The Truth Staff
Imara Miles, a young mezzo-soprano and a resident artist with Toledo Opera for the 2022-23 season, is quite literally at the start of her operatic career. It’s quite a promising start that has already brought her a large measure of success.
A native of the Washington, D.C., area, Miles is a graduate of York College (an undergraduate degree) of Pennsylvania and Indiana University (masters in music). She has been a featured performer in shows such as Il Barbiere di Siviplia (Berta), The Drowsy Chaperone (Title role), Gianni Schicchi (Zita) and Porgy and Bess (Lily), among others. She has been a young artist in programs such as The Glimmerglass Festival, Grant Park Music Festival, Pensacola Opera and the Des Moines Metro Opera prior to joining the Toledo Opera this season.
This season, with Toledo Opera, she will appear in this weekend’s Suor Angelica/Cavalleria Rusticana and later sing the role of Olga in The Merry Widow. After The Merry Widow, Miles will take a little break during her 10-month stint here to go to the Knoxville Opera to sing the role of Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro and then return in the spring.
Clearly the start of her operatic career has been busy and exactly as she has desired since she became enamored of opera at the tender age of 14, befuddling family and friends about such an unexpected turn of events.
Miles has never wavered in her love of opera and her desire to pursue a career singing and she has relished the challenges such a career presents. One of those challenges is “being able to learn quickly” says Miles of her effort to incorporate the various operatic cultures and languages, along with the music, into her repertoire. For example, she has sung operatic pieces in the following languages: English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Latin, Korean, Hebrew and Swahili.
But above all, as she learns and practices while attempting to master her art, she must exercise discipline and understand that not everything she wants to do can be accomplished immediately.
“It is difficult to find the pieces that are comfortable right now because I know my voice will get bigger over the years,” she says of the learning process. “American opera singers have a tendency to go too big too fast.”
Miles’ goal is to master her art at the appropriate pace – using “patience and perseverance” – so that as she matures and her voice changes, there will be no damage to those muscles that control the voice. “Don’t go too fast,” she constantly reminds herself. Some singers who rush the process – sometimes by taking on roles for which they are not ready – develop a vocal “wobble.”
“The voice isn’t as settled yet,” she adds
“It’s like training a muscle incorrectly, as it’s still growing,” adds Rachael Cammarn, the Toledo Opera’s coordinator of communications and patron services. “It’s a whole mechanism. With these young singers, their voices are not physically there yet.”
However, her desire to perform keeps her moving along in spite of the challenges – the challenge of being constantly on the road away from family and friends, the challenge of constant work and practice and rehearsal, the challenge of pacing herself, the challenge of periodic auditions.
“I love it with all my heart,” she says of the rewards. “I love being an opera singer more than anything in the world.”
Puccini’s Suor Angelica makes its triumphant return to the Valentine stage this weekend paired with Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. Set in a convent in 17th century Italy, Suor Angelica deals with the hardship and social constructs placed on women who do not conform to the rules of society and religion on their everyday lives.
Also dealing with societal and religious repression, Cavalleria Rusticana centers around the tempestuous relationship between villagers Santuzza, Turridu, Lola, and Alfio. Mascagni’s work is set in a 19th century Sicilian village. Both of these one-act operas end in tragedy and are conducted by Maestro Geoffrey McDonald and staged by director Keturah Stickann.