From Idaho Farm Fields to the Opera Stage | Arts
ONTARIO – Cecilia Violetta Lopez comes from a family of musicians.
She remembers her grandmother in Mexico bursting with song when she is summoned by a customer to her shop: “Ya vooooy” – “I’m cooooming!”
His father sang all kinds of silly improvised songs to his mother after returning from a day’s work in the Idaho fields.
And then there was his mother, who taught Lopez and his brother the old classics while they were playing in the irrigation ditches and later when working the sugar beet.
By the time Lopez was a teenager, it was clear that she had a gift. Everywhere she went people started to expect her to sing.
At events like weddings, quinceaneras, and rodeos, Lopez’s mother would offer, “I’ll talk to the mariachi band and have them play it in a certain key so you can sing it.”
So it wasn’t a total surprise when Lopez left an nascent medical career to become a vocal performance major.
It took him several tries to pass the audition program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“The transition from singing mariachi music to singing classical music has been difficult for me because it’s such a different vocal technique,” she said in an interview with The Enterprise. “The voice production is so different.”
But Lopez is now a sought-after soprano, finding great success in the opera world. She regularly stars as the tocaya, or name twin, Violetta, in Giuseppe Verdi’s “La traviata” – a famous and complex role, she said.
She shared the story of her journey from the fields of Rupert, Idaho, to stages across the country during a recent event at Treasure Valley Community College Farm Worker Appreciation Week on April 1.
“It was important for Cecilia to share her work because her journey from a farmer to an opera singer is proof that being from an agricultural background is not an obstacle. It’s something to be proud of, ”said Valeria Guadarrama, Advisor and Retention Specialist for the Treasure Valley Migrant Assistance Program. “There are a lot of sacrifices that come with working in the fields, but it is the work that has given so many of us access to different opportunities.”
“It was also important to continue to develop this sense of community for our students who share these similar backgrounds,” she added. “After all, we’re here to support each other and help each other be successful.”
As a child, “I too have callused hands, a sore back, abnormally toned arms for a 10-year-old” working in the fields, Lopez said.
Now based in New Mexico, Lopez said that before the pandemic, she spent a significant portion of each year living in a suitcase as she traveled to participate in productions.
“It’s interesting that I’m one of the Latin singers who perform regularly,” she said.
About the rehearsal process, she said, “These are complete strangers meeting in a rehearsal room, but we meet with the same intention of putting on a show.
There are a lot of connections, a lot of steeping in our personal experiences. We become vulnerable to bring history to life. “
For Lopez, using his experiences has at times been as literal as recognizing the artistic songs he is asked to sing in Spanish as improved versions of the classics his mother taught him to sing in the fields, such as “La Borrachita”. ‘Ignacio Fernández.
“She taught us the songs she sang when she was a kid,” Lopez said. “(The rows in the fields) were magically getting shorter song after song.”
“Working in these fields is what taught me to work hard for whatever I wanted in life,” Lopez said. Opera “isn’t the same as working on the farm, but it’s still a challenge and I’ve worked hard for it. If you work hard for something, you will reap the rewards for that hard work that you put in. If my story serves to inspire someone who feels sad or feels unable to overcome an obstacle, then I have done my job. “
Lopez said that while opera may have a reputation for being inaccessible, its story proves that this is not necessarily the case.
“Look at me, I grew up in the fields; I sang mariachi, ”she said. “If I can learn to love her, so can you – you just have to give her a chance.”
“There’s a bit of intimidation maybe because we’re on stage ‘screaming’,” she said, describing her family members’ first impressions of her job. “But an opera is like a telenovela. I’m trying to make it more accessible to them. “
Lopez said she tries to always stay mindful of the sacrifices her parents made for her, as well as the sacrifices she is currently making for her own child.
“I try to make every performance count and worth it for them,” she said.
“I hope the students have come to understand that they too can accomplish great things,” Guadarrama said. “No matter how far removed they seem from their goals, those goals aren’t impossible to achieve.”