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Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Abigail Levis

A mezzo from Maine sings Heggie and Bernstein in San Francisco.
By F. Paul Driscoll 

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Photograph by Dario Acosta
Hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik

© Dario Acosta
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Mezzo Abigail Levis, in San Francisco this month for an Opera Parallèle double bill
© Dario Acosta

ABIGAIL LEVIS is in San Francisco this month, singing the roles of Rose and Dinah in Opera Parallèle’s double bill of Jake Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus and Leonard Bernstein’s one-act comic drama Trouble in Tahiti. “The Venus is an incredible, exciting piece—I’m working on the notes and rhythms now, but I know it’s going to be right up my alley in terms of something I can sink my teeth into dramatically,” she says. “Jake Heggie is wonderful. I was introduced to his art songs when I was in high school—my voice teacher was a big fan of his and enjoyed using them as teaching pieces. So I have had his music in my ear for quite some time. And singing Dinah in Tahiti will be a gift. ‘What a Movie’ has been one of my go-to competition pieces, and now I actually get to know her entire character and really play with her. I am passionate about American opera, and to be able to perform an entire evening that combines a twentieth-century work with a twenty-first-century work is great.”

A native of Portland, Maine, Levis is a crisp, witty singer whose supple mezzo-soprano shines in Monteverdi, Mozart and Rossini. Now based in Los Angeles, Levis cites her years as a young artist at Utah Opera as “Life-changing. Most of that job as a young artist involves outreach, which was an incredible experience. Singers generally don’t look forward to singing at 8 a.m. for a bunch of elementary-school kids, but I found it really exhilarating. It changed the way I viewed my own art-making and taught me to put my focus on the audience that’s in front of me, instead of the audience I wish I had. I believe that opera and classical music should be accessible to anyone and everyone, regardless of age or race or financial background. Utah Opera was where that was cemented for me—it became an action-based belief, not just a word-based one.” 

Levis returns to Utah Opera this spring for her first Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus. “Orlofsky has been a dream role for me—you really get to stretch your legs as a comedian, which I love. And when I play a man onstage, I don’t have to follow society’s rules of what a young lady should act like. I can do whatever I want. Seriously. It’s really liberating. As an actress, I look forward to it, because it is almost relaxing—male characters have so few restrictions!” spacer 



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