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Interview with
Milica Nikcevic


Milica Nikcevic is a mezzo-soprano who "shows promise with a richly colored" voice. She graduated from Portland State University in June of 2005 with a degree in Vocal Performance. She spent the first part of that summer in San Francisco as a member of the Bay Area Summer Opera Institute. While there, she studied roles such as "Mere Marie" from Les Dialogues des Carmelites and "Ursule" in Beatrice et Benedict.  She has also been a participant in the world renowned Festival Ensemble through the BachAkademie in Stuttgart, Germany, under the direction of Maestro Helmuth Rilling for the past two summers. With the award-winning Portland State University Opera Theater, Milica has performed the roles of the "Principessa" in Suor Angelica and "Zita" in Gianni Schicchi. She also learned the role of "Prince Orlofsky" in the operetta Die Fledermaus.  Milica has studied the roles of "Mrs. Splinters" in The Tenderland, "Mrs. Ott" in Susannah, "Filipjewna" in Eugene Onegin, "Jane" in Patience, "Mrs. Lovett" in Sweeney Todd, and "Baba" in The Medium.

As a featured soloist with the Portland State Chamber Choir she was the alto soloist in J.S. Bach's St. John Passion and was a featured soloist on the choir's recording of composer Margaret Garwood's A Choral Trilogy. Theater credits include " Dr. Mandril" in City of Angels, "Mrs. Pearce" in My Fair Lady, "Mrs. Webb" in Our Town, and the "Judge" in Inherit the Wind.  She is a recipient of many scholarships including the Jeanine B. Cowles Scholarship, James F. Miller Scholarship, and the Serbian Singing Federation Scholarship.    

In addition to Maestro Rilling, Milica has worked with conductors Mark Pinzow, Keith Clark, Bruce Browne, and Ryan Heller. Her director collaborators include Yefim Maizel, Mark Ross Clark, Tito Capobianco, Ross Halper, and Brenda Nuckton.   She currently resides in New York City, where she studies with Martina Arroyo and Sam Belich.


1. When did you start career of opera singer? Tell us something about your first steps in world of opera...

I have always loved music and performing and I knew early on that I would be a performer of some kind. I started playing cello when I was 8 and loved classical music since. I first decided I wanted to be an opera singer, however, when I was 13 years old. That is when I “discovered” opera, one could say. I heard it and instantly fell in love and knew in my heart that that is what I was meant to do.

The first steps were fascinating really. It was a time of whole new discoveries; a time when everything was fresh and the possibilities were limitless. I knew where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, and could make a mental plan of sorts to map it out. The problem was – not just for me but for all singers, I believe – that I had to wait for my voice to develop. My mind was ahead of my voice, and it still is, many years later. I have been told numerous times that I have a very large voice and it takes a long time to develop. I am still working on that part of it, as the music is so exciting that my mind is telling me to go ahead and sing it while my voice is still waiting to catch up.

In the beginning, it was completely new and very exciting; weekly voice lessons and hours upon hours of practice to try to implement what I learned in those lessons. It is in this time that I think a lot of singers need to decide if this is something they are willing to do for the rest of their lives. That was not really a choice for me. It wasn’t a matter of “should I” or “could I,” but rather “I must do this” and “I cannot not do this.”

2. What can you emphasize from your career till now? What are your most precious moments?

I have worked with many fantastic coaches, directors, conductors, and performers, and would have to say those are things which have helped mold me into the performer I am today. Mind you, I still have a substantial journey ahead of me, but I would not want it any other way. I love a good challenge!

I have had many precious moments since I began. Discovering that I could move my voice very quickly and easily was something I will not forget. Many of the larger voices have trouble moving, so this discovery gave me more options. Also, always learning something new about myself and my voice keep things interesting and exciting. These are all precious moments.

I have been in several productions, and I think some of the most precious moments came from the things I learned on stage and with my colleagues. Also, meeting people in the field whom I really look up to, such as Marilyn Horne and Martina Arroyo, along with Tito Capobianco and Sherrill Milnes was very special.

3. How would you evaluate conditions for young artists in NY?

I believe conditions for young artists in New York now a days are much more promising than in years past. There are many more programs which assist young artists by giving them a taste of things to expect in the “real world of opera,” so to speak, some offer financial assistance to promising new artists, as well as the experience and opportunities to network which are very necessary in this career.

There is, however, much more competition. It can be seen as a setback or a challenge. I prefer to see it simply as a stepping stone in the field, one which makes it more and more obvious to a performer as to whether they can deal with the life or not. I must emphasize this as it is a very important and something every performer must consider at one point or another. As there is so much competition, one must truly know their strengths and weaknesses, and know how to use their voice to the best possible advantage. Every performer must offer something different, whether it is vocal color, interpretation, strong stage presence, great technique, or preferably, all of the above. This will have tremendous impact on whether or not they are remembered by the judges in the competitions or out of their minds the moment you leave the stage. These are the things which every young artist faces every day.

4. Can you compare those conditions in USA with the ones in Montenegro?

Well, there is a very different atmosphere as well as very different audiences in each country. I find that the US, obviously, has many more opportunities for the classical arts than Crna Gora. There are many, many music schools, teachers, programs, opera houses, concert halls, etc. in the US, and given its size, I would say that is only natural. Also, the audiences in the US are very seasoned and many people who go to these concerts are very familiar with the music, and have certain expectations be met by the artists, directors, opera companies, etc. It is a much more established tradition for certain circles in the US, something which has yet to be established here in CG.

I think Montenegro is set in traditional music, and the young people here seem to be more interested in pop music than in classical forms. Of course, that can honestly be said about the younger generations in the US also. I believe that if there were more opportunities for people here to really listen to this kind of music and give it a chance, as well as teaching children about classical music from a young age, then it would really be something magnificent for the country. I know how talented and intelligent the people here are, so I know there could be great music schools and performers coming out of Crna Gora.

5. You obviously want to promote Montenegrin national music in new (opera) way. Can you tell us something about these plans?

There are wonderful musical traditions here in Montenegro which are unique from other countries and traditions. There is beautiful poetry, interesting harmonies and rhythms, and each of these things add to a rich musical heritage. I would love to see more music from Montenegro realized on the international level. I know there are people here, composers and performers alike, who would also like to see this happen. If Montenegrins would make sheet music readily available, as well as in abundance, it would be fantastic. I know that I had to search for a very long time to find any notes for music from CG. I realize that CG has an aural music tradition, handing music down from generation to generation by ear rather than on paper, but I think that we need to have it written somewhere so that it is accessible to Crnagorac around the world, especially those who may not have had such direct contact with their roots and heritage.

I am making it my personal mission to bring this music out, as well as to bring classical forms here. I would love to see opera’s written in Montenegrin and performed by Montenegrins. The world would really be shocked at the potential this small country has.

6. How do you like Montenegro?

I cannot describe how much I love CG! It is truly a gorgeous country filled with gorgeous people. It is a diamond in the rough, and most people do not even know it exists. I tell people about my heritage all the time, and they rarely know where it is or anything about it. I, of course, then must tell them all about this phenomenal country and the incredible strength, pride, and integrity of the people. I am so proud of Montenegro and to be from here, despite being born in America. I know this country has incredible potential, and I would like to help explore this potential in any way I can. I love my beautiful CG!

Interviewed by: Danilo Kalezić (