Leva! – Eco Pop Opera (03/09)

Eco Pop Opera

IVA does electro-opera-organic-pop

Eco-propagandist – She always wears ecological clothes on stage, works for the environmental organization the Green Cross and has an eco-fashion queen as a mentor.  The American singer IVA calls her music “Electric-Organic-Operatic-Pop” –  What would that be in Swedish, electro-eco-opera-pop? – and is coming out now with her second album, with beautiful, life-affirming lyrics with a undertone of integrity and mindfulness.

Leva saw her in a specially written role in Batseba at the Royal Opera in Stockholm.  A few days later, we got the opportunity to interview and photograph this talented singer, musician and actress.

“I love living in Sweden, but the first two months I was staring at the telephone and felt extremely alone, since it was the first time in my life I had to actively look for friends,” says IVA, 31.

New York, where she has also lived, she found to have too hectic a tempo.  Therefore, she welcomed the new life that she found when she came alone to Sweden.  “No one knew who I was, no one had any preconceived expectations of me and my creativity exploded.”

“In many ways it was a lift and a new start, but it was also hard to be an immigrant”, said IVA , and told of a period of existential misery when she wondered what she was doing so far away from everything old and familiar and safe.

Swedish Ties

She was born and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware.  A small town with 72,000 inhabitants.  IVA says that she is “fran landet,” a country girl.

Already at 9 years old she began at Opera Delaware where she performed children’s roles and sang in the choir.  She has studied music at Princeton University, Manhattan School of Music and the legendary Julliard School of Music in New York.

When she received a scholarship from the Fulbright Commission for studies abroad, she decided to move to Sweden.

But it’s not so different from her home, her birthplace of Wilmington has a climate that is relatively similar and has Swedish connections.  The ship the Kalmar Nickel that embarked with the first Swedes to the city in the 17th century was rebuilt in 1997 and sails now on Delaware’s coast.

“My ancestor was with them and sailed on the Kalmar Nickel to Delaware.  We have also an old Swedish Church and Fort Christina in the city.  This is what was called “New Sweden.”

And IVA, or Emily Samson Tepe, which is her real name, had probably never have found herself here if not for her ancestor from hundreds of years ago who had been a poacher in Djurgården in Stockholm and was punished by being sent on a voyage to the Americas.

“It’s true that a lot is different.  Sometimes it’s not so easy to be a naturally positive person.  But I want to be that way.  I want to see life as an gift.”

IVA gives concerts both here in Sweden and in NY and on the East coast near her family and childhood friends so she can travel home when her longing for it becomes too great.  “Now I have found near and dear friends in Sweden.  I have a boyfriend that I also work with and it now feels like I could stay here.”

Unusual Versatility

It is unusual for a singer to mix opera and pop in the way that IVA does and it required a lot of work with the voice.  “I want to give people the best of classical music, opera, and the best of pop music in the same song.  In the same song, I want to switch between the two ways of singing.

Since they were completely different techniques, IVA sought out the help on none other than Kishti Tomita (Sweden’s most famous voice coach and a former member in the Idol jury).

“I began to sing as a child and noticed early on what the fascination was.  Music makes people grow, feel good, almost glow, people just want to have more and more.  No one had to push me, I loved every second of it from the beginning.

Mindfulness and the Environment

Her name is pronounced “Eeva” and for her it’s an abbreviation to represent that we humans are a link between mother earth and the air that we breath.  “We have to lovingly guard our world and those who will come after us.  I want the people who listen to IVA to feel that we are part of the big picture.  To live with nature and not against it is a condition for all of life.  She works together with Green Cross and has together with them made a series of concerts to promote a greener and more sustainable lifestyle.  IVA wears only ecological clothes when she does her own performances, and would also like for her music to feel organic.   She calls in electro-organic-operatic-pop.  One of her nearest friends is Johana Hofring who runs Ekovaruhuset and won the Leva Better Prize in 2008 (read more about her on p. 38).

“She lives as she teaches and is a mentor for me.  She is incredibly happy and would also like to show that ecological clothes both feel good and look good.”

Spirituality is important to IVA and mindfulness, to live here and now, or in any case to try to do that. But she also dreams in private of writing her own opera, where one would dare to make the women’s roles stronger.

“There will be a lot of blood, sex and laughter,” says this living Bauer princess, and laughs happily.

Annika Sundbaum-Melin is a freelance journalist.