Soprano Lisa Newill-Smith grew up in Virginia, surrounded by music. From an early age, she started piano lessons, which kick-started her love for music. Inspired by her musical family, Lisa was always singing, playing piano, and writing music, even winning several state-wide competitions for her compositions in school. As she grew older, Lisa picked up the violin and viola, playing in the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra and the All-State Orchestra. Throughout her time in high school, Lisa also sang with an a cappella choir and played in the show choir band. Alongside her musical activities, she was a competitive dancer, traveling across the state to compete with her dance company.
Her love of politics and history led her to declare a Foreign Affairs major at the University of Virginia, combined with a major in music. At UVA, she also discovered opera after joining one of the few student-run opera companies in the country, Opera Viva. Throughout her time at UVA, Lisa performed with Opera Viva, fundraised over $3,000 for their shows, and co-directed two highlights productions.
In the summer of her 3rd year at UVA, Lisa had the opportunity to study abroad in Lima, Peru, for 7 weeks. Within the first week of her study, she realized she desperately missed singing and searched for a way to practice. She was lucky to discover a choir with the university, which invited her to perform in several upcoming performances, including one at the National Cathedral of Lima. By the end of her study abroad, Lisa realized her true passion was singing.
After graduating, she moved to England to pursue a Master of Music with Barbara Robotham at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. While there, she explored the soprano roles of Gilbert and Sullivan, including Josephine (HMS Pinafore), Mabel (Pirates of Penzance), and Yum-Yum (The Mikado). These roles allowed her to explore stage acting in a new way, including perfecting her British accents.
Near the end of her studies, Lisa performed her first Gretel with Chimera Opera in Rochdale. This fantastic production not only introduced her to the world of Germanic opera, but also to her partner in life and music, Scottish pianist, conductor, and composer, David Wishart. After premiering the soprano role in his chamber opera, Absolved Passions, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the pair moved to Berlin, Germany, in 2014.
Since arriving in Germany, Lisa has had the opportunity to perform several fantastic roles with local companies, including Donna Elvira, Servilia, and Gretel. She also had her first experience with Strauss singing Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos one night and playing violin in the orchestra the other night. In the summer of 2022, she debuted Donna Anna at the Vienna Summer Music Festival.
Besides operatic repertoire, Lisa and David have continued their duo. While searching for music, Lisa came upon Try Me Good King by Libby Larsen, a song cycle that brings to life the last words of the wives of Henry VIII. After getting to know this piece and its composer, Lisa started wondering why all the music we perform today is by men. After months of research, she decided to start a blog to bring to light all the music written by women and non-gender conforming composers.
With the onset of the pandemic, Lisa suddenly had more time to devote to her blog, and the duo performed several live-stream concerts featuring the music of Clara Schumann, Amy Beach, Marianna Martines, and Josina van Boetzelaear. Throughout the pandemic, Lisa has continued to research and promote music by women. Her blog has also led her to new and experimental music, culminating in a world premiere of Capriccio by Rylan Gleave in 2021.
The pandemic also gave Lisa time to explore a new fach, and she is now performing the dramatic coloratura fach. Her dream roles include Lulu, Konstanze, and Violetta. She would also love to sing Clémence, L’Amour de Loin, Schoneberg's Pierrot, and perform Martines’ La Tempesta with a full ensemble. One of her goals is to record pieces by women which have no existing recordings, including works by Maria Teresa Agnesi, Ruth Schonthal, and Boetzelaer. She also hopes to collaborate with living composers to continue to premiere their works and explore new sounds and techniques.
Lisa has a love for 20th and 21st-century music and has sung the world premiere of several works, including Gleave's Capriccio for Soprano and Triangle. She sings with PHØNIX16 and has performed with them in Paris, Berlin, and at MaerzMusik. In 2023/24, she was a semi-finalist with the John Cage Award and a participant in the Call For Young Performers Course in Milan with Alda Caiello.
Lisa lives in Stralsund, Germany, with her husband, David, and their dog Eevee. In her spare time, she writes short stories and is working her way through a Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel. She and David love taking advantage of the nature surrounding the Baltic Sea and go camping and hiking whenever they can. She also loves having a day watching Star Trek or playing Zelda.