But before you write off Emily Samson Tepe as just another long drink of water, hear her sing at OperaDelaware’s Ball at the Hotel du Pont February 12.
Samson Tepe has two personalities and two careers. As an opera singer, the Wilmington native is known as Emily Samson Tepe. As a crooner who blends classical with pop and jazz, she is Iva. Iva will grace the Gold Ballroom this month, though Samson Tepe may show up for an aria or two.
“It’s a cool crossover kind of thing,” says Samson Tepe. “OperaDelaware is interested because I have the European and pop crossover experience. As they say, not everyone who’s an opera singer can also do crossover pop stuff.”
Many opera singers attempt pop, but their training prevents them from relaxing enough to slide into the genre’s informality and soulfulness. Samson Tepe was classically trained at the Manhattan School of Music, so “the pop singer in me has taken years to develop,” she says.
Samson Tepe got her break in 2001, when a casting director from “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” invited her to sing in a skit. Drummer Max Weinberg asked her back for several performances. Then Samson Tepe snagged an invitation to a Conan Christmas shindig. Her date, violinist Joshua Bell, introduced her to a producer from Sony Classical Records. That collaboration resulted in Iva’s eponymous first album.
Samson Tepe traveled to her ancestral Sweden on a Fulbright Scholarship to study Scandinavian vocal music in 2004. There she released her second album, “Ivolution.”
Iva’s OperaDelaware appearance will mimic a cabaret-style show at Maxim’s de Paris. That’s intentional, since a ball attendee will win a trip for two to Paris. The prize includes airfare, hotel accommodations, dinner at Maxim’s and tickets to the Paris Opera.
In April Iva will headline the grand opening of the newly restored Queen Theatre in Wilmington. “I know the downtown is making a comeback,” she says, “and I hope the Queen will get people downtown on a regular basis.”