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Blog entries tagged with Ronnita Nicole Miller

Noah’s Flood Rehearsal = the pain, the agony, the achievement

Muse Lee, our favorite high school blogger, has returned for a series on her participation in the Community Opera production of Benjamin Britten's Noah's Flood.  Performances are April 19 and 20 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.


Recently, I heard a comic comparing a music rehearsal to the ER. Both are supposed to help you get better, both make you cry, and both are filled with excruciating pain. During Noah’s Flood rehearsal on Sunday, we experienced all three of these things.

For this rehearsal, only the animals, raindrops, waves, rainbows, and the raven and dove were called. I’m one of the fourteen waves. Basically, what we do is maneuver long strips of blue fabric, with two people per strip. I had a similar job during Opera Camp, so I thought I was prepared for this. However, I soon realized that there are two crucial differences between The White Bird of Poston and Noah’s Flood waves. Firstly, this wave scene goes on for 7 minutes, and secondly, while the Poston waves represented the Colorado River, these waves are supposed to make up a worldwide flood.

Flood #1

To help us achieve the desired effect, assistant director, Heather Lipson-Bell patiently and energetically taught us a bunch of different wave movements. I don’t want to give it all away before the performance, but I’ll just say that it involved incessant arm-pumping, duck-walking, and squats. Twenty minutes in, my wavemate and I were already hot and red-faced. By the end, we were ready to drown along with God’s condemned. I think my muscles hate me right now. 

After our exhausting wave movement session, we listened to the music for the storm and flood scene. When I heard the glorious, crashing music, it suddenly hit me: I’m actually in a Benjamin Britten opera. I’ll be singing something written by Benjamin Britten. Both that thought and the beauty of the music gave me chills. My eyes watered. There’s nothing like opera to bring on the tears.

Following this, we were released, but I didn’t want to leave yet. I’d been hearing the kids singing their animal parts upstairs, and I really wanted to get a glimpse of their rehearsal. Halfway there, I heard a huge, enthusiastic voice that almost sounded amplified. Turns out it was assistant director, Nathan Rifenburg – who happens to have twice the energy of an average human being.

When I walked into the classroom, he was animatedly demonstrating monkey movements, bouncing around and bending down to pick imaginary bugs out of a kid’s hair. I was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, but it was just too awesome not to giggle. The best part was that the kids weren’t laughing at all. They took it all so seriously. Whenever Nathan told them to stand up, they immediately sprang up like jack-in-the-boxes. And their ark entrance scene—wow. They were so focused, and even if I couldn’t immediately tell what animal they were, I saw that they believed in it, and so I did too. The rest of rehearsal was delightful: the best parts included an impromptu “Doe-A-Deer” and Nathan’s colorful description of well-supported singing as “throwing your guts on the table.”

Flood #3

The day ended on an exciting note: as we were leaving, we received Noah’s Flood posters. It includes the names of all participating choruses and orchestras. The fact that we’re on the same poster as James Conlon is way too awesome to handle. And I had no idea that Ronnita Nicole Miller will be Mrs. Noye. I started spazzing out. (download the poster here)

As for us ensemble members, though?  Improvement: check. Tears: check. Pain: double check. We know what that means: this production is on its way to becoming something incredible.


10 Questions with... Ronnita Nicole Miller

Mezzo-Soprano Ronnita Nicole Miller is no stranger to LA Opera. An alumna of the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program, and with LA Opera appearances including Marcellina in The Marriage of Figaro, Florence Pike in Albert Herring and Flosshilde/Schwertleite in the Ring cycle, she has become a seasoned (and supremely gifted) member of the LA Opera family. Ronnita has the distinction of being in both Cinderella (La Cenerentola) as Tisbe and The Flying Dutchman as Mary at the same time! Not an easy task, but Ronnita makes it look effortless.  

Ronnita Nicole Miller

We aksed Ronnita 10 questions about opera, life, and what's next on her busy agenda.  And in the process learned a lot about this talented singer. 

Who do you love more these days, Wagner or Rossini?

Well, I'm not sure. Mary is definitely a little more challenging; her character is a little more of a challenge vocally and dramatically. Rossini, and the other bel canto composers keep me honest. I have to say that so far, I'm digging Rossini, even though the part of Tisbe really scared me at first.

If you could keep one of the costumes from either production, which would you choose?

Honestly? Neither.  

Have you dreamt that Clorinda would appear in Dutchman?  Or that Mary would be Cinderella’s more morose sister?

I've never dreamt that either of these things would happen. But wouldn't it be hilarious if you saw one of the stepsister’s wigs ascending from the trap instead of Mary, coming in to wreak havoc?

What’s currently on your iPod?

There is A LOT of music on my iPod. Most of it is pop, jazz, and alternative music. I do have opera. But when I'm not working, I listen to a lot of pop music. Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bob Marley are all favorites and had big influences. They didn't save anything when they stepped onstage. It still inspires me. Any artist that can be so amazingly talented, practice so thoroughly, and yet, achieve such total freedom onstage is magnificent. I'm also a big fan of Bruno Mars and Adele. They're on heavy repeat right now.

Have you and Stacy Tappan recorded ‘Sisters’ from White Christmas? 

We have not…yet.

Cinderella (La Cenerentola)

Do you have a favorite moment in Cinderella?

Yes, the moment when Tisbe decides to not follow her older sister.  One can always choose to be a better person.

When you’re not onstage, what’s your favorite way to occupy your time?

During a show when I'm not onstage, I'm probably dancing in the hallway, talking to people, or playing with my iPad. If it's in rehearsal, I may even crochet.  When I'm not at rehearsal or onstage, I'm probably learning music, reading, or playing Tomb Raider on my PC or Just Dance on Wii.  I like video games a lot.

How/when did you decide to become an opera singer?

Well, being an extremely introverted and slightly shy person (no one ever believes that), I actually had a lot of trouble getting up and singing, much less speaking in front of people.  I joined chorus because there was this cute guy that I wanted to get to know.  I got in, but I never wanted to sing solos.  For some reason I decided to major in music with an extremely heavy science course load.  I actually cried the first time my opera director in undergrad asked me to sing.  I would cry at solo and ensemble competitions in high school when I would have to sing (I also played viola, with no problems).  I guess I was always afraid of my voice, afraid of people looking, watching me do something that was so vulnerable.  I think opera came as the result of two things, me being really shy but wanting to be able to express all the emotions I felt in some way and also because I was never really any good at singing gospel or jazz.  The ability to sing – that came later, through classical training, funny enough.

What’s your dream role?

In a perfect world, I would LOVE to sing Carmen and Amneris.  They have always been my two favorite ladies. Carmen, because she is so strong and beats men at their own game. She takes life as it comes and there is an incredible vulnerability in addition to her strength, which I think is why she's so incredibly irresistible. 

Amneris because, although she's typically classified as a villain (she is kind of a spoiled brat, she's never had to doubt anything could be hers as a princess), she is motivated by love.  Not in its greatest form, but it's the one thing she wants, that unfortunately, she can't have.  This, I can personally identify with. Everything she does is motivated by this fact.

Following your current run at LA Opera, what’s next for you?

 After my run with LA Opera, I go to cover Erda and the First Norn in Siegfried and Gotterdammerung at the Met, a concert at the Cincinnati May Festival, and then I prepare to move to Germany [to join the Deutsche Oper Berlin]!