Meet the Artists: La Traviata’s Nicole Cabell & Cecilia Violetta López
Why have just one Violetta, when you can have two? We’re thrilled to have both soprano Nicole Cabell (left) and soprano Cecilia Violetta López (right) joining us onstage for our production of the timeless romance, La Traviata. Both ladies were kind enough to sit down with us to answer a few questions about themselves and their careers and share what it’s like to tackle this most iconic of roles:
MN Opera: Describe Violetta in three words…
Nicole Cabell: Passionate, generous, and tragic.
Cecilia Violetta López: Strong, selfless, and hopeful.
MO: What are some of the joys and challenges of performing this role?
CVL: The joy of singing this role is being able to share Violetta’s realness with audiences. Violetta has real human characteristics and faces challenges that many of us experience on a daily basis. Violetta’s story of love, longing to be loved, her sacrifices and hardships is incredibly moving. I’m certain anyone who watches La Traviata will be able to relate to Violetta in more than one way.
NC: Some say you need three different voices to sing this opera! But this is also a joy, as accomplishing this feat is very gratifying. Another joy is, of course, inhabiting the beautiful, tragic character of Violetta, arguably one of the greatest in operatic repertoire. She requires everything of an artist, and I look forward to giving my all during this run.
MO: What is it about La Traviata that to you makes it such an enduring audience favorite?
NC: The music in La Traviata is so incredible that is has easily stood the test of time and will continue to do so. The story is also well known and beautiful executed alongside the music. If done right, the audience is taken on a powerful emotional journey that few operas can match.
CVL: Musically, the opera is truly one of Verdi’s masterpieces, but I believe it’s Violetta story—her longing to be loved, her illness, her sacrifice, her hanging on to hope in the end—married with the music that makes the opera so beautiful and timeless.
MO: What is the strangest or most surprising thing that has ever happened to you during a performance?
CVL: I choked on grape juice (substitute for wine) during a performance of La bohème. It was right before singing the “I lost the key” bit with Rodolfo. I managed to clear my throat and avoid choking, all while looking for the key and trying to actually sing!
NC: I luckily have a surprising lack of weird onstage moments, but a funny incident happened in 2017 when performing the role of Gemmira in Cavalli’s Eliogabalo with the Dutch National Opera. My character is witness to the assassination of the Emperor Eliogabalo and while, holding his severed head, recounts the story of his death. At the end, I am to throw his severed head on the floor, and it then rolls into the orchestra pit. However, the head was made of rubber, and every night, no matter how soft I set it on the ground, it bounced, a bit like a basketball, sending the audience into laughter at exactly the wrong moment. Oops!
MO: What do you think audiences would be most surprised to learn about the life of an opera singer?
NC: While very glamorous at times, there are many, many unglamorous moments. I spent three months washing my clothes by hand in the kitchen sink of a small, French apartment in Nantes last year. We also travel so much it’s often very difficult to get on a normal sleeping schedule and we are also expected to find our ways around foreign countries completely on our own. Regardless, it’s rewarding in so many other ways, not the least of which is being immersed in some of the world’s greatest music.
CVL: I think audiences would be surprised to know that we don’t always listen to opera. We like all different kinds of music. I grew up singing mariachi music with my mom, and I can still belt out a couple of rancheras with her when I go home. That said, considering my upbringing and my career’s trajectory, I’m definitely proof that opera, its stories and music, is for everyone.
Don’t miss it when Verdi’s tragic romance, La Traviata, hits the Ordway stage for 8 performances, May 4-19. Nicole Cabell performs May 4, 9, 11, 14, and 19. Cecilia Violetta López performs May 12, 16, and 18. Get your tickets today at mnopera.org/la-traviata.
Photo © Brent Dundore at Spoon and Stable