Photo courtesy. Magicvalley.com
Born in Rupert, Idaho, to migrant farm workers from Mexico, Cecilia worked alongside her parents hoeing beets to earn extra income for the family in the summers. To make the time go faster, her mother would sing ranchera, or mariachi songs.
“We worked long hours in hot and cold weather. It was during those long hours where my mother planted the musical seed in me and taught me and my older brother songs that she knew and grew up with,” Cecilia said. “My mother had no formal musical training but I can proudly say that I looked up to her back then for being a beautiful, wise and strong woman and for being so knowledgeable about music.”
As Cecilia grew older, her mother volunteered her to sing at rodeos, weddings and quinceanera parties, both in the Magic Valley and in Mexico.
Her parents also bought her a tiny organ keyboard at a second-hand store. She took lessons but she also demonstrated a talent for playing tunes by ear.
She attended the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, planning to study music education but became fascinated with the operatic repertoire and the science behind the operatic voice.
“Having a career in opera was not something I aimed for as a child. In fact, my first experience with opera was watching soprano icon Beverly Sills on ‘Sesame Street,’ which I watched to learn English,” Cecilia said. “At the time, I remember thinking the singing was a little strange but never thought about it again. But in college I became fascinated with it and was accepted into the vocal performance program.”
The road from college to stage appears to have been paved in gold.
One day, she got the opportunity to show her mother "the rehearsal process for ‘Madama Butterfly’ so she could witness firsthand the work that goes on before a show goes to the actual stage.
“That’s when she told me, ‘This is a job. You work long hours every day for this one show.’ After my final performance of ‘Madama Butterfly,’ my father who never speaks English to us, said, ‘I’m so proud of you,’ in the thickest Mexican accent anyone has ever heard. Moments like those replay in my mind often and they are some of the many things that I keep with me that help keep me moving forward.”
Cecilia Violetta Lopez in La Traviata.