Artist spotlight: Rachel Mills

Name: Rachel Mills
Voice Part/Title/Instrument: Soprano
Most Recent Role with Opera Grand Rapids: Papagena, The Magic Flute
Production Year: 2018

Where are you originally from?
I moved around a lot as a kid, but mostly grew up in GR!

Who has inspired you/been your greatest influence professionally? Why?
My mother – she had an amazing voice I never grew tired of listening to and always gave constructive criticism with buckets of encouragement. She passed way this year, but she keeps encouraging me in my memories, dreams, old messages, and even a note she left before she died for opening night of Marriage of Figaro.

Who/what brought you into the world of Opera?
I wanted to go into musical theatre and thought opera was boring when I was a teenager. My dad planted the seeds be essentially conducting an independent study for me after school! He made me listen to opera recordings and follow along in the libretto, explaining what made each singer great and some historical context of each opera. I still went to ASU for musical theatre, but my teacher encouraged me to study opera as well, and when I hear the opera student warming up in the practice room hallway, I was hooked!

Where do you live now?
Home is GR, but my husband works in Abu Dhabi so we live out there half the year!

What are your hobbies when not performing?
I teach voice lessons and run a non-profit with my family that gives full scholarships to at-risk, inner city youth for summer music camp. Those things along with being a mom to a highly active toddler take up all my time! But, I also love baking, reading, traveling, and drinking lots of tea!

What is your favorite Role/Opera/Piece?
Honestly, I don’t think I will ever love a role more than Papagena! I think she is my spirit animal! But my favorite opera…that’s tough! And it changes all the time. I think I’ve never been so moved by an opera than I was by a production of Pelleas et Melisande at Welsh National Opera in 2015.

What is your favorite things about being a professional musician?

Traveling and meeting so many people with fascinating stories. I actually met my husband traveling to Oman with a production of La Boheme. He was a lighting technician at the opera house and loitered outside my dressing room waiting for a chance to sweep me off my feet!

Least favorite: It’s not always possible for my son and/or husband to travel with me, and the separation is really difficult.

What is something you enjoyed about being in Grand Rapids?
It’s home! I have loads of family to take care of my son and always see friends and family in the audience. Grand Rapids has such a small-town community feel, but with all the curiosity and culture of a big city. It’s a wonderful, exciting cozy, friendly place to be!

Where is your favorite place to travel/perform? Why?
To perform, most definitely Grand Rapids. Since its home and I have such overwhelming support there. It’s also nice to come home to my own bed after a long rehearsal and to know that I have a crowd of people willing to babysit in exchange for hugs and baby smiles.

To travel, my favorite so far is Sri Lanka. It’s a simple, gorgeous paradise full of kind and generous people and excellent tea.

What performances/plans do you have in the next year?
I am performing a small recital tour with a pianist I met in Abu Dhabi. We perform in Dubai, Budapest, Sopron, Fairfield, CT, and here in grand Rapids through December & January. Inspired by the enormous expat community in the UAE, we have 6 languages on the program, including works by Kodaly, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, and barber, plus a few arias. December 29th at Trinity Lutheran Church in GR!

Rachel as Papagena in Opera Grand Rapids' 2018 production of The Magic Flute