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Thomasville's Livengood to make her Greensboro Opera debut

September 15, 2014 - High Point Enterprise

by Jimmy Tomlin

GREENSBORO - Greensboro Opera will right an oversight with its upcoming opera gala, featuring Thomasville native - and Metropolitan Opera star - Victoria Livengood.

"Even though she's from Thomasville, Victoria has never sung with the Greensboro Opera - go figure - so this is an exciting debut for us," explains artistic director David Holley.

Livengood will be the featured artist for Greensboro Opera's 2014 opera gala, "GO to the Movies," which will be presented Saturday evening in Aycock Auditorium on the University of North Carolina at Greensboro's campus. Singers from UNCG Opera Theater will also perform during the gala.

"GO (Greensboro Opera) to the Movies" is a movie-opera experience that will explore the use of operatic favorites in soundtracks and scenes of many popular movies. To add to the evening's excitement, patrons are encouraged to dress up as their favorite movie stars and walk the red carpet before the show begins, where there will be paparazzi, autograph seekers and life-size cutouts of movie stars for patrons to pose with.

The idea behind the unique theme is to change people's perception of opera as a stuffy art form.

"So many people love going to the movies, and they are moved by the music they hear there as part of the total experience," Holley says. "What many don't realize is that they love opera music. Famous movies like 'The Bad News Bears,' 'Moonstruck' and 'Shawshank Redemption' use opera to reinforce the story and many times tell it outright."

For her part, Livengood loves the idea.

"I'm excited about it because I'm a huge movie buff," she says by phone from her home in Mint Hill. "I've always loved movies. I was a fan of movies long before I was a fan of the opera. I think this is a great way to get people that normally don't come to the opera to come, because it's such an interesting concept."

Among the songs Livengood will perform are "Habanera" from the opera "Carmen" - one of the signature roles of her career - which was featured in the 1976 baseball comedy, "The Bad News Bears." Her performance will be introduced with excerpts from the movie.

For those not familiar with the song, the tune from "Habanera" is also featured in a "Gilligan's Island" episode.

"The first time my little brother heard me sing it, he said, 'Mom, that's that song from "Gilligan's Island,"'" Livengood recalls with a laugh.

Livengood will also sing songs from her repertoire that are featured in such movies as "Interrupted Melody," "Life Is Beautiful" and "A Night at the Opera."

Livengood, a 55-year-old mezzo-soprano, is an internationally renowned, Grammy-nominated vocalist. Her career began after winning the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 1985. She went on to make her critically acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 1991 as Laura in "Luisa Miller," and has since performed more than 100 times with the prestigious company.

While Livengood - aka "The Dixie Diva" - continues to perform internationally, she has also added a busy teaching schedule to her calendar. "I'm barely coming up to breathe," she says. "For the last year and a half, I've been on the wildest ride I've been on in a long time. ... Just this week, for example, I'm teaching 60 hours - it's crazy. And I have not advertised one time, so obviously this is meant to be. It's like out of the movie 'Field of Dreams' - if you build it, they will come. So now, every time I'm home between opera gigs, I'm swamped with people coming here to study voice."

After her Greensboro Opera debut, she'll be flying to Houston the next morning, but for now she's looking forward to performing so close to home.

"I would probably have to say my parents are the most excited, because everybody they know is trying to get tickets," Livengood says. "But I'm obviously excited to be able to sing this close to home, because I know the audience will be filled with friends."

Want to go?

"GO to the Movies," a movie-opera gala featuring Thomasville native Victoria Livengood, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Aycock Auditorium, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Patrons are encouraged to dress up as their favorite movie stars and walk the red carpet, beginning at 6:45 p.m. An after-party with the stars (for premium ticketholders only) will begin at 9 p.m.

Tickets range from $11 to $32 and can be ordered one of three ways:
By phone: (336) 580-1008.
In person: Triad Stage Box Office, 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro (weekdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.).
Online: Tickets.com.

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