All hail the “Queen of Popera.”
It’s a title Romina Arena boasts proudly as the “only female popera [singer] in the world.”
A combination of pop and classical music, popera formed in the early 20th century and since then has bred artists such as Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban.
Now the Queen herself will make an appearance this Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Morrison Center for the Performing Arts for her “Fly Me Home for Christmas” concert. Pianist Jim Wilson will accompany Arena and her vocals for a musical, holiday-themed evening performed exclusively in Boise.
“It’s a unique experience for the Morrison Center,” Arena, who already possesses a fascination with the natural landscapes of Idaho said.
Considering her origins, it’s not surprising. Though born in Rome (her first name means “Rome” and her last name means “Coliseum” in Italian), she moved to Sicily early in life and regards the picturesque Mediterranean island fondly.
“I’m half woman, half Sicilian,” she said.
Arena’s first experience in show business came at the tender age of four when she joined Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club in Italy.
These initial years of performing inspired her to learn new ways to speak with people.
“I was surrounded by children of all nationalities,” Arena said. “I felt the need to communicate in different languages.”
Now Arena sings fluently in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Greek and Bulgarian, giving her music international appeal.
Her wide range of languages also allows her to perform in the presence of figures like Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion and Pope John Paul II.
But perhaps one of the most significant events of both Arena’s career and life occurred when she was 16-years old and fell victim to a violent attack.
The assailant, another Italian entertainer, cut her throat and severed her vocal chords, leaving her in a coma for 18 months.
After a long recovery, Arena returned to the stage with her now booming five-octave vocal range.
Since then, she’s gotten involved with “as many causes as possible,” particularly those associated with women against domestic violence.
The attack also gave her a spirit with which to reckon.
Arena exudes charisma made for the stage, coupled with a gracious outlook on life and her profession.
“All we can do is create a legacy,” she said.
And that’s the type of energy she hopes to bring to Boise with Wilson.
According to Arena, “Fly Me Home for Christmas” won’t be “just a Christmas concert.”
Rather, it will be a multimedia experience where audience members will both listen to and see the music.
According to Arena, this means that as she and Wilson perform, a 25-foot screen behind them will project Christmas images from all over the world, giving the concert a cinematic touch.
The event will also pay tribute to soldiers overseas, harkening Arena and Wilson’s previous partnership on a PBS television special called “Jim Wilson and Friends: a Place in My Heart” and the creation of their song “Fly Me Home.”
“I started fleshing out the whole thing and I took it up to a certain level and then I got Romina involved and we started fleshing out the lyric to it,” said Wilson in an interview shown during the special.
Both artists agreed the phrase “fly me home” could point to any number of subjects, but they chose to dedicate the song to the men and women serving overseas in Iraq.
This idea holds a strong place in Arena’s heart and she believes her passion will make the concert in Boise a success.
“Anytime you do something with your heart, it’s well received,” said Arena. “People feel it.”
What: “Fly Me Home for Christmas” starring Romina Arena and featuring Jim Wilson
Where: Morrison Center for the Performing Arts
When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 8 p.m.
Cost: Tickets are $12.50 to $46 and are available through Select-a-Seat, the Morrison Center Box office and www.IdahoTickets.com
For more information on Arena and Wilson, visit www.RominaArenaINTL.com and www.JimWilson.net