Kristin Allison Lewis (1975–)
Opera singer Kristin Lewis of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is recognized for her richly hued voice capable of subtle emotional inflection. Based in Vienna, Austria, since 2005, Lewis has established herself in the opera houses of Europe as a lirico-spinto soprano specializing in Verdi’s heroines. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2019.
Kristin Lewis was born in Little Rock in 1975 to the Reverend Bettye Lewis and Dr. Raphael Lewis. Lewis credits her mother as one of her earliest musical influences, as Rev. Lewis played organ for church and encouraged Kristin in her musical pursuits.
After graduating from high school, Lewis followed her older sister, Tamara Lewis, to the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County). At UCA, Lewis studied voice with Dr. Martha Antolik. Lewis sang in Bolivia by invitation, toured with UCA’s Concert Choir, performed in UCA’s Opera Workshop, and placed in three years of National Association of Teachers of Singing regional competitions. She was also featured as a solo singer with the choir of her church, Second Presbyterian Church of Little Rock, and toured with the choir in Eastern Europe. In 1999 and 2001, Lewis was a semi-finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Council auditions. She won the Mid-South Region Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions and then competed in the National Semi-Finals on the Metropolitan Opera stage in New York City. In 1999, Lewis received a BA in vocal performance. Lewis returned to UCA in 2004 to perform a recital, as well as in 2009 as an artist-in-residence.
At the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (UTK), Lewis studied with Kay Paschal and Andrew Wentzel, receiving a master’s in vocal performance in 2002. Lewis performed with the Knoxville Opera Studio and met Carol Byers, who became her voice coach.
In 2005, Lewis made her European operatic debut as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Opernfestspiele Heidenheim in Germany. When Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking made its European debut at the Semperoper Dresden, Germany, Lewis performed as Sister Rose. Lewis then debuted her Donna Anna for Birmingham Opera’s production of Don Giovanni.
Lewis sang her first Aida at the Cairo Opera House in 2006. Since that debut, Lewis has become recognized for her interpretation of this role in many international opera houses, including the Vienna State Opera; the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Germany; the Berlin State Opera in the Schiller Theatre; the Opera Festival at Masada, Israel; Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Italy; and the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland.
In 2010, Maestro Riccardo Muti conducted Rossini’s Stabat Mater, with Lewis as the soprano soloist, at the Teatro San Carlo. Lewis debuted as the soprano soloist in Verdi’s Requiem, under Maestro Zubin Mehta, at the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy, in 2011.
From 2011 through 2013, Lewis made multiple debuts. Mehta conducted Lewis’s debut as Elisabetta di Valois in Verdi’s Don Carlo. She made house debuts at Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia; Opéra Bastille in Paris, France, with Maestro Philippe Jordan; Les Chorégies d’Orange in France with Maestro Alain Altinoglu; and the Puccini Festival at Torre del Lago, Italy, with Maestro Daniel Oren. On January 7, 2019, Lewis made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in Aida.
Lewis’s repertoire also encompasses Amelia in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Medora in Verdi’s Il Corsaro, Leonora in Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, Maddalena in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème, Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen, Nedda in Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci, and Serena in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.
Although Lewis’s career has been relatively brief in relation to her experience, her peers and the opera community have recognized her talent with numerous awards, including the Orazio Tosi Prize from Parma Lirica in 2012, Savonlinna Opera Festival’s Artist of the Year in 2010, and third prize from the Ferrucio Tagliavini International Singing Competition in 2005.
Lewis’s discography includes Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, conducted by Gianluigi Gelmetti (Unitel Classica, 2012); Verdi’s Requiem, conducted by Philippe Jordan (EMI/Virgin Classics, 2013); and Verdi’s Aida, conducted by Daniel Oren (Intergroove Classics, 2013).
In 2013, the Red Cross of Vienna named Lewis Ambassador for Humanity. She supports Animal Care Austria founded by Carol Byers. In 2017, she established the Kristin Lewis Foundation.
In 2014, Lewis founded the Kristin Lewis Foundation, Inc., a non-profit corporation, to foster the development of young singers through competition and scholarships. Foundation activities, including fundraising events and vocal competitions, are hosted in central Arkansas. She has continued to expand her stage debuts with performances at Carnegie Hall and the Royal Opera House, London.
For additional information:
Hale-Shelton, Debra. “Singer Paying It Forward at UCA.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 29, 2015, pp. 1B, 6B.
Harrison, Eric E. “Kristin Allison Lewis.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 19, 2017, pp. 1D, 5D.
Kristin Lewis, Soprano. http://www.kristinlewis.de (accessed October 18, 2021).
Kristin Lewis Foundation. https://www.kristinlewisfoundation.com/ (accessed October 18, 2021).
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