Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happy Birthday to Aprile Millo

There have been very few times in the history of opera when a young singer - and by young, I mean early '20s - walks onto the stage and is immediately thrust from a young, aspiring artist to main stage prima donna. Aprile Millo is one of those singers.

Today, we celebrate Aprile Millo who was born on this date in 1958.

Born in New York City to two opera singers, tenor Giovanni Millo and soprano Margherita Girosi, Millo became interested in music at an early age and received her musical education primarily from her parents. After her family moved to California, Millo graduating from Hollywood High School. Shortly, she was invited to join the San Diego Opera Center and took part in the inaugural San Diego Opera Ensemble apprentice program - from which Yours Truly is also an Alum.

Now, this is where the "immediately thrust to main stage prima donna" part happens ...

After leaving San Diego Opera, Millo sang her first major role, Aida, with Utah Opera in the Fall of 1980. She was 22 years old. I'm sorry Friends, but when I was 22, I was still trying to decide whether I should go into Human Resources or become an opera singer. No joke. Those were the top two contenders.

Anyhoo ... in early 1981, Millo returned to Utah Opera. This time to perform the role of Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. But, New York was calling the young diva. After her move to New York City, she auditioned for the New York City Opera where her Father had sung from 1942–1946. Millo was immediately offered a contract with several roles. The Metropolitan Opera also had an offer for the 22 year old: to become a member of the Met's Young Artist Program, as well as to cover - not star in - leading roles. Up until this point, Millo had studied voice exclusively with her parents - so, she chose the Met's program in order to continue to hone her craft.

Millo, Tebaldi, Horne - As Millo calls it "the battle of the cheekbones."
While in the Met's program she worked with Dick Marzollo, David Stivender and Rita Patanè. In short order, she also had the opportunity to work with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf who took her to Herbert von Karajan - which opened the doors to mentoring from Renata Tebaldi, Zinka Milanov and Licia Albanese. In other words, Aprile Millo almost literally grew up at the Met while being taught, coached and mentored by some from the operatic A-List.

In November 1982, Millo made her European debut as Aida in Karlsruhe, Germany and in December at La Scala as Elvira in Ernani when she replaced an ill soprano ... Mirella Freni. In January 1983 - two months later - she had performances of Ernani at La Scala of her very own.

Millo's New York City debut came under the baton of Eve Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York in November 1984. This debut forged a long lasting friendship with the Maestra. Millo would later say of Queler:
Eve has always been a lightening rod in my life ... 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.
3 weeks after her debut with Queler, in December 1984, Millo made her Metropolitan Opera debut in dramatic fashion replacing an ailing Anna Tomowa-Sintow as Amelia in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra with James Levine on the podium. Not only did Maestro Levine fall in love with this young soprano, the critics praised Millo's performance with the New York Times proclaiming that her voice had "a breadth and a shining ring that would have won her a midscene ovation in any Italian opera house". Later, she'd be heralded by the New York Times as "...the Verdi soprano we’ve been waiting for."

Eva Marton, Millo and opera lover Elizabeth Taylor
What would follow is an operatic career that many singers only dream about. Not only did Millo sing at the wedding of Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky - sorry, I just *had* to get that in - she has performed on the stages of Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Parma, Rome, Bologna, Torino, the Arena di Verona, The Baths of Caracalla, Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Paris, Orange, Moscow, Seville, Bilbao, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santiago, Buenos Aires and La Scala, Milan among others.

Her fans love her - as did many of the critics ...
A voice unlike any other ... Opera Italia.

The High-Priestess of that old time operatic religion ...

To many, Millo is considered the last of the Golden Age sopranos ...
The New York Times.
But, perhaps the most fitting quote regarding Aprile Millo comes from the prima donna herself:
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 ...
To celebrate, I've got a clip for you, Chiclets. Here, we have Luciano Pavarotti and Aprile Millo singing "Teco io sto..." from Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera. One of the reasons I love this particular clip as much as I do (aside from the music, these singers etc.) is that at about the 6:26 mark, something happens. It's definitely one of those funny things that happens between two singers that the audience knows nothing about ... but, since it's caught on camera we can see it. By "it", I mean that we can see Millo shake her head at Pav and start to smile. If you think it's a fluke, just wait -  it happens a second time. Hmmmmmm - what was he doing to try to get her to laugh?

Here's to you, Aprile Millo. Happy Birthday!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Imagine being one of the two and listening to the glorious singing of the other. What a high!
Thank you for posting this!

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