Singer makes European debut

Published: Sunday, Nov. 5 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

Most young American singers dream of performing in Europe. For Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller, that dream has come true and in a big way.

The Salt Lake native made her European debut late last month in Prague as Donna Anna in an adaptation of Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni." What made it special for Seegmiller was that the production took place in Prague's Theatre of the Estates, the same theater where "Don Giovanni" was premiered in 1787.

"It was a great experience," Seegmiller said by phone from Washington, D.C., where she and her husband now live.

The adaptation of "Don Giovanni" that Seegmiller sang was also a premiere. Called "Don Juan in Prague," this new version is a retelling of Mozart's opera from a different perspective. "It's a resetting that focuses on redemption and on what happens to people who don't repent, and it's very clear that he (Don Juan) doesn't repent."

This new conceptualization was the brainchild of David Chambers from Yale, who also directed this production. It differs from the original significantly, Seegmiller said. "The recitatives were taken out and replaced by English dialogue, and there is new music by Matthew Suttor," who also teaches at Yale.

"Don Juan in Prague" centers around the figure of Donna Elvira, who in this production quite clearly is the title character's conscience. Donna Elvira was performed by Czech folk singer and composer Iva Bittova. Some of her music has also been included in the work.

When Seegmiller's manager told her about the project, they both realized it would be a perfect vehicle for her. And when she met Chambers and the others involved in the production, Seegmiller knew immediately she had made the right decision. "When I stepped into the room, I felt it was right. I felt a spiritual connection with the director."

The production will be unveiled in New York City next month for a four-performance run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it will close the school's Next Wave Festival.

Looking to the immediate future, Seegmiller has several new projects in the works. After she finishes with "Don Juan in Prague," she will appear as Sofia in Rossini's one-act opera "Il Signor Bruschino," with New York's Gotham Chamber Opera.

Seegmiller would also love to sing once again in Utah. She made her Utah Symphony debut at the 2004 Deer Valley Music Festival in Mozart's "Exsultate Jubilate" and his Requiem.

Since then, she's been in contact with both the Utah Festival Opera in Logan and the Utah Opera. "I've had multiple discussions with Michael Ballam and Christopher McBeth. I would love to come back to Utah and sing."

But right now, Seegmiller is keeping her options open. "Currently, I'm looking for the right repertoire." And she's eager to sing wherever she can. "I would enjoy singing in Utah again, and I would definitely love to do more in Europe, too."


E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com

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