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Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller Dazzles in Heart Stirring Concert
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Sunday, August 22, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Friday dawned with the sun streaming through the blue skies to highlight the shadows in the folds of the mountains. But, already, the Sun Valley Opera had pivoted to protect the voice and throat of a Tony Award winner and Grammy nominee.

The Opera and Argyros Theatre worked at warp speed to move Friday’s Signature Salon Concert from an expansive Lake Creek lawn to the theater after crossover artist Lisa Hopkins Seegmiller’s doctor warned that even the hint of smoke from Oregon wildfires could spell danger for the singer, given her asthma.

“We had to scramble to find an indoor venue and so we called Casey Mott and said we’re in a super pickle.  Casey and the entire Argyros staff bent over backwards to help us out,” said Robyn Watson, the Opera’s executive director. “We put the transfer of venues together in half a day!

“The Argyros has a state-of-the-art ventilation system, which whisks the germs away and keeps the smoke out, and they’re  so conscientious and careful about their safety protocols we felt like they had our back.”

Admittedly, some patrons were disappointed to leave the beautiful garden setting behind, especially given the full blue moon that came up as the nearly two-hour concert was ending. But they were more than rewarded when Seegmiller sang her heart out, pushing through irritations to her throat caused by  Salt Lake City smoke so thick that she could hardly see to drive.

“The smoke in St. George where I live has been really bad—for me, it’s a constant inflammation that makes me cough. And driving through Salt Lake City it was like smelling a campfire--I could not breathe,” she said. “So being able to pull this off tonight is like a miracle. I was so happy to get here and see how beautiful it was—the mountains are incredible. And I was so grateful for the many moving parts everyone worked on to make this happen. I wouldn’t have changed anything.”

Seegmiller and her 12-year-old daughter Ellie Felice Seegmiller belted out some of the elder Seegmiller’s  favorite Broadway songs over the decades, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which she noted was written for a nation needing an escape from World War II and the Holocaust, and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which she said served as an anthem for many health care workers during the pandemic.

Some in the audience could be seen wiping tears away under their face masks as Seegmiller laid it all out on such songs as “Memories,” “Sound of Music,” “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and two Puccini songs, which she sang as Mimi in Baz Luhrmann’s historic production of “LaBoheme” on Broadway.

The concert was inspiring, uplifting, heart stirring—a reaffirmation that there is good in the world.

“Wasn’t that incredible?” said Joanne Wetherell. “Of course, Andrew Lloyd Weber is one of my favorites.”

“She has a wonderful persona and she’s an amazing singer with a beautiful voice,” said Watson.

This was Seegmiller’s second concert since the pandemic started—the first one being “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber,” which marked the reopening of the State of Utah following pandemic closures. Seegmiller, who earned an acting degree from Yale and was an early protégé of the world’s top faculty at Juilliard and the Curtis Institute, said that show will likely go on tour.

“It was horrible having the pandemic shut everything down. And we have high risk in our family so we’ve got half the family vaccinated, and we’re keeping the little ones in,” she said. “But it’s so good to be singing here tonight in front of an audience. The audience doubles the magic of the show. You see smiles, tears… It’s like game of tennis--you feed off one another. I think this will truly be one of my most special shows ever—the audience was so warm.”

This was also her first professional show with her daughter, and mother and daughter agreed Friday night that it could turn into a habit.

Watson said a few attendees bowed out when the concert was moved, saying they weren’t comfortable being inside, and a couple more declined to attend, saying they didn’t like wearing masks. But 150 kept the date, enjoying giant shrimp, pot stickers, grilled cheese and sundried tomato sandwich bites, corn soup in shot glasses and more served up on the Argyros patio by Judith McQueen.

They then donned masks as they moved into the Argyros, spacing out in the 330-seat theater.

“It was so depressing last year when we couldn’t see artists in person so to see two phenomenal performers is great,” said Kyle Johnson, Sun Valley Opera’s board president.

Carol Mast agreed: “I feel like we lived in caves this past year and now we’re coming out of our caves. It’s wonderful to see the arts coming back.”

COMING UP

Sept. 6—The Sun Valley Opera will screen “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland on the Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn. The movie starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for those 17 and under, available at 208-622-2135 or Sunvalleyresort.eventbrite.com

Sept. 14—Soprano Cecelia Violetta Lopez, who grew up singing mariachi music in Rupert, and has gone on to sing at the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall, will perform some of the songs she grew up with, as well as arias. Tickets for the concert, presented with Opera Idaho, start at $50, available at www.theargyros.org or 208-726-7820.

Feb. 10—Sun Valley Opera will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a concert starring Broadway star Allison Blackwell. The event will feature cocktails and a seated dinner catered by Vintage Restaurant and deejay dancing. Tickets are available at 208-726-0991 or from Rwatson.svo@gmail.com

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