Music News & Reviews

Singletary Center feels like home for mezzo-soprano in 'Samson and Delilah'


For opera fans, Sunday afternoon's performance of Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson and Delilah at the Singletary Center for the Arts will be a chance to hear a couple professional opera singers taking on a not-often-heard work.

For one of those singers, the performance is a rare and welcome home gig, or home-ish.

"It's nice to work locally now and then, because we're always on the road," says mezzo-soprano Stacey Rishoi, who lives in Bellevue, just east of Newport, with her husband, bass Gustav Andreassen. "So it's really wonderful to sleep in your own bed for a change."

Rishoi and Andreassen moved to Cincinnati to complete their degrees at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where they both went after meeting at the University of Arizona. The thing is, they haven't had a lot of time to work on their degrees because they have been busy singing. Rishoi's recent itinerary has included stops in Boston, Oregon, Virginia, Florida and Nashville, where she first tackled the role of Delilah with the Nashville Opera.

This weekend's home gig will be Mount Zion on Friday night and Lexington on Sunday at the Singletary Center for the Arts, a stage she is familiar with.

If you are trying to remember Rishoi's other operatic turns in Lexington, stop. She didn't come to Lexington to sing. She spent many a day burning up Interstate 75 between Cincinnati and Lexington to play violin with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.

"It was in the later '90s, and that was my job," Rishoi says. "I got my undergrad degree in violin performance."

Rishoi, a South Dakota native, got a full scholarship to the University of Iowa as a violinist. Part of the gig was playing in pit orchestras for operas and recitals, and as she listened to the singing, she started thinking, "I can do that."

So she did. She decided to double-major in violin and voice performance, giving her a marketable skill as she pursued voice in graduate school at Arizona and Cincinnati.

"Violin put me through school," Rishoi says. "I was in a professional symphony every degree I have done.

"When I came to CCM, I looked at all the symphonies in the area — there were three or four — and I put together an audition, and I got into the Lexington Phil, and I was there three or four years."

Her memories include playing for now-retired music director George Zack and carpooling with bassist Victor Dome, who lives in the Cincinnati area. Of course, she also remembers performing on the Singletary stage, where she will be Sunday. This time, she won't be worrying about the first violin parts.

"It's a really meaty role," Rishoi says of Delilah. "It's just got everything in it, so as an actress, it's a wonderful role to play. And vocally it is as well. It's got everything you would want in an opera role.

So would she be tempted to get back to Lexington or elsewhere as a violinist?

"I still have my violin and I love the violin," Rishoi says. "But right now, I'm kind of busy."