Milena Kitic Sings the Praises of Newport Beach
Opera's mezzo-soprano Milena Kitic shares her OC
Belgrade-born Milena Kitic might be the world’s most down-to-earth diva. A world-class mezzo-soprano best known for playing Carmen in major opera productions throughout Europe and American, Kitic is also the kind of person who, if she schedules a morning meeting, invites you to come to her home and whips up a berry smoothie to go with pastries and a cup of fresh coffee. “Eat!” she commands with a smile. “Enjoy!”
Such domestic impulses seem natural for Kitic, who surprised fans in 2007 when she quit touring to be a full-time mom to son Spencer, who was just starting school. “If I am supposed to be leaving for months and months to be singing somewhere else, I am not too happy to do that,” Kitic says with a wave of her hand. “He is my only child, my only son!”
That is not to say she quit singing. Local engagements and teaching helped “keep my voice in shape,” she notes. Lucky concertgoers can hear it for themselves October 1-4 when Kitic performs as one of the soloists for the Pacific Symphony performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, directed by Carl St.Clair at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
The future might hold more such glimpses of the diva after her son finishes high school. “If I keep myself in this shape, maybe I will go back to the levels of performing where I left off.”
But Kitic is nothing if not pragmatic. “We’ll live and see,” she says, shrugging. “You never know where life is going to take you.”
My neighborhood: Newport Beach.
Why I live here: Beautiful houses, reasonably safe. The kids can play outside on the street. When we moved in my son got to know all the boys – and I know the parents. The neighbors don’t like our dogs barking much, but they are OK with my singing, so I appreciate that.
Only restaurant I can’t live without: I like Il Barone, run by Italians. It is a very nice, intimate, family-run restaurant. We know each other, they always greet me, they are always happy. And I like AnQi – I don’t know them but it is the second time I am praising them. They are different; I like the fashion shows and the car exhibits they sometimes have. It’s fun, but the food is very good. In other parts of the world, I would say Café Central in Vienna. We have been recently. That is the place to be and eat just about anything in downtown Vienna. And my son agrees with that.
My perfect day: Any day in Southern California! Different things would make my perfect day – just being with my son, having a nice performance. Even when I have the luxury of sleeping until 8:30 in the morning and nobody wakes me up.
Alternative getaway destination: Internationally, I love to go to Rome. I teach there in the summers. Italy in general is a beautiful country. We went to Sorrento this time and to Capri. I would always go there.
My sanctuary: I like to exercise. I was in gymnastics when I was younger, but I exercise normally at home, just exercising with The Fitness Channel with light weights. I do Latin dance, salsa and bachata – I love it! When we did Hot Latin Nights at the Pacific Symphony, at the end of the show we all came out on stage and danced, and the professional dancers were complimenting me: “Oh wow, you can actually move!”
Favorite late-night haunt: Tapas, for salsa dancing.
Favorite place to shop that is not a chain store: I really don’t have a favorite place for shopping, and I am not much of a snob, either. I come from a different country, different background. You have to be a smart shopper. No, no, no, I am all outlet mall or T.J.Maxx, rather than glitzy shops. I go shopping at those places on occasion, and I love when they bring the champagne. You feel really special – and you spend special money too. But you can go to an outlet mall and be dressed absolutely phenomenal.
Angels or Dodgers: None. I know nothing about it!
OK then, Taylor Swift or Nicki Minaj: Taylor Swift. If you had said that other one, the one with the tongue? Miley Cyrus? That would have been tough. Then I would have to say none.
Red or white: Both.
Favorite celebrity encounter: Bryn Terfel. He is funny and an amazing singer. Everything you hear on the recording is just like that, and he has that British-Irish-Welsh kind of humor. I love people who are down-to-earth. If you are great in anything, it is not because you are born great. It is because you worked hard and you observed a lot of different people and learned from a lot of different people, different cultures.
Pet peeve: Politicians lying – there is plenty of that. Snobs. Disloyalty.
Favorite quote: Practice makes perfect, which of course I always use with my students.
Final question, just for you: What can Carmen teach us? Not to make compromises with things that are not good anymore for us. There is a moment in the fourth act where she says, “I was born free and I am going to die free.”