Aprile Millo Brings Opera to the Beach
Renowned soprano talks to Letters about the Metropolitan Opera, her 42nd Street moment and Glee.
World-renowned soprano Aprile Millo comes to Lewes on Sept. 25 as the Prudential Gallo—Touch of Italy Foundation’s present Viva Italia at the Cape Henlopen High School Theater. I chatted with the diva in preparation for her Lewes debut and was delighted by her comments and enthusiasm!
Fay Jacobs: I know that both of your parents were opera singers. Was it just natural to go into the “family business” or were there other things you considered?
Aprile Millo: I really do not remember a time where I didn’t want to be an opera singer. I saw the look of transfiguration on the faces of my parents when they listened to or participated in opera
I wanted to know the world that could so impress my parents...when I did get the chance to hear an opera, I was a wide eyed little girl looking at exactly what I loved in life...romance, glamour, passion, great music and singing. I was hooked… costumes, lights, sets, ballet, singing and fabulous stories.
FJ: You’ve performed all over the world, but your home base has been the NY Metropolitan Opera. Apart from New York, where have been your favorite places and what was so special about them.
AM: So many wonderful places, I love Rome, I sob every time I leave! Milan, Verdi walked the streets there...the audiences in Spain and Germany, it is almost like a religious event when they go to hear a great opera; hot blooded fans all over South America, or Moscow, Paris. My favorite audiences are those who come prepared to be moved.
FJ: The Met in NYC is, of course, the premier company in this country. What have been your favorite productions there?
AM: I loved the Andrea Chenier and Un Ballo in Maschera with Luciano Pavarotti and James Levine...Franco Zeffirelli’s towering productions of Puccini’s Turandot and Tosca...of course, the emmy-winning production of Aida...that was my first opening night and with James Levine and Placido Domingo and Dolora Zajick, it’s hard to find one I don’t like! The Metropolitan Opera is a beautiful and historic opera house. I have called it home for almost 30 years now!
FJ: It’s legend that you went on for an ailing star at the beginning of your career, did an amazing job, and became a star yourself as a result of that performance. Can you tell us a little bit about that event?
AM: I was told the night before that the artist singing the Amelia in Simon Boccanegra wasn’t feeling great and I might be called on to sing. I’d returned late from the birthday party of a friend in a noisy bar to hear this in a message from the opera house, so I went to sleep thinking, “she never cancels.”
The next morning the house called and said, “We would like you to come make your debut with us tonight...” and a serenity overwhelmed me. I was so thrilled, went through a bit of rehearsal, and spoke to my teacher and my coach and they said, “You are ready!”
When the curtain went up I felt the audience hold their breath for me, as it was announced I was replacing the star of the evening, and that is was to be my debut. They had no idea what I would be like. At the end of the aria, the Lord had guided me sure and happy through one of the most difficult opening arias for a soprano in all of opera, the house exploded in cheers...relief and happiness on both sides of the footlights...it was straight out of the movies—42nd Street. The papers the next day hailed the birth of a new “Verdi Star.“ I couldn’t have asked for a better place to sing. I had grown up there, and when the curtain came down and the whole chorus gathered around me to applaud and share the importance of that night—it finally sank in.
FJ: Having a performer of your caliber come visit us in Delaware is a treat. Have you performed in other small towns?
AM: The first state in the Union is part of an area rich in history and love for the arts. You might say, this is my operatic episode of Glee, in a state-of-the art High School complex where you can feel the love and care! I’ve performed really all over the world, in the big city centers and in little villages in the farthest reaches of the Amazon to the highest peaks in Peru.
FJ: As a writer and blogger myself, I’m delighted to see you have a blog called Operavision. It was great reading about your upcoming Lewes performance there. What prompted you to start blogging?
AM: I felt with today’s slick marketing, you never really get to know a performer. Everything is so removed and watered down sometimes. I love to communicate with my fans and new friends and old friends because it comes directly from me. Operavision has gotten quite a devoted following, and they come to read about opera, and learn about the great stars of the past and future, learn what makes a singer tick.
Blogs are really the new cafe’s and ante-rooms at the opera house. People discuss the performance within minutes of the end, sometimes during it!
FJ: You compared your upcoming performance at Cape Henlopen High School to “an operatic episode of Glee.” Do you watch the show?
AM: Glee can be hysterical. I love it and I like very much that it takes up where American Idol leaves off. It reacquaints a young audience with some of the greatest music in musical theater history. I hope it will eventually extend itself to classical music as well. In opera, you are always judged and everyone is Simon Cowell!
FJ: Just like many other intense careers, a life in the opera world is probably very consuming. What do you do for fun?
AM: Being with great people in interesting times. To paraphrase Confucius, that is what relaxes me, hearing people laugh, reading, and watching old movies, and talking to the elderly. They are the people I like the best.
FJ: I cannot wait for this performance. It sounds like it’s going to be amazing. Thanks for chatting with us! We are looking forward to this big event!
AM: I am too! Hope to see you there.
Tickets ($100/$130) are available at www.operaatthebeach.com and incude a pre-show dinner catered by A Touch of Italy and Nourish.