We spoke with Christina Hager recently, who will star as Mercédès in Carmen, about how she is not the only opera singer in the family and what she says to get people to try opera.
1. How did your initial interest in the art form of opera begin?
Christina: I was always involved in musicals and plays. My parents were very supportive that we try a lot of different extra-curricular activities. When I was 17, I started taking voice lessons, and my teacher in Kansas City thought that my voice would be suited for classical music, so I applied as a music major for my colleges. I actually attended the Lyric Opera summer opera program for high schoolers before my senior year! I remember that we learned the Don Giovanni/Zerlina duet.
2. Where did you grow up?
Christina: I grew up right in Leawood, KS! I am glad to be back performing in my hometown and excited for my friends and family to be able to have my Lyric Opera debut in Carmen.
3. Do you have a significant other? Children? Pets?
Christina: My boyfriend is a tenor—so it’s kind of like having a child and a pet rolled into one. (I am totally teasing.) He’s a fabulous singer and an even more wonderful person. We love singing together and actually met doing a scene. We most recently performed a concert of Carmen together, he has Don José and I sang Carmen.
4. What is an average day like for you? Do you have a set routine?
Christina: An average day usually finds me missing two trains in NYC. When I am doing a show, my routine is pretty boring—lots of sleep, vitamins, eating spinach every day, and getting to the theater super early.
5. What is your favorite opera to watch/experience?
Christina: That’s a really hard question. I think my two favorites are La traviata and Carmen. I have performed in both of them, and think they both have everything—love and romance, humor, suspense, dancing, amazingly sung music, and of course, sexy gypsies!
6. Have you performed your role in CARMEN before? If so, do you have any interesting anecdotes you can share about the experience?
Christina: Yes, I sang Mercédès a few years ago as a young artist. It was a wonderful experience. The Carmen was also named Cristina (which led to a little bit of confusion!) and brought her own castanets to rehearsal and taught me how to play. Because of the scheduling, there ended up being an oddly timed dress/tech—since I was covering Carmen, she asked if I would like to sing that day. It was very exciting being able to sing the Habanera on the actual set with the entire cast in costumes! It was a thrill.
Also, that very same month the city passed a law where there was to be no smoking ANYWHERE inside a building, so there was a scramble for fake cigarettes.
Additionally, during the Toreador’s aria, at the very end when Mercédès and Frasquita sing L’amour to him, I think he misjudged the distance between the Frasquita and himself—and he ended up licking her ear!
7. What is an interesting fact about you?
Christina: I think it’s a very special thing that both my brother and I are opera singers. Our parents exposed us to the arts, and encouraged us to try everything (sports, debate, writing, guitar, dance) and we both ended up as singers—and now we both will have sung with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City! I think it is special that we can share the dream together.
8. What facts about you would our audiences be surprised to learn?
Christina: I grew up wanting to be a writer. I actually majored in English (along with music) and was flirting with the idea of going to grad school for English instead of music. Still, my love for reading and writing has always been there. I hope to write a book someday—in fact, I have 200 pages of my first one sitting on my computer, just waiting to be finished!
9. Is there an opera role you haven’t performed, but would like to perform the most in your career?
Christina: Charlotte in Werther. It’s incredible music, a beautiful story, and not often performed. I’d also love to do Adalgisa in Norma.
10. If you bumped into me at a coffee shop and learned that I had never been to an opera before, what would you say to entice me to give it a try?
Christina: Opera has everything—romance, sex, murder, revenge, beautiful men and women—and it’s all live!