Millo celebrates her 25th anniversary with Eve Queler and The Opera Orchestra of New York, with which she has remained a loyal collaborator since performing the role of Mathilde in William Tell in 1984. The soprano is joined by pianist Lucy Arner in a program of lieder, opera arias and Italian art song in Jazz at Lincoln Center's intimate Rose Theater. Additional guest artists include harpist Merynda Adams, violinist Christopher Collins Lee, tenor Michael Fabiano, cellist Lynn Harrell, baritone Luis Ledesma, pianist Danielle Orlando, and accordionist Mary-Lou Vetere, and special choreography by Melanie LaPatin from "So You Think You can Dance".
Soprano Aprile Millo has, for over twenty years, been a beacon of authentic Verdi sound, style, and idiomatic phrasing; the genuine article 'lirico-spinto soprano del agilita'. Her voice has been compared with some of the greatest voices who have ever lived, like legendary sopranos, Renata Tebaldi, Zinka Milanov, Rosa Ponselle and Claudia Muzio. Mme. Millo made a Cinderella-like debut at the Metropolitan Opera in December of 1984; the papers the next day heralded the birth of a "New Verdi Star!" and 23 years later Millo is still winning praise from objective critics and frenzied ovations from an adoring public. She has sung over 161 performances of 15 different roles at the Metropolitan Opera. Outside New York, Mme. Millo has triumphed in the theaters of Frankfurt, Barcelona, Parma, Rome, Bologna, Torino, the Arena of Verona, The Baths of Caracalla, Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Paris, Orange, Moscow, Rio de Janero, Sao Paolo, Santiago, Colon, Buenos Aires, and, of course, La Scala. Her collaborations with great conductors include von Karajan, Muti, Sinopoli, and her great friend and mentor, James Levine. She has sung in productions by the greatest stage directors, including legendary stage and film director Franco Zeffirelli, for whom she sang Liu in Turandot and served as the voice of Elizabeth Taylor in the Zeffirelli film Young Toscanini.
She recorded the acclaimed Verdi series for Sony Classical with Maestro James Levine, as well as recordings of Aida, Ill Trovatore, Luisa Miller and Don Carlo. She is also featured in the Metropolitan Opera's highly acclaimed DVD/Video of Un Ballo in Maschera with Maestro Levine and, legendary tenor and friend, Luciano Pavarotti. She is also featured on an Emmy-winning DVD of Aida with the Met, Maestro Levine, and Placido Domingo. Aprile Millo is the winner of numerous awards, including: the Primo Premio First Prize at the Voci Verdiane Concorso in Busetto, Italy; the Montserrat Caball_-Bernabe Merti Special Verdi Prize; Francisco Vinas, The Voce D'Oro; The Richard Tucker Foundation Award; the Maria Callas Foundation Award; and others.
Millo chats here about her upcoming 25th anniversary performance:
Q. Being the daughter of two professional singers, your upbringing took place within a steadfast environment of operatic artistry. As a young performer, how did the mentorship of with your parents shape your imminent career?
A: One always wants to know more about your Mom and Dad. Be closer and feel a bond. When both of my parents sang or even just heard music, their faces transfigured. I wanted to go where there could be that kind of exaltation, transfiguration. So I followed their emotional connection to music and then formed one all of my own. I will never know how to thank God enough for giving me these two wonderfully complex but glowingly talented individuals as parents, and for showing me the world of opera which has forever altered my world.
Q. Is there a particular soprano that has served as your greatest inspiration?
A: Well besides my mother who was so vivid and truly amazing, I would have to say it was a trinity of vocal Strads... Claudia Muzio, Rosa Ponselle and Renata Tebaldi. These women put their stamp on my soul, and then of course Zinka Milanov and Magda Olivero, and Maria Callas. The "old school" singers were taught it wasn't a profession, it was a vocation. I needed that and I love that.
Q. Describe a live music performance you've attended that you will never forget.
A: The first time I saw Tebaldi live, the voice was immense and the love affair with the audience was a revelation. Her personal charm was colossal and we all "en masse" fell in love. It became a sound full of harmony, full of love, redemption, God and POSSIBILITY. I thought to myself, 'Surely God would be kind to the world if it boasted such a being as this‹with that voice of Heaven‹in our midst.'
The first time I saw Maria Callas live was during one of her recitals in the 70's. I was so amazed by the architecture of her phrasing and her total command of the music and audience in the palm of her hand. When she finished an aria, her "thought" continued; the message went further and deepened with each second that passed. When her hand finally came to rest, the gesture completed, her spell did not break. It became seared into your thoughts and emotions forever..... and certainly did in mine!
Q. Who are your favorite non-classical singers?
A: My sister and brother. Grace Millo writes her own music and lyrics, and could sing opera if she wanted. We used to sing duets together like the Ponselle Sisters; she has her own band and is a magnificent actress as well. She is currently working on a musical, and I for one cannot wait to hear it! My brother is a punk rock pioneer, a legend... he is the most amazing and original person‹so creative. He was the lead singer for the Berlin Bratzs and the Mau Maus. His music is so intense and absolutely fresh today.
I also enjoy classic Bette Midler, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby. Of today's voices, Pink, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige‹people who know how to communicate. I loved Elvis Presley and Guns and Roses, the Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and I adored Adam Lambert. Quite a nice mix!
Q. Any specific recording that you couldn't live without?
A: The record I could not be without is Claudia Muzio, complete with the reciting of the letter as well; the aria "Addio del passato..."‹Violetta's last gasps of life and hope in Verdi's masterpiece La Traviata, as her life is falling away in front of her like petals from the camelias she loves so much‹and "ah, non credea mirarti" from Bellini's great beauty of an opera of a girl who sleepwalks herself into a world of trouble, La Sonnambula. Another record I thrive on is the Rachmaninoff Piano concerto No,2 with Aschenazi.
Q. You made your New York City debut in 1984 with Eve Queler and The Opera Orchestra of New York in Rossini's William Tell, a performance that marked the beginning of a longstanding and fruitful artistic relationship with Maestro Queler. What have been some of your favorite moments or performances with the orchestra?
A: Eve has always been a lightening rod in my life. Few theaters can mount the productions she gives the public a chance to hear, and for me she gave a chance to sing what I thought was the most fun to sing: Bel canto, early Verdi, and music with agility.... So many terrific nights: William Tell, of course, three weeks before my Met in house debut; and of course I Lombardi with the great Carlo Bergonzi and Paul Plishka. The public gave an ovation that shook Carnegie Hall, I will never forget it . Also La Wally, Il Pirata, and Andrea Chenier.
My most treasured moment was in La Fanciulla del West. My mother had always wanted me to sing Minnie, and she inspired me so much with her love and understanding of this beautiful tale of love and redemption. She was battling cancer and it would prove to be sadly the last thing she would hear me sing. The audience just loved it, and as she struggled to join the standing ovation at the end, I got to throw her a bouquet of flowers as the audience cheered. That is what it is like with Eve. It is a very rare thing these days‹music has become a business. The Opera Orchestra of Eve Queler is like a family; she gave me a chance to fulfill my Mom's fondest wish, and she got me through the worst time of my life. I will never forget it.
Q. Following your Metropolitan Opera debut, the New York Times dubbed you "the Verdi soprano we've been waiting for." Your subsequent flourishing career has proven your role as one of the greatest Verdian sopranos of our time. Do you remember the moment when you first fell in love with the masterworks of the composer?
A: The Man from Parma has always been my hero. I LOVE his humanity, his forgiveness, his sense of grandeur even in the smallest character, his sense of melody. He took from the traditions given him and brought Italian music forward into even greater prominence; a total realization. Evolving as the genius he was, his final operas proved him to be intuitive‹still expanding, ever curious and in full control of his prodigious gift. Is there anything more glorious than the love duet of Ballo? La Traviata? The entire Otello? Falstaff? All of his operas have great melody and invention. He is paired with Shakespeare....no other genius serves the Bard as well. Can you imagine if he had been able to do his final opera thought‹A King Lear?
Q. Having sung over 160 performances of 15 different roles at the Metropolitan Opera _ã_ including Leonora in Il trovatore, Aida, Tosca, Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, and Amelia in Un ballo in maschera _ã_ is there any particular opera heroine that you hold closest to your heart?
A: All of them. I am thrilled to serve music and to have this much history in its service; to have heard that beautiful music first in my soul, then in my heart, and then through my voice_ã_ To have won acclaim from all my idols and made music with some of the greatest musicians in the world....all in front of the most passionate and involved audiences in the world and hear them cheer. That is what I hold closest to my heart. My cup runneth over! I am thrilled and cannot wait to give more....... a privilege and a joy.
Q. Your upcoming November 17th recital at the Rose Theater is an evening of celebration in more ways than one!
A: To celebrate 25 years in music is an emotional and wonderful thing. 25 years with Eve and Stanley Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York. It is in the beautiful new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, so to honor the improvisation that Jazz incorporates, I have put together a love letter to music and the Arts that has an improvisational feel to it. Opera has everything in it, so this will too. Many friends from all areas of the arts heard I was celebrating and they all wanted to be a part of it. People are flying in from around the globe, London, Rome, Verona, Hong Kong and Brasil to name a few. What the audience will see will be an unusual and diverse program with works of lieder, opera and the Italian Art song with lots of guest artists lending their god given talents; dancers, harpists, a violinist, a cellist, and an accordionist. It's a party to bring attention to a fabulous organization The Opera Orchestra and Eve Queler, and to allow this servant of the arts to shake her head and say, "Wow, 25 years singing in New York ! " For all who made this journey of 25 years (and counting!) with me, and for all those that did not make it, I am thinking of you all that night with a heart full of love and gratitude and joy!
APRILE MILLO IN RECITAL
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2009, 8:00 PM
FREDERICK P. ROSE HALL, JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER
Aprile Millo, Soprano
Lucy Arner, Pianist
Merynda Adams, harp
Christopher Collins Lee, violin
Michael Fabiano, tenor
Lynn Harrell, cello
Luis Ledesma, baritone
Danielle Orlando, piano
Mary-Lou Vetere, accordion
Iveta & Gherman dancers
Russ & Katusha, dancers
Tickets, priced $45 to $125, available here.