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.
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?
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.
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]!