Opera singer comes home to perform ‘La Traviata’

Idaho native Cecilia Violetta López will sing the role of Maria in Opera Idaho’s concert performance of “West Side Story.” The performance is a tribute to Leonard Bernstein for his centennial celebration.
Idaho native Cecilia Violetta López will sing the role of Maria in Opera Idaho’s concert performance of “West Side Story.” The performance is a tribute to Leonard Bernstein for his centennial celebration. Idaho Statesman file

Cecilia Violetta López didn’t grow up listening to classical scores or singing along to recordings of Maria Callas. She learned about music from another Maria, her mother, who taught her to sing mariachi songs as they worked side by side in the beet fields of Rupert. Her father, Jose Luis, would work ahead of the family. Mom stayed behind with López and her younger brother, Jose Manuel, as they worked to their own music.

“We needed something to kill the time,” López says. “It’s boring work. We started harmonizing together, and that’s how we would hoe the beets.”

At the time, López had no ambitions for a musical career. She had no idea even what the Metropolitan Opera was.

Fast-forward to 2015: López covered a role in Susan Stroman’s production of “The Merry Widow” at the Met in New York.

“When I think of my journey, of where I started, it just blows my mind,” she says. “During rehearsals, I would sit there with a giant grin on my face. I was star-struck every day.”

Now, she will perform the role of Violetta, Verdi’s tragic heroine, in Opera Idaho’s production of his masterpiece “La Traviata.” This is her second performance with the company. In 2014, she performed the role of Gilda in “Rigoletto” with Met baritone Mart Rucker and thoroughly charmed the audience.

Those beet fields seem a world away now that she’s won awards, glowing reviews and prestigious fellowships. But Rupert, where her parents continue to live, is a special place for López because “that’s where my musical roots started,” she says. “My mom didn’t have any training. Everything she taught me came from her having a musical heart.”

It’s also where she learned the value of hard work.

“They (my parents) taught us that it’s not going to be easy, but if you work hard enough for what you want, you will reap the rewards,” she says.

It took López some time to embrace singing. In high school, she focused on the dance team. Then her senior year, she auditioned for the choir and found herself in the school’s elite vocal group. Her mom also encouraged her to sing at weddings and quinceañeras. López turned the corner at University of Las Vegas Nevada, where she studied music education and, slowly, the performance side won her heart. And it’s a role that fits her.

In person, López, 34, is lighthearted and exuberant. On stage, it’s a whole different game. She is elegantly luminous. She brings forth deep emotions from rapture to regret that soar with her honeyed soprano.

“I really want to move people the way I want to be moved,” she says.

That suits “Traviata’s” Violetta, a tragically fallen woman who has been led astray by life’s cruel circumstances, and who finds her way through true love.

“I think she’s the most real character in all of the operatic canon,” López says.

Today, López calls Las Vegas home. When she’s with her 10-year-old daughter, Sara, they continue the family’s musical tradition.

“We sing together,” she says. “In my college days, I used to read my opera scores to her so I could memorize them. Now, with ‘Traviata,’ she knows the music so well, I’ll be singing, and she’ll interject the orchestra parts.”

Watch a video of Cecilia Violetta López performing Violetta in “La Traviata” for Virginia Opera.

Rare First Folio will come to Boise

Expect much ado when William Shakespeare’s First Folio hits Boise this summer. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is sending 19 of its 82 folios, the first printed collection of the bard’s 36 plays, to one location in each state. The tour marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The folio will be on display from Saturday, Aug. 20, to Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Boise State University, coinciding with part of Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s 40th season. The university and ISF are planning several events while the book is here. Stay tuned for more details.

▪  Also, ISF early-bird ticket pricing ends Jan. 31. Classic packages run from $102 to $164. Student packages are $45 to $60. There also are deals on flex packages and four-and six-person boxes. Purchase online at and at the box office at 336-9221.

Apply for an Alexa Rose Grant

Ada and Canyon county visual artists working in any medium can apply to the Alexa Rose Foundation for grants ranging from $250 to $5,000. Grants can be for specific projects or to assist with anything that will further their careers. Alexa Rose Howell, a painter and arts advocate, died in 2013 after a battle with cancer. Her family established the foundation in 2014. Submit an application by 4 p.m. Friday, March 25, at

Opera Idaho’s ‘La Traviata’

7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St., Boise. $14.40-$72. 387-1273,