Bits 'n' Pieces: Command performance for the royals

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When former Vancouver resident José Rubio agreed to sing the national anthem at an event at the Santa Barbara, Calif., Polo & Racquet Club, he had no idea that he’d be performing for royalty.

A few weeks before the charity polo match, which took place Saturday, Rubio learned that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would be in attendance, and that Prince William would be playing in the match.

“I thought it was pretty cool. It was just kind of surreal,” said Rubio, 27, a 2001 Mountain View High School graduate.

Rubio is in Santa Barbara for the summer for the Music Academy of the West. He will play the lead role of Figaro in the academy’s production of the Rossini opera “The Barber of Seville” in August.

Rubio received the invitation to sing at the polo event through famed opera singer Marilyn Horne, director of the academy’s voice program.

Rubio didn’t get to talk with Prince William or his new bride, Duchess Catherine (formerly Kate Middleton), but he did see them.

“Kate walked right by me,” Rubio said. “I smiled, and she smiled back, which was kind of nice.”

He also saw stars including Jennifer Love Hewitt and one of the Jonas brothers, and he got to meet Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis, who cooked for the event.

“She was really nice,” he said. “I’m actually a big fan of her cooking show.”

Rubio, who spent two years in the Portland Opera’s Studio Artists Program, currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is working toward an artist diploma in opera from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where he earned his master’s degree in music with a focus on voice. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Washington.