Discovering Opera: An Interview with Kristin Lewis

Opera chose me,” Kristin Lewis, a lirico-spinto operatic soprano, who has graced opera stages around the world, asserts. “It was a discovery versus a choice,” she says when explaining her belief that when we “find” our calling, we are merely choosing what is being revealed to us. The journey is to remain open to and accepting of that revelation.

Kristin is clear that opera chose her. Music and performance were her constants growing up and laid the foundation for her life. Kristin merely followed the path, courageously choosing to accept the sacrifices that came with the rewards, which led her to where she is today. Her interest in working with a specific voice coach, an American who resided in Vienna, Austria is what initially took Kristin to Europe, and within a year of her arrival, she was securing key roles.

This American operatic leading lady, who now herself resides in Vienna, Austria, found that performing came naturally to her. She attributes it to being raised in a musical family, where music of all genres was ever-present and where expressing such talents was the norm. In fact, Kristin shares, her mother reminds her that she began singing right about the time she started speaking. Although performing remained central to Kristin’s life as she grew up, it was while auditioning for a choir in college at the University of Central Arkansas, at Conway, it was suggested that she consider private voice lessons, as it was determined her voice was “worthy of solos.”

IMG: Tosca Savonlinna. Courtesy of Kristin Lewis.

Thirteen years later and Kristin is a master of her craft. Her talent is astoundingly beautiful, yet she believes her talent is borne of constant professional training – 100% technique and dedication, with the body being the instrument. As a freelance opera singer, where she is not fixed in one opera house, Kristin maintains that flexibility mindset. It requires her continuous adaptation and assimilation. She goes from training and staying vocally healthy, with resting, the right nutrition, adjusting to the elements, to studying musicality, studying languages, adapting the interpretations of a new piece, to acting and rehearsing a new production. Kristin much prefers this free-agency as a self-employed performer. It gives her the ability to be at the helm of her career and to choose roles whose music best complements her voice, despite it being consistent hard work to learn the standards, styles, and expectations of each new conductor.

 

Kristin has developed a repertoire of grand performances of Giuseppe Verdi Operas, her favorite being the role of Elizabetha in Verdi’s Don Carlo. Her type of operatic soprano voice (fa classification) has the limpidity and easy high notes of a lyric soprano that can be “pushed” to achieve dramatic climaxes without strain and is perfectly suited for such lead roles, including one of my favorites, Aida. Although she has her dream roles, Kristin finds every role challenging and interesting, and an honor to perform. She has graced the stages of many world-renown opera houses, including three of the top five to date: the Vienna State Opera, in Vienna, Austria; Teatro alla Scala, in Milan, Italy; and Opéra National de Paris, in Paris, France. Kristin has also debuted at Carnegie Hall, but excitedly looks forward to the opportunity to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, as well as at the Royal Opera House in London, United Kingdom, some day.

There is a passion, joy, and magic that Kristin says she feels knowing the impact the interpretation of her work will have on audiences. “The moment of being on stage in character, singing beautiful music to bring fantasy to life, when everything finally comes together in an opera, while dedicated artists create this other world that will connect and create emotions and draw audiences in, is more than entertainment or a way of relaxing. It is also a way of carrying [audiences] to another place and elevating the soul. When that happens, it creates beauty in the world.” All the years of training, the lights, the acting, the music, makeup, and costumes, all play a part in bringing the production to fruition. Her love of this work is palpable. And, in order for her to understand the nuances in the stories, character interactions, and delivery, Kristin is fluent in Italian, the language of the original operas and the language of operas by Verdi and Puccini, whose works she often leads. Since she resides in Austria, Kristin also has a working knowledge of German, since, she says, each lead role can be very different depending on the language of the opera.

IMG: Aida. Courtesy of Kristin Lewis.

Vienna continues to feel right for her, even all these years later, and serves well as her professional base. The singer’s voice teacher, coaches, and professional management team of agents, stylists, and the like, continue to make it work flawlessly. This leading lady thoroughly honors her gifts and embodies gratitude and love for her craft. She has dedicated her life to date to being the absolute best at it. She has been well received abroad, despite this very competitive field, as she is recognized for her impeccable professionalism in preparedness, training, commitment, and ability to adapt to each new production, opera house, and team of colleagues.

With the awareness that this reception has not always been the case for opera performers of color, she created the Kristin Lewis Foundation to support those who recognize opera performance as their calling. Three years ago, after meeting a talented young singer who was passionate about his gift but did not know how to leverage the appropriate resources to pursue his calling, Kristin saw her own drive in him, and her Foundation was born. This organization’s competitive scholarship program exposes recipients, ages 18 – 25, to an all-expense paid American or European training program by opera singers, conductors, vocal coaches, and others active in the industry and who have knowledge of repertoire.

IMG: Aida. Courtesy of Kristin Lewis.

Some people consider opera to be high culture and outside of the main stream, but to Kristin it is all about emotions, love, betrayal, loyalty, making big decisions, being in the midst of any pain. Emotions make it easier to relate to the stories. It is not unlike the movies, except that opera is sung and most often in languages other than English. But, operas are merely depicting what was happening in society at the time, which may still be occurring today, making the stories very identifiable and relatable. So if you are someone who has never attended an opera and would love to experience this art form, don’t hesitate to stop by the nearest opera house box office and begin to share in an appreciation of this glorious art form. Kristin recommends La Boheme as a great first step. Its exciting visual aspect, catchy music, and simple story, may make it easy for a first-timer to understand, even without understanding the language. Aida, The Magic Flute, Hansel & Gretel are others that might make for a wonderful first experience as well.

 

INFORMATION

Learn more about Kristin Lewis and The Kristin Lewis Foundation by visiting her online or through social media.

Websites: www.kristin-lewis.com,  www.kristinlewisfoundation.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nubiansinger1

Foundation’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/Kristin-Lewis-Foundation-Inc

Instagram: kristinlewis_soprano

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