Time to Shine

Beth Stovall prepares for starring role in Verdi opera

Beth Stovall005Wilmington opera lovers, and those new to the art form, are in for a special treat this summer. BETH STOVALL is singing Violetta, the title role in Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata.” This is the opera singer’s most important role to date and one that she is eagerly taking on.

“La Traviata is a big step for me,” Stovall says. ‘It’s the biggest role of my life. I am a healthy amount of terrified but really excited to step up to the challenge, and I love those types of opportunities.”

In fact, Stovall has taken on challenge after challenge throughout her career. At age 17, with little background in the esoteric aspects of classical music, she auditioned for college voice programs. Though Stovall was rejected by school after school, she kept trying until she was accepted into the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s vocal performance program.

Three years into her studies, Stovall seized a new opportunity: competing in beauty competitions, which she saw as a way to gain confidence and get feedback on her singing and acting skills. Stovall’s effort paid off. She won the title of Miss North Carolina as well as the talent section of the Miss America pageant.

After fulfilling her Miss North Carolina obligations, Stovall once again struck out in a new direction and transferred to East Carolina University to complete her undergraduate degree, then earned her master’s degree in vocal performance at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

Knowing she wanted to make Wilmington her home, Stovall returned to the area in 2019 to teach voice at UNCW and pursue her theatrical career. Here, the soprano made her first foray into musical theater, playing the role of Maria in Thalian Hall’s production of “The Sound of Music” in 2020. She also performed the role of Papagena in Opera Wilmington’s production of “The Magic Flute.”

Now Stovall is taking on her biggest challenge to date – bringing Violetta, the love-torn courtesan, to life. To prepare for the role, Stovall is spending hours upon hours alone at the piano perfecting and polishing her performance. She is also diving into the play, learning as much as she can about Violetta, the other characters in the play, and the times the play reflects.

The extensive background work is necessary if Stovall is to be believable as Violetta, she says.

“I have to step out of the mindset that I am portraying Violetta’s character,” Stovall explains. “I am going to become her. Nothing, from my facial expressions to my gestures, should be cerebral. They are what Violetta would do. If I can do that, it’s so much more believable, organic, and captivating.”

However, Stovall’s portrayal of Violetta doesn’t stop there. She also wants to convey the courtesan’s humanity.

“Violetta highlights the fact that people are more complex than we give them credit for, and that is something we can all take note of,” Stovall says. “We should not make assumptions about people. Rather, we should be more open-minded, caring, and kinder to each other.”

Performing the role of Violetta may be demanding, but Stovall is determined, as always, to make opera a wonderful experience for the audience.

“I want the audience to walk away and say, ‘Wow. That is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” she says.

Opera Wilmington’s “La Traviata”

July 21, 23, 28, 30

Mainstage, UNCW Cultural Arts Building, 5270 Randall Drive

Info: operawilmington.org/upcoming-productions

To view more of photographer Terah Hoobler’s work, go to terahhoobler.com.

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Categories: Culture