Monday, December 29, 2014

OSJ Soprano Lopez Signs with the Met

Cecilia Violetta Lopez in The Pearl Fishers. Photo by Pat Kirk.
Two weeks after the passing of Opera San Jose's founder, Irene Dalis, recent OSJ resident Cecilia Violetta Lopez has signed a contract with Dalis's old stamping grounds, New York's Metropolitan Opera. Lopez will understudy the role of Sylviane in the company's production of Lehar's The Merry Widow this April and May. The assignment will come just after her performance with Virginia Opera in La Traviata.

To those at Opera San Jose, the signing comes as no surprise. "She is an amazing actress," said OSJ's music staff director, Veronika Agranov-Dafoe, "in addition to having a very beautiful, buttery, velvety timbre to her voice. She lights up on stage; she has this innate glamour in her stage presence."

That natural, calm stage presence was one of the attributes that always stood out in Lopez's OSJ performances. In the unique OSJ arena, where young singers come to blossom and develop their skills, it usually takes a while for standouts to "announce" their talents, but for Lopez it came in her debut, a September 2012 performance as Leila in Bizet's The Pearl Fishers. Looking back at my review, I was definitely in "gush" mode:

"Her opening lines, as Léïla is welcomed as the guardian virgin of Ceylon’s pearl dives, bring an immediate recognition of vocal quality: a lyric instrument, laced with energy. Her first set piece, an incantation to the goddess Siva, reveals expressivity and dynamic range, as well as the basic pleasure of listening to her sure, unforced tone. Having checked off the basics of vocal quality, the critic then waits to hear if the singer’s brain is connected to her throat. The question was fully answered by a cadenza in the second-act cavatina, “Comme autrefois dans la nuit sombré.” Taking a moment to drift in a bath of sudden silence (always a magical substance at the operahouse), López launched a passage of virtuosic phrasing, both in her tonal colorings and in her lovingly crafted crescendos. The bonus came in López’s acting. In the third act, pleading for the life of her lover, Nadir, she delivered a profound emotional authenticity. Denied her lover’s pardon, she sparked into anger, in the form of a laser-like top note and and an evil eye you would not want to be on the receiving end of. The OSJ community is accustomed to welcoming new singers who have talent but a certain rawness, so it’s exciting to consider where a singer with such a head start might end up."

To those accustomed to seeing Lopez in leading roles, the prospect of her covering a minor role might seem disappointing, but life at The Met is different. I once had a friend who starred in Carmen with SF Opera's Merola program, and then made her Met debut as a page in the opera Fedora. I believe she had three lines. The important thing, of course, is to get that foot in the door.

Michael J. Vaughn is a thirty-year opera critic and author of the novel Operaville.

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