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Rising Stars Violetta Lopez lg 1015
Lopez credits much of her success to the gentle push she received from her immigrant parents.
© Vanessa Preziose

CECILIA VIOLETTA LÓPEZ, thirty-three, came to opera fans’ attention in 2014, when she sang Violetta in the Martina Arroyo Foundation production of La Traviata at Hunter College’s Kaye Playhouse. The completeness of López’s performance was all the more surprising because she had never performed — or even studied — the role before.
“I remember feeling one day so underprepared for my role, because of how much information was coming out of Miss Arroyo’s mouth,” López says. “She was the one who made me realize that it wasn’t just learning the music and your part, and being able to add little details to make the character come to life. It’s about where the character comes from — the backstory.” López began singing with mariachi bands at age twelve. This was followed by training at the University of Nevada and a stint in the resident ensemble at Opera San José, where her roles included Suor Angelica and Leïla in Les Pêcheurs de Perles.

López feels her greatest inspiration comes from her family. Her parents immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. and settled in Rupert, a little town in southern Idaho near the Snake River. “They taught us how to work,” she recalls. “Every summer we would get up early and hoe sugar beets, and the weather was either too hot or really cold. If we weren’t working, we were going to school, and our parents were always pushing us to work harder. Eventually, they saw me in Butterfly, a story they can relate to, with traveling and sacrificing and leaving families behind. After the opera, my dad, who never speaks English to me, comes to my door and says, ‘Cecilia — I am very proud of you,’ in the biggest Mexican accent you ever heard.”

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