Where in the world is…

 

…Kristin Lewis?

An interview with Amerie Jones

Kristin has been jet setting across the United States accomplishing some monumental things! I am so proud of my BFF that’s it’s unreal! There have been some huge changes and wonderful surprises that have taken place in her life; therefore, imagine my shock and delightful surprise of finding out where she has been when we had our phone interview.


Amerie: Hey, watcha doing?

Kristin: I’m getting ready to attend a meeting for the Foundation.

Amerie: Oh, Kristin Lewis International….?

Kristin: No, The Kristin Lewis Foundation… Where are you?

Amerie: Wait – what?! You’re here in Little Rock?! I just pulled up to Tokyo House and I’m about to eat my soul out…

Kristin: (giggle) Eat your soul out, huh…?

Amerie: Yes, I have committed myself to eating decadent Asian goodies…They have a sushi bar that’s great….

Kristin: I like sushi, but I’m not in the mood for it. I think that I’ll pick up a salad from some place close by, a little later. So, are we going to do our interview while you eat…?

Amerie: Yes, we are. In fact, while I’m walking in the restaurant now… Tell me about your debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York this past January? I was so proud of you for your performances! That’s been one major dream for your career since its beginning.

Kristin Lewis in Aida at the Met.Kristin in Aida at the Met with Roberto Frontali, baritone, as Amonasro

Kristin: Yes! I received the good news of my singing the title role of Aida at the Metropolitan Opera two days before Christmas, which really made that the best Christmas gift ever. My singing on that stage was a long awaited milestone for me… a dream come true. So many of the greatest artists in the history of opera have walked the halls of that building and performed on that stage….and then the day came that I was requested to follow in their footsteps… I feel very grateful to God.

Kristin Lewis in Aida at the Met.… and with tenor Yonghoon Lee as Radamès.

Amerie: Amen. I was so busy with work; therefore, I was one of the unlucky ones who had to miss it. In addition l could not attend your Dallas Opera debut in March for similar reasons. Total bummer… So, tell us about your Manon Lescaut….?

Kristin with Matthew Grills, tenor, as the dance master in
Manon Lescaut at the Dallas Opera Company.

Kristin: No worries. Manon Lescaut was written by the very famous Italian composer named Giacomo Puccini. The libretto was based on a French play written in 1731 called L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by Prévost. The opera, Manon Lescaut, was composed in the 1830’s and contains some of the most romantic music ever written. Debuting the title role of this masterpiece at the Dallas Opera was for me a magnificent honor.

In addition there’s an interesting fact that some people outside of the opera world may not know. Very quickly after being established, The Dallas Opera Company was nicknamed “La Scala West” because of its ability to attract top singers on an international level. In fact Maria Callas sang one of its initial fund raising concerts in 1957! She, among other stars, brought top-notch prestige to the company during its first few seasons. The Dallas Opera has long since moved from its original building, the State Fair Music Hall, but the structure still exists and provides the space for different types of events. The Dallas Opera performances now take place in the Windspear Performing Arts Center, where its legacy of great opera continues. This company has a very rich musical history; and I’m blessed to have been a part of this legacy.

Amerie: Wow! Congratulations! That’s cool information….

Kristin: Some of the magnificent people that graced the Dallas Opera stage back then were Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Alfredo Krauss, and Giuseppe Di Stefano. A young and very talented Franco Zeffirelli built the first sets for the company….and soon followed were many other leading figures who added to the prestige of the Dallas Opera Stage. My experience with this company was glorious; and I have fallen in love with the city of Dallas.

Kristin Lewis in Manon Lescau at Dallas OperaKristin Lewis in Manon Lescaut at the Dallas Opera Company.

Amerie: What else did you experience while in Dallas…? What else made you fall in love with the city? When I attended seminary at Southern Methodist University, I couldn’t really enjoy the city because of my study load. My books were my boyfriends….

Kristin: (giggles)… while at SMU, your books were your boyfriends…?

Amerie: Yep.

Kristin: Ok…well…before leaving Dallas, I sang during a Sunday worship service at the Potter’s House…

Amerie: What?! You got to meet the Bishop!!!

Kristin: Yes, and immediately following the service, I had lunch with Bishop TD Jakes and his lovely wife, First Lady Serita Jakes. She is such an amazing woman. It was an incredible experience. And speaking of incredible experiences, another reason why I am in Little Rock is to discuss a multi-organizational partnership between the Kristin Lewis Foundation, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Opera in the Rock, the Wildwood Performing Arts Center and the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in a very exciting, future project. Being at home in Little Rock is always good for my soul, and now there is more exciting work for me to do here as well.

Amerie: So what are you gonna be up to after you leave Little Rock…?

Kristin: Well, immediately after returning to Europe I will begin preparing for some concerts in Talinn, Estonia and Vienna, Austria; and then June, I’ll be performing at The Avenches Opera Festival in Avenches, Switzerland. I’ll be singing the title role of Aida, but not in the form of a traditionally staged opera. It’ll be more like a concert…

Amerie: Oh that sounds neat!!!

Kristin: Yes, it is actually. It will be an outdoor event that takes place in an ancient Roman arena. Those are always full, rich experiences. I can’t wait. So… what are we going to do when we meet up later?

Amerie: The same thing that we try to do every day….

Kristin: What’s that…?

Amerie: Try and take over the world….

Kristin: (giggle)…Great plan! …

Amerie: The power of the pink and green*! The 20 pearls that rocked the world, baby! I am a disciple of Ethel Hedgeman Lyle – the founder of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated!!

Kristin: That reminds me… I need to pay my sorority dues….

Amerie: So there you have it folks! Kristin Lewis, back home in the “Rock Town” and constantly working to give back to the community! Thanks, Kristin!


About the contributor: Amerie Jones

Amelie JonesAmerie Jones is a cradle Methodist and pastor of The Method, a Wesleyan society where youth and young adults holistically use their faith to be the best they can be body, mind, and soul. Born and raised in Arkansas, Jones is not only a local pastor in The United Methodist Church, but also a journalist, a producer for the awarding winning radio show,“The Method:Real Talk for Real People,” and a published author who has had work displayed in the world famous Bridwell Library. Jones is the face of vital ministry of a world-renowned school of theology and has a Bachelor’s of Science from Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas and a Masters of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

 

Where in the world is Kristin Lewis…?

Hello Kristin Lewis Foundation Friends and Patrons!!!

I’m going to be honest with you…it’s been difficult to pin down Kristin for this month’s interview. She is so busy these days. She jet sets all over Europe (which I wish I could also do), and she’s making some major moves as a global ambassador for the Arts and culture… Here’s the latest scoop on what’s going on with my BFF!

Amerie: What time is it in Vienna?
Kristin: It’s 3:00pm. What time is it in Arkansas…?

Amerie: I dunno… the crack of dawn….
Kristin: (laughing) No, I think that it’s around 8:00am.

Amerie: It is. Why has it been a month since we last caught up with each other? Each attempt to reach you went straight to voice mail.
Kristin: Has it really been a month? I guess that time really does fly when you’re having fun…(laughing)! But sincerely I apologize for having missed your calls. I’ve been expanding the activities of the Kristin Lewis Foundation by creating a second Foundation based in Vienna, Austria. I am very excited about this new venture because it will allow for me to have greater reach toward positively impacting the lives of many others. One of the activities of the Austrian organization, which is called Kristin Lewis International Verein für Ausbildung und Förderung junger Künstler (which translates as the Association for the Education and Development of Young Artists), will hosts its inaugural concert this September. It will be held in a very beautiful cathedral in the center of Vienna. It is called the Minoritenkirche (in English called the Friars Minor Conventual Church). It is a magnificent structure that was built in the 13th century. An interesting fact is that it actually took 100 years to build it.

minoritenkirche-wien

Minoritenplatz 2A, 1010 Wien
Architect: König Ottokar II. Přemysl
wienkultur.info

 

Amerie: Whoa! Wait! You’ve created a new Foundation? Your reach has just become global! I told you that you were going to turn into the Tyra Banks of Opera! But what does that mean? Are you just going to focus on your philanthropy work and take a step back from performing for a while? Are you winding down your career?
Kristin: No, absolutely not! In fact, I am in the midst of preparing 2 new roles that I will debut this season. I will perform the title role in Puccini’s Tosca at the Hamburg (Germany) State Opera; and l will make my American debut at Dallas Opera, singing the title role in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. So, no, I’m definitely not winding down my career in performances. (Laughing) I simply feel called to give back to the next generation of top musicians.

Amerie: Now that you’ve gone global, what’s the purpose of Kristin Lewis International?
Kristin: That’s a good question. The mission is to provide professional and practical resources to emerging artists, in order to further refine their talents and aid in their artistic development. Vienna is the ideal location because of its many resources. It is a haven for “the best of the best.” To be able to provide an opportunity for young artists to study and further develop their talents gratifies me with a level of fulfillment that is second only to being on stage.

Organ at the church

 

South facade with the two rose windows and the neo-Gothic arcades.

 

Amerie: That’s a wonderfully ambitious goal that I pray is fully realized. I do have a question though…
Kristin: What is it?

Amerie: Um… As you continue your Vienna concert series… could you like… ask Adam Driver to come moderate one of your concerts….?
Kristin: Adam Driver?

Amerie: Yes! He’s my favorite actor. He’s the Supreme Leader of the Galaxy! He’s Darth Vadar’s grandson….Luke Skywalker’s nephew. The child of Princess Leia and Han Solo. And he is a classically trained actor who went to Julliard. Perhaps he would appreciate being a part of this.
Kristin: It sounds as if you really would like to meet him…and you’d like my help in doing so. Establishing a connection to Hollywood might be “in the cards” sometime in the future…who knows? (Laughing) I forgot how much you love Star Wars… But please, one step at a time.

Amerie: I do. So Jedi mind tricks aren’t gonna work with getting me what I desire?
Kristin: (laughing) That’s probably not a good look.

Amerie: I tried.
Kristin: You did…. (laughing) Is there anything else you’re considering using or have in mind for Jedi tricks?

Amerie: No, but I do hope that you will keep progressing and moving forward because this venture has the potential of making a huge impact on the world. Thank you for answering the call to improve the quality of life for others. Thank you for using your superhero powers for good.
Kristin: Aw… Thanks…

Amerie: Well, there you have it folks, coming to you straight outta Vienna!

Minoritenkirche 1609 – Detail from the view of Vienna Houfnagel
Click image for larger view.

Where in the World Is Kristin Lewis…?

An interview with Amerie Jones

Kristin Lewis is not only the Founder and Board President of the Kristin Lewis Foundation, but she is also a world-renowned opera singer, who continues to travel around the world. Ms. Lewis credits a lot of her travel to performing the title role in the opera Aïda, one of Giuseppe Verdi’s most beloved operas.Ms. Lewis is jet setting this summer in Verona, Italy. Let’s get the scoop on what she has been up to!

Amerie: It’s been really hard trying to pin you down to get this interview done. You must be really busy. How’s Italy?

Kristin: Yes, I’ve been extremely busy, balancing performance life with foundation work. It’s all very exciting! Italy…well what can I say? The country – its culture, history, food and people – is beautiful. It is also very hot here…very similar to…Arkansas’ summer heat! (giggle) Interestingly, the people of Verona, similar to Arkansans, seem to take it all in stride and do what’s needed to get through the summer heat.

Amerie: Well, I pray to get through the heat in Arkansas.

Kristin: (laugh) Prayer is always good. And air conditioning is one of God’s special gifts to the world.

Amerie: (giggle) True. True. So, what’s going on in Verona, Italy these days that have you so busy?

Kristin: I am performing in the Arena di Verona Opera Festival. One of the interesting literary points about this city is that it is the setting of two Shakespeare plays. One of these plays, in particular, is the familiar and tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet. Legend says that the feud between the families of these star-crossed lovers, the Capulets and Montagues, is based upon an actual rivalry between the Capuleti and Montecchi families of Verona in the 14th century. Both family homes still exist in the center of the city. It is plausible that there could have actually been a love story amidst the conflict of these families.

I’ve visited Juliet’s house several times over the years. My first impression was one of slight disappointment because the house was not reminiscent of what has been presented in Hollywood movies. For example, Juliet’s home, depicted in films like “Shakespeare in Love” and television series like Shonda Rhymes’ “Still Star-Crossed,” illustrate the Capulet’s home as a grand palace. The actual home is far less ostentatious; yet, one can instantly feel the romanticism and mystery that linger when viewing it.

Amerie: OK, now that you’ve given us some historical trivia about Verona, tell us more about the Summer Opera Festival in which you’re performing.

Kristin: Well, before I do that, I have to tell you a little history about the actual structure where the Festival performances will take place. First of all it is a distinct privilege to perform in an outdoor arena that was built in 30 AD and originally seated 30,000 people. The arena was devastated by an earthquake in 1117, which destroyed its outer limestone facade; yet, the inner structure is still sound to this day. The Arena di Verona, which now comfortably seats 22,000, is the third largest existing arena in Italy, following Rome and Capua.

Amerie: eah, how interesting! You’re right. While you were talking, I just looked up the seating capacity of Verizon Arena here in Little Rock. The seating there is just 18,000.

Kristin: The Arena di Verona is a huge tourist attraction, as is the Arena in Rome. The difference is that the one in Verona is still functional. Because the seating of the Arena here in Verona is made of marble, it creates the most amazing acoustics! One does not need a microphone when singing on the enormous stage! It’s similar to the feeling of singing in your bathroom, only better! The voice never gets lost. The natural amplification is nearly perfect.

Arena di Verona

Amerie: Really… !

Kristin: Yes. What is very sad however, about the history of the Arena during ancient Roman times, is its original purpose. Back then, it was also a place of entertainment, but the type characterized as being quite brutal, thus leading to the deaths of many innocent people. For example, people from miles around would travel to Verona just to see gladiators fight…

Amerie: Yes! They came to watch Spartacus and the gods of the Arena! I wonder if Spartacus really looked like Andy Whitfield?

Kristin: (laugh) I don’t know about that, but yes, the public did come and watch the gladiators fight. Still, the really sad part was that people came here to be amused by the death of others… People stolen into captivity, including Christians, were forced to face savage beasts for base entertainment. Thousands of people died in this place…

Amerie: Man, what a way to be a Debbie Downer….

Kristin: I wasn’t trying to be, but this part of Italian history is sad. Because it was illegal to practice Christianity until the 4th century AD, so many Christians were persecuted in arenas and in other ways as well, of course. Fortunately Constantine eventually made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Before then, there was very little respect for Christians….

Amerie: No love for Christians, Kris? Not a smidge?

Kristin: (giggle) Nothing… Nada… But now the Arena is the home of a magnificent opera festival. It began in 1913, and the first opera produced was Aïda as a way of celebrating the centennial birth of the composer, Verdi. The festival subsequently grew each year, and is now a world famous tourist attraction.

Amerie: So how long is the festival?

Kristin: It began at the end of June and will end at the beginning of September. During this period, five different operatic productions and two concerts will be performed.

Amerie: So it’s safe to say that we are all excited that you’re performing Aïda at this year’s festival! I noticed on the Arena‘s webpage that the season will be opened with Bizet‘s Carmen, then followed by Aïda.

Aïda Arena di Verona
Kristin: Correct. The other productions being presented are The Barber of Seville, Turandot and Nabucco.

Amerie: So is this your first time participating in the festival at the Arena di Verona?

Kristin: No. This is the second time I’ve had the privilege to perform in this festival. The first time was relatively early in my career. I have come to realize that the difference between the first time I performed here and this time is that I am approaching my performances with an inner security that I didn’t have before. In a way it affirms for me that I’m truly at home in this role.

The authenticity needed to capture the essence of Aïda never waivers; therefore, the bar is constantly being set very high for sopranos attempting this role. In this production the conductor, Maestro Jordi Bernàcer, is fantastic! He seems to truly understand how to bring out the beauty of every phrase. He equally understands the necessity of allowing singers the time to breathe calmly, which aids significantly toward our ability to sing beautiful phrases.

Amerie: OMG! Aida starts and ends the festival this year! From the description of the festival on its homepage, it truly is a spectacle… but not in a bad way….

Kristin: I understand what you meant…. Yes, it’s truly a marvel and “must see” for any traveler in or around Italy during the summer months. The set was designed by one of the best in the world, Franco Zeffirelli! The costumes and back drops are also very beautiful.

Amerie: So what’s the difference between doing the production in an indoor, smaller venue versus an outdoor, larger one?

Kristin: The most obvious difference is being at the mercy of the weather. One must acclimate and be flexible in dealing with the heat, rain and wind. Moreover, in theatres, a character’s movements onstage can be more intricate because the audience can see everything happening more clearly. However, in an outdoor arena like this one, detailed movements can get lost. Therefore, this means that the performers’ gestures must be made in a more grandiose fashion.

Aïda Arena di Verona

Amerie: I feel you…. So, Ms. Lewis, what are your final words for us?

Kristin: For those who will have an opportunity to attend a performance in Verona, you are promised an evening of dramatic excitement and beautiful music…

Amerie: Thank you, Ms. Lewis. There you have it folks! Kristin is doing really great things in Verona, Italy! We’re so proud of you!

Kristin: (giggle) Thank you. The pleasure is mine.

Where in the World Is Kristin Lewis…?

Kristin Lewis is not only the founder and Executive Director of the Kristin Lewis Foundation, but her travels as a world- renowned opera singer have taken her literally all around the world! Kristin credits most of her travels to the opera Aida, one of Giuseppe Verdi’s best known operas. This particular opera has become a signature one for Ms. Lewis, which has given her worldwide fame. She has been honored to perform the starring role of Aida more than two hundred (200) times!

Aida in hamburg 1

Aida is set in the land of Pharaohs. Aida, an Ethiopian princess and daughter to the king, was kidnapped and taken to Egypt. She inadvertently falls in love with the courageous general, Radames, who is going to war with her home country. The miserable Aida is in a tormenting predicament because she has to choose between the country she cherishes and the man she feels she cannot live without.

This opera was originally commissioned by the Cairo Opera and performed in 1871. This poignant classic allegory has been conquering the world stages since this time. Ms. Lewis is on a mini break from performing; therefore, we had the opportunity to sit down with her to check-in and see where are some of the places she has traveled and to find out what she has been doing.

KLF Newsletter: Hello, Ms. Lewis! How are you? Where have you been traveling lately? Let me just say it –inquiring minds want to know.

Kristin:Ha, ha… Inquiring minds, huh? Well, I’m currently resting at home; however, I just finished a production of Aida in Hamburg, Germany at the Hamburg State Opera. This production was directed by Guy Joosten. We wrapped things up in March.

KLF Newsletter: Wonderful! I know that Aida is your signature role. What has been the most rewarding and challenging opportunity related to performing the role of Aida?

Aida in hamburg 2

Kristin: Well, what was very challenging to me during my initial performances, was discovering how to bring the character of Aida to life. The setting of the opera is in the ancient Near East. Therefore, I had to learn as much as I could about that culture, so that I could make my character as close as authentic as possible while also making her relatable to the audience. This meant creating my personal interpretation in order to bring out the emotions and actions of the character. Performing this role is very challenging and rewarding. Each experience with this role has been different because of my always working with a new cast and director who have their own interpretations of how the opera and its characters should be presented. In fact, during my most recent production in Hamburg, instead of the setting taking place in ancient Egypt, it was a modern day presentation. Of course the music and libretto didn’t change, but the setting was different.

KLF Newsletter: : Did that version significantly change how you approached the role?

Kristin: Yes, surprisingly it did. This was a rare opportunity for me to be a part of a production where the setting was more realistically geared toward today’s standards. In this production, I did not have to act like an Ethiopian that required me to assimilate to Egyptian culture. I could relate to the role as Kristin in today’s society. I did not have to control the acting as much in regard to my reactions and responses in this particular version. The character came to life for me in a new and dynamic way.

Aida in hamburg 3

KFL Newsletter: Wow! That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing with us Ms. Lewis, and we look forward to learning what other places in the world you will travel to and perform in.


This interview was given by Amelie Jones, a local pastor in the United Methodist Church, a journalist and a producer for the award winning radio show, “The Method: Real Talk for Real People. She is also a published author whose work has been displayed in the world famous Bridwell Library.