Alexandra “Lexi” Walker LoBiondo
Interview by: Shane Elks
One incredible part of being a performer is that you meet some of the most interesting people. Of all the many performance companies I have worked with, my time with Opera Carolina blessed me with not only the opportunity to perform some of the greatest operas ever composed but also perform with some of the greatest souls I have ever met. Alexandra Walker LoBianco (or Lexi as I call her) is not only one of today's touring voices but is also a spirit of genuine kindness. Two seconds with her and you find yourself laughing and feeling as though this is an old friend. Join me as I catch up with this opera diva and chat about the business.
SE: Well first I wish to say I miss your face and have always carried a place for you since we first met. You are one of those souls who people never forget.
AL: You're making me blush my dear. I feel the same about you.
SE: Too Sweet! How was your audition?
AL: I need to make a trip to NC soon. Actually today's went really well. I felt like I got my groove back.
SE: What was it for?
AL: Palm Beach Opera
SE: Do you have an agent who sets up your auditions?
AL: I do now. I've just recently joined the Barrett Vantage Roster.
SE: Congrats! I am sure that makes life easier.
AL: I was with PrinceSF Productions for about a year and a half, which was a wonderful starter manager, but it's great to be with a ‘big time’ management.
SE: I don't think most realize that in order to be successful in the opera world you must commit your life to traveling.
AL: It sounds like a ‘glamorous life’ until you're in the midst of it and realize you live mostly out of a suit case and you're alone quite often. Luckily for me I make friends easily. Honestly one of the things that has made such a difference for me was spending so many years in the Opera Carolina chorus.
SE: You do (make friends easily). I first met you while we were both doing “La Boheme” for Opera Carolina. How does Opera Carolina stack up with other companies around the globe?
AL: It's actually one of my most favorite places to work still and I haven't worked there in years. Maestro Meena is one of the finest conductors I have ever had the pleasure of working with
SE: “There’s no place like home!” (Your working home, that is.) Where are you from originally?
AL: Originally from St. Petersburg, FL. I feel the need to put FL after that now because I was in a competition where they put me down as from St. Petersburg, Russia which became a wonderfully hilarious moment as I was walking on stage for the finals.
SE: I could see you as Russian.
AL: Exactly! It was a pretty funny way to walk on stage as they were announcing the corrections. Well I'm adopted, so who really knows. Apparently I adapt well.
SE: You definitely have the bosom for Russian. It just makes you a great actress. “She can play anything Folks!”
AL: Ah yes, the girls. Lol. They have made a name for themselves in this business.
SE: I would hire them!
AL: Well you know Charlie Lang named them while I was at OC. Poly and Esther.
SE: What has been your favorite role thus far?
AL: My fave role so far? Well I have a great love for “Turandot” and the most recent addition has been “Amelia” in “Un Ballo in Maschera”. They were two very different women but both very passionate and complex.
SE: What brought you into the opera world?
AL: This is a convoluted story so I will try to tell it in as neat a picture as I can. I had always been a singer, according to my parents, from the moment I could make noise. I was always making up melodies. I sang in preschool then life changed in elementary school and I stopped music completely (except my pop music belt-a-thons). I came back to music in middle school where I was an instrumentalist. My parents had always taken me to the theater, symphony and eventually opera. The first opera I saw was “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “I Pagliacci”. It was at the MET and I really thought I was going to be a clarinetist. We were seated house left in the front row so I could see into the pit. Well needless to say, my eyes left the pit and were drawn to the stage. I was completely overwhelmed with how they could do ‘that’. It wasn't until my senior year of high school where a dear teacher looked at me and said hey you've got a big voice have you ever thought about opera? It was really by accident.
SE: The best things are by accident.
AL: What really hooked me was the fact that it was acting as well as music. I could escape the person I was in high school and be anyone I wanted to be.
AL: The more I get into this as a career, the more I realize that my dreams of being a music therapist are coming true and what I do is not for me at all. I'm the vessel to tell the story and it's an honor to be part of the process. It's also a great responsibility.
SE: It is therapy, for the audience and for you.
AL: It is indeed.
SE: No better way to celebrate your passion than to share it.
AL: You can go see opera at the movies but it's not the same as having the vibrations of sound actually surround every molecule of your body.
SE: Not at all. Though I do suggest people expose themselves to the art form any way they can.
AL: Absolutely! I'm not saying don't go to the movies to support opera. I'm just saying don't forget about the opportunity to see live opera as well or art in any form.
SE: Oh no, I completely understand and agree with your sentiment. Live theater is meant to be seen live. Do you see yourself venturing into directing, teaching or perhaps the music therapy worlds in years to come?
AL: Well, I actually have a studio of students that's pretty full right now. Most of my students I have met on gigs and I actually teach via Skype.
SE: LOVE IT! Isn't teaching amazing?
AL: I would one day love to start my own company (a training company). This goal is equally important to me as singing. I actually thank Opera Carolina for giving me my first real experience as a teaching artist with the "Music! Words! Opera!" program.
SE: It is awesome having a student who shares your passion and leading them on the journey of self-awareness and growth through art.
AL: There is NOTHING like the light bulb moment.
SE: NOTHING like it. And they teach me as well. I learn from teaching.
AL: Oh, I learn so much from teaching. Every time I work with them (all), I discover more about myself. I could go on and on (actually) but I will just say that the Education Deparment at Opera Carolina was a place of life learning for me, not just a place to teach.
SE: Gorgeous! Speaking of gorgeous...
AL: Yes, we're talking about you now?
SE: Please! We are actually talking about how your traveling life seems to not be so lonely as of late.
AL: Oh, my sweetie?
AL: Well, I will say that we've been together for over two years now and he's very patient with me and this crazy life.
AL: He's not a singer so he doesn't get to come on gigs with me very often.
SE: What is his career?
AL: He's a computer programmer (actually) who started as a music major but he was smart and got out and actually makes a decent living with benefits. He sings on the side for fun.
SE: How great. So he does share your passion and appreciation. Haha! You said he was smart and got out, right? Look at us with all of our education and experience and people always go "Oh really? Wow!". And I go, “honey, it’s not at all what you think it is”, but I wouldn't trade my life for the world. I know you wouldn't either.
AL: You got that right, dear. Traveling is always tough but I am grateful to my wonderful mentor who drove into my head to have a balanced life (wherein I could come home and not go into depression from being off the road).
SE: That is great. Many more need that mind set.
AL: The hours and hours and hours spent pouring over one phrase of music sometimes it gets ... well, you know. Perception really is everything, isn't it?
SE: You have always been a light, Lexi gal. Thank you for sharing a bit of it with me.
AL: Oh, I should add that I have taken to sending a box ahead of me when I travel. There are a few essentials that I must have in order to make anywhere feel like home. Now don't laugh, but I send my knives and spices and I'm thinking about sending a good basic skillet. If I can cook I feel at home.
SE: Awwww! I think that is wonderful. And cooking is such great therapy.
AL: I also keep a photo of my parents, a silk screen that some of my dearest fans bought me in China, and a shell that has a button stamped out of it from Iowa. Oh honey, if I wasn't singing, I'd be a chef in a heart beat, but now-a-days I keep it for my private passion.
SE: Well I would dine at the house of Lexi any day.
AL: I promise to make you a meal if I come through.
SE: You must and our home is open for you anytime.
AL: Thank you, love. Now I must get back to studying some “Suor Angelica” and getting ready to teach tonight. I would love to have a Skype date with you at some point, as miss your handsome self.
SE: YES! I actually have a student coming at six. We must Skype it up soon. We have years to talk about. Much love.
AL: Indeed we do. Hugs and much love, to you, too, my dear.