Aprile Millo (born April 14, 1958) is an American operatic soprano of Italian and Irish ancestry who is particularly admired for her interpretations of the works of Giuseppe Verdi. Possessing a spinto voice of power, warmth and temperament, Millo became one of the most celebrated opera singers of the late twentieth century. Although she has performed at many of the world's leading opera houses and with many orchestras and ensembles internationally, Millo has spent much of her career appearing in productions at the Metropolitan Opera.
Background and early career
Aprile Millo was born in New York City, the daughter of two opera singers, tenor Giovanni Millo (John Hamill) and soprano Margherita Girosi. Millo became interested in music at an early age and received her musical education primarily from her parents. After graduating from Hollywood High School in 1976 she was invited to join the San Diego Opera Center as an apprentice, where she took part in the inaugural program and where as a member she sang the High Priestess in Aida. In several European trips she was to win several important singing competitions including first prize in the Concorso Internazionale di Voci Verdiane in Busseto, Italy (1978), the Montserrat Caballé Bernabe Merti Special Verdi Prize Award in Barcelona (1979), and the Geraldine Farrar Award (1980).
After leaving the San Diego Opera, Millo sang her first major role, the title role of Verdi's Aida, with Utah Opera in January of 1980. She returned to Utah Opera in early 1981 to perform the role of Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. Millo moved to New York City and auditioned for the New York City Opera where her Father had sung from 1942–1946 and was offered a contract with several roles. The Metropolitan Opera also offered the young singer at 22 years old, to become a member of the Met's Young Artist Program, as well as to cover leading roles. Up until this point, Millo had studied voice exclusively with her parents. While in the Met's program she worked with Dick Marzollo and then only with David Stivender and Rita Patanè. She also had the opportunity to work with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf who took her to Herbert von Karajan, and with mentors Renata Tebaldi, Zinka Milanov and Licia Albanese.
In November 1982, Millo made her European debut as Aida in Karlsruhe, Germany and in December at La Scala as Elvira in Ernani when she replaced soprano Mirella Freni who had taken ill. In January 1983 she had performances of Ernani at La Scala of her own. She made her New York debut the with Eve Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York in November 1984, singing Matilde in Rossini's Guillaume Tell.
On December 3, 1984, Millo made her Metropolitan Opera debut in dramatic fashion replacing an ailing soprano as Amelia in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra with James Levine on the podium. The critics praised Millo's performance with the New York Times proclaiming that her voice had "a breadth and a shining ring that would have won her a midscene ovation in any Italian opera house". Shortly thereafter Millo won two major awards for classical singers: the coveted Richard Tucker Award (1985) and the Maria Callas Foundation Award (1986).
In 1986 Aprile Millo made her Carnegie Hall debut with Verdi's I Lombardi alla prima crociata with tenor Carlo Bergonzi and Eve Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York. In the intervening years, she has sung over 160 performances of 15 different roles at the Metropolitan Opera, including Leonora in Il trovatore, Aida, Tosca, Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, and Amelia in Un ballo in maschera.
Millo's debut recording in 1986 was Presenting Aprile Millo, with the London Symphony and Giuseppe Patanè. She has recorded several Verdi operas with James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera for Sony Classical, including Aida, Il Trovatore, Luisa Miller, and Don Carlo. In 1989, she opened the Metropolitan Opera season starring as Aida opposite Plácido Domingo. The performance was recorded live for telecast and DVD release, which won an Emmy. (A CD studio recording was made, with mostly the same singers, the year after.) Her 1991 performance of Un ballo in maschera, with Luciano Pavarotti, was released on CD and DVD. Millo toured with the Metropolitan Opera to Japan in 1988 and 1993, returning in 1989, 1990 and 1991 for solo recitals.
Millo debuted with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1991 as Margherita in Boito's Mefistofele. The following year she debuted with the Bavarian State Opera as Leonora in La forza del destino and with the San Francisco Opera as Maddalena de Coigny in Andrea Chénier. She appeared as Giselda for the Metropolitan Opera's first-ever performance of Verdi's I Lombardi, again with Pavarotti and Levine, in late 1993.
A car accident in Torino briefly sidelined Millo and forced her to cancel Caterina Cornaro in New York; she returned to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in 1995 and 1996, playing Amelia (Simon Boccanegra) and Desdemona (Otello), opposite Plácido Domingo. That same year, she performed Maddalena in Andrea Chénier, with Luciano Pavarotti in his debut in the title role. She reprised the role of Maddalena in 2002, with Domingo; and in 2007, with Ben Heppner.
In 1997, Millo sang her first Tosca at the Liceu, Barcelona, followed by performances of that opera at La Scala and at the Met. Other Metropolitan Opera performances include Mefistofele (1999–2000) and Gioconda in La Gioconda (2006). Millo has also performed several roles with the Opera Orchestra of New York: the title roles of Adriana Lecouvreur (2004), La Gioconda (2005), and Minnie in La Fanciulla del West (2005). In 2005, Millo also appeared for Teatro Grattacielo in the neglected verismo opera Zazà, which had not been performed in New York since 1927.
Millo has performed in the world's opera houses, including Frankfurt, Barcelona, Parma, Rome, Bologna, Torino, the Arena of Verona, The Baths of Caracalla, Cincinnati Opera, Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Paris, Orange, Moscow, Seville, Bilbao, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santiago, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and La Scala, Milan among others.
Millo writes her own blog, called Operavision.
Millo is noted for the beauty of her voice and her nuanced interpretation. On April 4, 1986, Donal Henahan wrote in the New York times of Millo's performance in Don Carlo: "Miss Millo sounds more and more like the Verdi soprano we’ve been waiting for." Later in 1986 (June 18), reviewing a Metropolitan Opera production of Aida in Central Park, Mr. Rockwell wrote, "Miss Millo has a real Verdi sound...her darkly yet delicately colored lower voice, full of urgency in the phrasing, and her overall mastery of this role from a technical and interpretive standpoint, are already very moving. Her performance reached its high point just where it must, in the third act, when Aida grows from a supplicating ingenue into a woman torn by her conflicts. With singing like this, nothing could dull the intensity of Verdi's drama. The concert formality, the populist setting, the amplification, all fell away in the face of real operatic drama embodied in song. If Mr. Domingo and Mr. Pavarotti can match that in the next two parks openers, the Met and its fans will be fortunate indeed."
Roles and discography
|Andrea Chénier||Maddalena di Coigny||1985|
|Adriana Lecouvreur||Adriana Lecouvreur||2002|
|Don Carlo||Elisabeth of Valois||1986|
|La fanciulla del West||Minnie||2004|
|La battaglia di Legnano||Lida||1987|
|La forza del destino||Lenora||1992|
|Luisa Miller||Luisa Miller||1988|
|Simon Boccanegra||Maria Boccanegra (Amelia Grimaldi)||1984|
|Un ballo in maschera||Amelia||1991|
- Cori Ellison: "Aprile Millo", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed October 19, 2008), (subscription access)
- Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5