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Kirkland woman follows opera passion to Santa Fe
Kirkland native Abigail Mitchell decided at the age of 14 that she wanted to be an opera singer.
Fifteen years later, that dream has been realized. Mitchell, a soprano, is currently an apprentice with the Sante Fe Opera, where she studied last summer. A graduate of Indiana University, she also spent two years in London and has acted in dozens of operas.
Mitchell’s love of singing was aided by her father, whom she said appreciated classical music. At age 8, she sang in the Columbia Children’s Choir in the Seattle area and toured around Europe. Yet, she said it wasn’t until her father brought home a recording of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” that she decided she wanted to sing opera.
“I think it is a very unique style of singing, which I think is why a lot of people don’t like it,” she said. “Also, it’s clearly the most difficult style of singing. Nobody can argue that any kind of singing is more difficult. I think I sensed that and was drawn into the challenge of it. That was very enticing to me.”
Singing while participating in a dramatic story was another appealing aspect of opera, she said.
“I also liked the fact that it was also drama,” she said. “I liked the idea of being on stage and being a character and wearing a costume.”
After she went with her family to see “Don Giovonni,” she announced to them her intent to sing opera.
“They were enthusiastic, perhaps surprised,” she said. “They had always been supportive of my singing.”
Determined to learn, Mitchell picked up the phone book and found a voice instructor to work with her every week and eventually helped her audition for colleges when she was a senior at Inglemoor High School.
Ironically, Mitchell said she was determined to study at a conservatory on the West Coast and East Coast, she ended up in the Midwest.
“My teacher said, ‘You should look at Indiana University,’” she said. “I thought ‘Are you nuts?’”
After auditioning at the school, however, Mitchell said she fell in love with the campus.
“It is a fabulous school, a big music school,” she said. “It was definitely the right move for me.”
At the same time, Mitchell said she struggled to learn the various languages operas are typically sung in, such as German, Italian and French, something she said she was not particularly enthusiastic about. She also learned how to sing and act simultaneously.
“It’s sort of the kind of thing where both make it harder and easier in a weird way,” she said. “The technical aspects of singing are so extensive and difficult that it can make it hard to think about anything else, but that’s why we also train for so many years, because we need to get the technique to where we don’t need to think about it and can act. I really think its what makes opera so magical.”
While at IU, Mitchell performed in several operas, including Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Ariadne auf Naxos and Suor Angelica.
At the same time, Mitchell was applying to graduate schools to further continue her studies. She finally got accepted to the University of Southern California, but not before she fell in love with her future husband and decided they didn’t want to do a long distance relationship.
“I just felt like I couldn’t leave,” she said.
Instead of a cross-continental relationship, Mitchell said it became a trans-Atlantic one when she was given the opportunity to study at the Royal College of Music in London.
“We both decided of course it was worth it to live in London for two years for free,” she said. “So it all worked out.”
At the college she sang in several operas, including Orpheus in the Underworld, Cosi fan tutte and Le nozze di Figaro. She graduated in 2012 and became an apprentice with the Sante Fe Opera in 2013. The apprenticeship is paid, Mitchell said, but also includes more education and training. She also took part in the opera’s education tour as a way of promoting the opera.
To can listen to samples of Mitchell singing, visit her website at www.abigailmitchellsoprano.com.