Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Romance Hits a High Note

Tony winner to perform Valentine’s concert

Express Staff Writer

Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller comes to town to share her award-winning vocals, thanks to the Sun Valley Opera. Courtesy photo

   When a talent like Tony award-winning soprano Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller advises that tissues be brought to a performance of hers, audiences should listen. This is a woman who got her start on Broadway at age 23, working with famed director Baz Luhrmman and winning a Tony Award for her work as “Mimi” in Puccini’s little opera “La Boheme.”  
    Seegmiller is bringing her award-winning voice and Hollywood beauty to Sun Valley to sing tunes “From Broadway to Beyond” and a condensed “La Boheme” with the Utah Lyric Opera, where she serves as artistic director. The three-day event on Feb, 11-13, is hosted by Sun Valley Opera.
    Monday night’s Diva party February 11 at the Valley Club features Seegmiller and acclaimed tenor Isaac Hurtado, baritone Christopher Holmes  and soprano Jennie Litster. Ticket packages vary starting from $125 for the party and concert on Tuesday night, Feb. 12. Providing a nice segue to the romance of Valentine’s Day, the performers will sing popular classics like “Luck Be a Lady,” “Glitter and Be Gay,” “What Kind of Fool Am I,” “The Impossible Dream,” and “Somewhere.”
    Expect “an intense, wonderful, fun and moving show,” Seegmiller promised. “Bring your Valentine’s date, the courage to tell them ‘I love you’ and a pack of tissues, because you might get a little teary-eyed.”
    On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the group will travel to Hailey’s Community Campus for a “La Boheme” performance. Tickets are $15 for the night.
    When not at work, Seegmiller said she spends her free time on the family’s farm in St. George, Utah, where daughter
Ellie Felice, 4, runs free among rabbits, chickens and guinea pigs, and Mom lets down her cascade of auburn curls when she’s not tending to 1-year-old Anna Nesha. Husband Travis is a lawyer and her manager, as well as a baritone.
    “I tend to save my voice for the practice room, so I rarely sing casually in the shower or around the house—that’s where my husband comes in,” Seegmiller said. “He has an awesome baritone voice and fills that role in our home. But sometimes you can catch me shamelessly singing the likes of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, or other random vocalizes from my practice regime.”
     The 34-year-old, nominated for a Grammy for her performance in “Volpone,” as Corvina the Raven, looks like a living version of Merida from Disney’s latest release, “Brave,” and seems to have all the cordiality and strength to be anything from Broadway baby to a Hollywood glamour girl. Hurtado is no slouch in the looks department, handily filling the role as prince to her princess, so the pairing promises to be emotionally rich as well as fat-free eye candy for audiences.
    Seegmiller answered a few questions from the Mountain Express in advance of the event.    

IME: Most people are told they must start small—you missed the memo and went for it all. Where did you get your start?
    My first professional gig was Baz Luhrmann’s “La Boheme” on Broadway.

There is so much beauty and talent in the world. The competition is fierce, yet critics make sure they note your total package as an entertainer. How does one stand above the rest?
    There is an “it” factor that isn’t necessarily teachable: in a classical singer it is a combination of extraordinary talent, intelligence and skill vocally, musically, linguistically, and as an actor/actress. It also requires having the right genetic makeup—the voice must be unique in color and/or beauty and sizeable, and the structure of the face and body contribute a great deal to this.    A brilliant singer has to have a brilliant ear and the ability to differentiate and replicate nuances in sounds and language most others can’t.  It also helps in this day and age to have a unique look of some kind, some fashion sense, good people skills and business savvy.
    In the musical theater world, replace foreign language skill with dance, and you’ve got yourself the requirements of a great “triple threat” musical theater artist. It is not an easy path and requires incredible discipline, passion, vision, endurance, good judgment, a good manager and the ability to realize one’s vision. It also takes a sort of centeredness and confidence in and knowledge of one’s life mission, if you will—this takes out the need to compete and makes a more successful artist, I believe. In sum, it takes a lot to stand out. It is definitely not the field for just anyone who can carry a tune.

Is it flattering to hear you have Bette Davis eyes and the total package or is it daunting as people have high expectations when they have labels to work from?
    It is a good thing that people have high expectations of my work. It makes me a better artist. Baz Luhrmann taught me that the difference between a professional and an amateur is one who can turn their skills on and off on command. He expected us to treat every rehearsal as if we were performing for an audience who had all paid $100 for their tickets. I learned to give every off-stage moment my best to live up to his high expectations of us.
    The renowned Russian soprano Anna Netrebko said of her fame that in the beginning she didn’t deserve it, but because of all the good press she received, she ended up living up to her reputation and to audience expectations.
    I feel the same way about my own career path—the more people have expected of me, the more I have learned to give and the better I have become. I like a good challenge, and I have faith in my God-given abilities, and I know that the weaknesses I have contribute to my humanity and artistry. I don’t ever let compliments or good press go to my head—I stay grounded by my weaknesses and believe that great artistry can only occur in the context of true humility—humility towards the score, the story line, the character, one’s co-workers, director, conductor  and orchestra. That said, I have exceedingly high expectations of myself and try to guarantee my performance for every paying audience member who expects me to create a spectacular experience for them.

What’s your favorite role thus far?  
    I would have to say Mimi because I had such a unique opportunity to “live in her skin” on Broadway for an entire year of my life. That opportunity is unheard-of in the opera world.

How are you enjoying the steady gig as artistic director of Utah Lyric Opera and what does it allow you to do?
    It allows me to give back to young artists and provide opportunities for them. I love teaching and mentoring the younger generation, and this gives me the ability to make creative choices that facilitate their careers as well. I also enjoy the stability and consistency of geographical location that a full-time singing career doesn’t necessarily allow in the U.S. I have a school-aged daughter and an infant, and I want to be home and be there for them now and I am able to do that as a teacher and artistic director. I also want to contribute artistically to my city and community, and these are two of the best ways I can do that in this season of my life.

What’s on your bucket list?
    I want to have more beautiful children, have lots of grandchildren, leave a musical legacy through recorded albums and musical film, give back as a teacher and artistic director, help my kids discover and cultivate their talents, swim with great white sharks, travel to every continent with my husband, and maybe someday retire on the faculty at Juilliard where my first great teacher, Marlena Malas, taught me so much about the beautiful sounds that sustain and inspire me.

Pick your package
Tickets can be bought individually or packaged with a Diva Party or concerts by visiting


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