Hitting notes in the opera world
November 17, 2011It is a passion that's taken Angela Theis halfway around the world and home again, from the stage at Grosse Pointe North High School to those in Europe and now the Detroit Opera House, where she performs this month in the Michigan Opera Theatre production of, "The Marriage of Figaro."
"I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be singing with my home opera company," she said. "It means so much to be able to share this with my friends and family."
It was only a few years ago this 2004 North graduate was starring as Marion the Librarian in the school's production of, "The Music Man." It was at that moment she knew she wanted to pursue singing in college, but little did she know how her dream would play out on stages both here and abroad. Nor did she realize opera would become both her passion and career.
Grosse Pointe Woods resident and Grosse Pointe North High School graduate Angela Theis appears in “The Marriage of Figaro” at the Detroit Opera House.
Photo courtesy of Angela Theis
"I loved music and I sang in the choir at Star of the Sea where I went to grade school and at North," she said. "But it was a teacher at North, Eugene Rogers, who really made me realize how much I loved to sing. He really believed in me."
Theis, 25, attended the University of Notre Dame, where she majored in business administration with an emphasis on marketing and a minor in music. If that seems like an odd combination, make no mistake, Theis has put it to good use.
"One thing I definitely learned was how to market myself," she said as she speaks of the many auditions and interviews she has had in the past few years. "As a young singer, you have to apply to companies and training programs. It is where you receive your training and where your voice develops. It is invaluable experience."
It was during her junior year abroad where she was introduced to opera, and that has been her focus ever since.
"I spent a year in Rome studying with a voice teacher," she said. "He was a Roman tenor and his passion for opera was contagious. He made me fall in love with opera and studying with him was amazing. We practiced in a tiny room with velvet curtains and he taught me to sing with my whole heart and soul."
Returning to South Bend for her senior year, Theis knew music would be her career, so she starting applying to graduate schools for advanced training.
"I knew it would be difficult because I didn't have a very strong background at that point," she said. "I knew I would have a lot of catching up to do, coming from the small music department at Notre Dame."
Accepted to the highly regarded New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Theis quickly caught up.
"It was such an exciting place to be, such an intense environment with people living and breathing their instruments every single day," she said.
While earning her master's, she performed during the summer with the Bayview Music Festival in northern Michigan, something she describes as a wonderful training experience. Then it was on to the University Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, while at the same she served as the resident artist with the Utah Opera in Salt Lake City.
She spent a lot of time commuting, so when she learned Michigan Opera Theatre was holding auditions, she
couldn't wait for the opportunity to come home.
She served as an understudy for the soprano lead in the October production of, "Carmina Burana," and plays Barbarinia in MOT's November production of, "The Marriage of Figaro."
"It's a small role, but I have a solo," she said. "I focused on Mozart while in Austria, so I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to be singing one of his operas in my hometown."
Besides enjoying her time with the opera company, Theis is enjoying discovering all that is new in downtown Detroit.
"I'm falling in love with Detroit," she said. "It is such a great city with so many things to do. And the Michigan Opera Theatre is outstanding. When I was in high school, we traveled to New York to see plays, and now I wonder why we never came to the Detroit Opera House."
She is also excited her friends and family will be able to see her perform, though with her family, it is definitely an encore performance.
"Music has always been a part of my family," she said. "When I was little, all the kids would perform and we were called the Blue Jean Babies. Our family events always revolved around music and sharing the joy of song."
Her parents, Joseph and Benita Theis, along with sisters, Jennifer, and Emily, will attend, as well as her grandparents, Salvatore and Josephine Ciaravino, also of Grosse Pointe Woods.
It was her grandfather, a well-known musician in the area, who introduced her to music.
"But I introduced him to opera," she said with a laugh.
Theis admits her iPod has a mix of music, ranging from pop and hip-hop to opera, and her spare time is spent, what else, exploring all aspects of music, from stage production to makeup, but mostly practicing her craft.
"There are no microphones in opera," she explained. "You have to project your voice to the last person in the house over a full orchestra."
To Theis, it's time well spent.
"I am so lucky to be working in the field I love."