,” she recalled. They were flown from Moline to Cleveland for the shoot.
“I had never been on a rollercoaster before I went there,” Bella said. “When I auditioned, I said, ‘Heck yeah, I love rollercoasters’. I had never been on one, so my first experience on a rollercoaster is in a commercial for Cedar Point.”
“It was amazing — it was like getting paid to go on this super fancy vacation,” she said. Ben also has been on a national Oscar Mayer commercial.
On a Netflix series
Bella was an extra on the first season of the Netflix series “Easy” (in fall 2016) and she talked about her siblings a lot. That led to her little sister Betsy (as a baby) being cast as Orlando Bloom’s daughter that first season.
They didn’t know that Orlando Bloom would play her dad until the family got on set, she said. Bella’s mom is a huge Bloom fan, so that was an extra special treat. “That was really awesome,” she said, noting Ben and Betsy also have been in short films.
Bella has been in the Fresh Films movie “Ghostland,” and as leads in the short films “The Library Assistant” (Azibuike Arts Council) and “Hide & Seek” (Flyover State Productions).
As a career, she hopes to perform professionally, whether opera or musical theater.
“The hope would be someday, after I’ve been performing a long time, to do teaching, so I could help share what I’ve learned through all these experiences,” Bella said. “I have a lot of experience with kids and I’ve done a lot of volunteer work. With Spotlight, I help with the kids’ programs, and I volunteer at the library.”
The Meistersinger Honor Choir concert will be livestreamed on Monday, Jan. 23 at 5 p.m. HERE.