Role: Manon Lescaut in Manon Lescaut
1. Originally from Arkansas and now you call Vienna home. How did that come about for an opera singer with an international career?
I am very proud of being both a native Arkansan and an Austrian resident. The latter came about as an opportunity for me to study privately with my current voice teacher who also lives in Vienna, after receiving my Master’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Since being based in this city, my hard work and dedication has led to my receiving many opportunities to perform in many wonderful theaters all over the world.
2. What inspired you to become an opera singer?
Since childhood I’ve always been drawn to the performing arts. While in undergraduate school, I began formal lessons with my voice teacher at that time, Dr. Martha Antolik. We discovered that my voice is best suited for operatic repertoire. During those early years of study, l listened to the recordings of many fantastic singers, while also being surrounded by my family, many of whom also studied classical music and also had careers in music or enjoyed their passion for it as a hobby. All of these factors served as a great source of inspiration for me in pursuing my goal of having a sustained career in opera performance.
3. Do you have a favorite role? Perhaps a character to whom you particularly relate, or a part that perfectly suits your soprano voice?
This question always makes me smile because my long standing and initial honest response to this question is whatever role is next on my performance calendar! However, my overall favorite role/opera to listen to and sing is Elisabetta/Don Carlo by Verdi. Every measure of this piece is sublime. The story, (traditional) setting and costumes are all splendid. The contrasts between the characters enhance the strengths and weaknesses of the others. Everything in this opera “works.” I’ve sung both the Italian four and five act versions, and I love them both.
4. This year’s production of Manon Lescaut is billed as a semi-staged production, have you performed this type of production before?
Yes. Even though billed as semi-staged versions, many productions that have been presented in this way are still highly effective. What remains more important is that the voices are not limited; therefore, the audience is still given the opportunity to experience the music in all its depth and beauty.
5. What do you hope audiences will take away from your performance?
I hope that the audience will leave each performance feeling as if they have experienced the profundity of each character’s emotions. This is one of the challenges each artist faces while onstage. While focusing on vocal technique, we must also aim to present the nuances and emotional complexity of the characters we portray.
6. What are you most looking forward to during your time here in Dallas?
I am really looking forward to my performances with Dallas Opera! I am so very excited about this. In addition it will be a joy to be amongst my friends and family. I always love returning to my country. It has not been very often that I’ve had the opportunity to perform in front of so many of the people I’ve known all or most of my life. My most recent experience of returning home was for my debut performances of Verdi’s Aida at the Metropolitan Opera. I feel rather lucky to have another opportunity to return to America so quickly and this time experience the culture, the culinary and scenic delights of Dallas.
7. Who was or still is your mentor?
I have many mentors, including my voice teacher for all of my opera career, Carol Byers; my mother, Rev. Bettye Lewis; Dr. Martha Antolik; opera living legends Dr. Grace Bumbry and Martina Arroyo and many other strong and dynamic women in my life who have always led by example.
8. What is the Kristin Lewis Foundation and how can Dallas Opera patrons get involved.
In 2014 and in 2018, I established the Kristin Lewis Foundation Inc, based in America, and the Kristin Lewis International Association for the Encouragement and Development of Young Artists, based in Vienna, Austria. Both organizations are independent, nonprofit corporations designed to connect young artists with developmental and professional experiences. The competitive scholarships offered by the Foundation and other invaluable resources provided by the International Association serve as a means for those involved to further refine their talents toward careers in performance. Patrons are so very welcome in joining me in supporting the next generation of vocal and artistic excellence by visiting the Foundation’s website at www.kristinlewisfoundation.com and making a donation and/or volunteering in one of our exciting activities.
9. Lastly, if you met someone who never listened to music before which song would you have them listen to and why?
If asked to recommend an opera to someone who has never seen or heard one, I would offer Aida or The Magic Flute or La bohème. The story lines of these operas are easy to follow without understanding the languages. In addition there are many memorable and captivating moments within the music that new performance goers are very likely to leave the experience remembering at least one the more memorable melodic lines.