Monday, May 20, 2019
Emily Fons Uses Every Cell of Her Body to Sing
Nothing can replace the skills you gain by just getting up on stage and doing it, says Emily Fons: “Every audition, every chance to step out on stage will teach you something about yourself. You just have to be honest and vulnerable enough to accept those lessons … and always strive for improvement.”
Sunday, March 10, 2019


She found her voice as a 7-year-old performing in fairy tale plays that Milwaukee Youth Theater took to summer school students in inner city schools.

It didn’t hurt that her mother is a voice teacher who fed her daughter a constant stream of classical music and opera.

Now Emily Fons is a mezzo-soprano hailed by Opera News as one of opera’s rising stars and one of the best singing actresses of her generation.

The Wisconsin native, who received a Grammy nomination for her work on Jennifer Higdon’s “Cold Mountain,” has sung with The Berlin Philharmonic, the Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and others. And on Tuesday she will perform an intimate Salon Concert in a private home on behalf of the Sun Valley Opera.

The evening begins at 6:30 p.m. with wine and appetizers, followed by the concert at 7 p.m. Tickets are $150, available by calling 208-726-0991 or by going online at

Fons says she will present some of her favorite Mozart arias, along with music from the American Songbook and American musical theater.

 “It wasn’t until high school that I decided to take voice lessons and I loved working on all the old musical favorites, as well as being introduced to singing in foreign languages,” she said.

Fons originally wanted to pursue musical theater in college, drawing on her experience as a child where she was introduced to the basic elements of performing, such as learning lines, finding costumes, building sets and working as a team with fellow actors.

But musical theater wasn’t a good fit for her personality or her unique vocal talents. She floundered a bit, then found “a fantastic voice teacher” whom she still studies with 17 years later. She went on to get a master’s degree, then followed the standard trajectory of young artist’s programs leading a to a professional career.

“I’ve learned to embrace the unusual and beautiful experiences that a career in the performing arts has to offer, as well as the very pedantic unglamorous aspects of being self-employed,” she said. “I've gotten to see the world, which has helped shape me and keep me open minded and flexible to new ways of doing things.

“I also know that this type of lifestyle isn't for everyone and I feel grateful that I've been able to make it work, and I don't take for granted the life skills I've gained such as a strong work ethic, ability to set goals, and a never-say-die spirit.”

Fons treasures the relationships she’s built with colleagues and patrons of the arts. And she’s always looking for ways to reach into the communities she works in to try to make a difference.

“I think that the arts in general allow people of all ages a safe space to express the ups and downs of life.  Storytelling, creating, and listening are all ways that we can work through difficult times and share joy in the good times, both on our own and collaboratively,” she said.

Opera, in particular, grabs people, because the human voice is so powerful, she said.

“We train as opera singers to use every cell of our body to create music and share emotion without any help from amplification, and I think that connects to our audiences,” she added.

As a new homeowner, Fons is thrilled when she has an opportunity to take leave of the road and tinker on projects around the house and yard. When not singing, she likes to hike and run with her best pal—a dog named Lupita, or Lu for short. She also likes to do yoga, binge on Netflix and schedule phone dates to catch up with friends who are scattered around the country.

She is thrilled to be part of the opera industry at a time when so many new pieces are being produced.

“I know that many opera audiences love to see the beloved classic operas, but there are so many stories waiting to be told, and I think we can find a great balance of old and new,” she said.

“I also think having great open discussions about what we like or don't like about new pieces is healthy and positive! The arts should be a place of opinion and discussion.  Fear of disliking something new should never stand in the way of the actual creation of that new thing.  As an industry I think we are always working toward inclusivity, innovation, and greater expression and I think those are things that most people can get behind.”

The Salon concert at which Fons will sing hearkens back to the origins of Sun Valley Opera which launched in 2001 with intimate concerts featuring up-and-coming stars around a piano in a private home. It will be the final concert of the opera’s 2018-19 Winter Festival.


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