Alexandra Loutsion becomes a different person when she takes the stage.
She was once the evil witch in Engelbert Humperdinck’s version of “Hansel and Gretel.” She has played a modern version of Eurydice, a nymph in Greek mythology. And she has sung the tragic tales of Shakespearean characters Lady Macbeth and Desdemona in Giuseppe Verdi operas.
Loutsion, 31, formerly of Canonsburg, is adding new roles to her repertoire as a summer apprentice with Santa Fe Opera’s prestigious singing program. Out of nearly a thousand applicants from across the world, Loutsion was one of 43 singers selected.
“It’s fantastic,” Loutsion said of the program, which runs until Aug. 23 and includes five operas. “I mean it’s sort of the best of all possible worlds because there’s training and there’s performing.”
As a child, Loutsion, daughter of Nicholas and Susan Loutsion, sang in the choir at All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Canonsburg. Her mother recognized her talent and suggested she join the Children’s Festival Chorus in Pittsburgh.
At that time, she started singing classical music, and by age 13, she was training with an opera singer from Washington.
“As I sang more, we both realized my voice was more operatic, and I saw my first opera at Pittsburgh Opera at 15,” Loutsion said. “I fell in love with it, and I knew it’s what I wanted to do.”
At Chartiers-Houston High School, she performed in several musicals and also sang in a professional junior choir in Pittsburgh.
She said opera was the only genre of music she was never exposed to as a child, but now her entire family loves the performance art. Her favorite performance was playing the lead role of Madama Butterfly for Opera on the James in 2011.
“It was the last performance my grandfather got to see me do,” she said. “It was a very special experience.”
Loutsion, a soprano, earned three degrees in vocal performance from University of Southern California and Ithaca College. In school, she studied music theory and vocal technique, and also took at least two years of every language offered.
Of the most common opera languages, German, is her favorite. She completed an eight-week German immersion program with “no English at all” in the German for Singers and Vocal Coaches program at Middlebury College.
“That’s really scary at first because you are living, breathing – all of it – German,” she said.
Most recently, Loutsion completed a term as resident artist with Pittsburgh Opera and relocated to New York City so she can regularly audition for performances and meet with her agent.
As an apprentice with the Santa Fe Opera, she has studied with faculty from The Juilliard School, San Francisco Opera and Manhattan School of Music. She also was the understudy for the title role in Beethoven’s “Fidelio.”
Apprentices perform as members of the chorus and fill supporting roles for the operas. Loutsion has performed in four of five operas, but joked that she’s grateful not to be performing in Huang Ruo’s “Dr. Sun Yat-sen” because it’s entirely in Mandarin.
The program also provides an opportunity for apprentices to audition in front of about 50 heads of opera companies and agents from around the world.
After completing the summer program, Loutsion will head back to Pittsburgh and New York City for several concerts lined up. In the spring, she will join the Metropolitan Opera roster as the lead soprano.
“It’s a wild ride,” Loutsion said of her career. “It’s a crazy life.”