• The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Lisette Oropesa

    [Opera Lively interview # 101] Opera Lively has interviewed bright young soprano Lisette Oropesa, in the premises of the Met Press Lounge for the occasion of her interpretation of Gilda in Rigoletto. We've been following her career with attention, and are very excited for the success she's been having. After having attended her excellent Gilda, we look forward to seeing her in Le Nozze di Figaro as Susanna in Santa Fe (we'll be there for the August 3rd show). This young lady is not only a very gifted singer, but is also intelligent and articulate, not to forget very charming in person.

    Photo Credit Matthew Murphy - used with authorization

    Artistic Biography

    Singer - Lisette Oropesa
    Fach - Lyric Coloratura Soprano
    Born in - New Orleans, Lousiana (Cuban-American background), the child of soprano Rebecca Oropesa (née Ulloa)
    Recently in - Siegfried (woodbird) and Rigoletto (Gilda), Metropolitan Opera House.
    Next in - Le Nozze di Figaro (Susanna) - Santa Fe Opera - tickets [here], 8:30 pm: June 29, 2013; July 5, 10; 8:00 pm: August 3, 8, 13, 20, 23
    Artist's website - http://lisetteoropesa.com/

    Soprano Lisette Oropesa has been hailed by The New York Times as an artist with a “magnetic” stage presence, and an “attractively silky, and flexible timbre.” She has already appeared on concert and opera stages throughout Europe and North America, and has been identified as an artist on the rise.

    “Soprano Lisette Oropesa made a superb company debut as Romilda…her singing bright and precise and her phrasing eloquently to the point.” — Joshua Kosman • San Francisco Chronicle

    In the 2012/13 season, Ms. Oropesa appeared as Gilda at the Metropolitan Opera in Michael Mayer’s new production of “Rigoletto,” and was heard as the Woodbird in Robert Lepage’s production of “Siegfried”. Further appearances in the season included a return to Arizona Opera in the title role of “Lucia di Lammermoor” and her role and company debut with Michigan Opera Theatre as Cleopatra in “Giulio Cesare”. She finishes the season with her company debut at Santa Fe Opera as Susanna in “Le nozze di Figaro”.

    Next season, Lisette returns to the Metropolitan Opera to sing Nanetta in “Falstaff,” and Sophie in “Werther,” both of which are new productions which will be featured in the Met’s Live! in HD broadcasts. She will also be heard as Amalia with the Washington Concert Opera in Verdi’s “I Masnadieri,” as well as performances of Carmina Burana with the Pittsburgh Symphony.

    In the 2011/2012 season, Ms. Oropesa made her company and role debut with San Francisco Opera in “Xerxes”, and was heard as Miranda in the new Baroque pastiche “The Enchanted Island” at the Metropolitan Opera. She returned to the Bayerische Staatsoper as Ismene in Mozart’s “Mitridate, re di Ponto”, the role she sang in her company debut when the production premiered in the summer of 2011. She achieved great success when she joined Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony on short notice for Carmina Burana, and she made her Pittsburgh Opera debut as Konstanze.

    Other international appearances include Konstanze at the Welsh National Opera, Fiorilla in “Il Turco in Italia” and the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, as well as Nanetta at ABAO Opera Bilbao.

    LMs. Oropesa is a 2008 graduate of The Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, and was a winner of The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2005. She has developed a strong relationship with The Metropolitan Opera, including her major role debut as Susanna in “Le nozze di Figaro” in 2007 to great acclaim. She has been heard in productions including “Orfeo ed Euridice” and “Idomeneo”, and the final performances of Otto Schenk’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” as Woglinde and the Forest Bird. She has been heard in new productions at The Met including “Iphigénie en Tauride” and has been featured in many of The Met’s Live! in HD broadcasts, including “La Rondine” (new production), “Manon Lescaut”, “Hánsel und Gretel”, “Il trittico” (new production), “The Enchanted Island” (new production), and “Das Rheingold” (new production). Additionally, she has been heard in concert at The Met for the 125th Anniversary Gala, and with the Met Chamber Ensemble at Carnegie Hall in performances of Brahms’ “Liebeslieder-Walzer” with James Levine and Daniel Barenboim at the pianos.


    Ms. Oropesa is featured on the EMI DVD of La Rondine with Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu, and with Joyce DiDonato and others on the Virgin Classics DVD of The Enchanted Island. She can be heard as well on the DG CD Twilight of the Gods. A link to the Amazon sales of these recordings can be found [here].


    The Opera Lively Exclusive Interview with Lisette Oropesa

    © Opera Lively - Disclaimer: this exclusive interview is copyrighted by Opera Lively with all rights reserved, and is not to be reproduced without express authorization. Brief excerpts can be used after consultation (use the Contact Us form) as long as proper credit and a link to the full interview on Opera Lively are provided. Links to the interview can be posted without authorization.

    Credits - Questions by Opera Lively journalists Mary Auer and Luiz Gazzola. Artist's picture by Matthew Murphy. Rigoletto production pictures where the singer appears with George Gagnidze in the title role, are courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera Press Department, photographer Cory Weaver.


    Opera Lively - Let’s first talk about this production of Rigoletto. Please tell us a bit about the director’s idea of staging it in Las Vegas.

    Lisette Oropesa - I think the idea of updating Rigoletto is something that can be easily done because Rigoletto is just about people, relationships, and vengeance. The only thing that is a little bit weird is the idea of the powerful curse, because back then a curse held much greater weight than it does today. But I think what we can do by taking it into a modern setting is that Rigoletto kind of self-fulfills the prophecy of the curse. It becomes much more of a psychological type of opera. But really, it's set in the Rat Pack time; I've heard many people say that using the Mafia, using the very idea of the power struggle between a boss and a guy who works for him is absolutely relevant today. The father-daughter relationship can be put in any time period, really, so any setting would have been great. I really like doing it in this modern period because it's a little more freedom to act in a contemporary way. People can relate to it. They've seen movies that take place in this time period; some people grew up in this time period, so they can see a picture of something that relates to them a little more closely.

    OL - Now let’s talk about Gilda. What are some of the vocal challenges you see in this role?

    LO – All over the place. The entire role is extremely difficult. The aria Caro Nome I've sung many times, ever since I was a young singer. Well, I'm still a young singer, but when I was a student. It never gets easier, because of where it comes in the opera. Gilda comes in and sings two very big duets and then sings Caro Nome. It is extremely exposed, and sits quite high. You have to be able to lift your voice again and make it sound exquisite because it is the aria people have been waiting to hear. And then in the second act when she has been raped and comes in to tell Rigoletto about what has happened, she sings Tutte le feste, which sits much lower and musically is more dramatic. She is confessing something she is quite ashamed of, for the first time to her dad, so vocally it is much more difficult to place. And then the quartet and the storm trio are very loud, very full, energetically charged sections with heavy orchestration; and then the death scene is all high and very light and has a lot of dynamic contrast. So it is never easy; there is no moment in the role at all where I feel – "ah, I can relax now for a little bit!" Never. In fact the contrary is true because I need to be always warmed up, but not too warmed up because I don't want to get tired. It's an extremely difficult role.

    OL - What about her psychology? Much has been said about whether the Duke raped her or not. In this production, he did. Still, she remains loyal to him. How does a modern woman like you relate to the psychological traits Gilda exhibits?

    LO – Whether or not she was raped does change it a little bit, because if she was more willing, the ending makes more sense, it's easier for her to sacrifice herself for him. We understand it more as an audience. The fact that we do play this as a rape means that she is dealing with a different, perhaps abused, mindset. A lot of times you see women in an abusive relationship coming to the defense of their abuser. They don't go to the police, they don't tell other people, they make up excuses, they stay with him for a long, long time, they stay with him to their dying day. Why? Because psychologically they are insecure. They don't want to lose him. So I have to come at it from a point where this is a person who has been abused and perhaps has an insecurity there, a very deep insecurity. Also, the way that Rigoletto treats her...Rigoletto (the way we are doing it in our production) he is not the warm kind of sweet, loving daddy that will give everything for his child. His character is not like that anyway. No, he is very strict, he is very direct, he is very cold sometimes, he doesn't want to share, he doesn't want to have an open conversation – in a way it's another type of abuse that she is having to put up with.

    Her decision in the end to throw herself into the sacrifice I think comes from an idea of feeling like there is nothing left to live for, and also coming from an idea of "this is what I want and I'll do anything to get it, I absolutely don't want him to be unhappy." She becomes so strong in the sense that she will sacrifice herself in the way a parent would sacrifice herself for a child. She becomes a parent for Rigoletto too; she sacrifices herself for him, because they will kill him too, maybe. It's a coming of strength.

    OL - You’re simultaneously singing Wagner while you are doing a full Gilda. Is it challenging to be at the Met involved in two different roles even though one part is smaller?

    LO – Yes, despite the fact that the part of the wood bird is small, it doesn't matter. I have to come, I have to get dressed, I have a costume that they give me, I have to warm up, I have to prepare. And it's a tough little part, because it is sung with very challenging, spoken-type rhythms; it’s all about the speech, all about the text. You can't just fly through it (no pun intended), you have to concentrate for the whole second act. So yes, and also going back and forth between Rigoletto and Siegfried, you're here, it's still a time commitment. I had two performances in one day, at one point.

    OL - How do you feel about the current Ring production at the Met? Any thoughts on Lepage’s Machine, which has been a bit controversial with opinions all for or all against it? I particularly find that it clutters such a huge stage like the Met's – is it half an asset, half an obstacle, or both?

    LO - I do feel it's both. The assets are that you can project beautiful things on it, the planks can do different things, and be manipulated in really beautiful ways. For example, in Das Rheingold, when the giants come in they look like two giant hands, which I think is fascinating, it's a really cool thing that they can do. It can turn upside down and people can walk across it. It turns the entire world where the Ring is set on its head. At the same time in operas like Die Walküre where the characters are having a one-on-one relationship, then sometimes the set can seem overwhelming like it's in the way, because the drama between the characters is overshadowed by this giant thing looming there. I feel that there is a balance. That's why you have to have great singers and great actors. But really, you have to have space in order to express these great emotions, especially in Die Walküre.

    OL - Now let’s focus on you and your career. Your parents emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba, and your mother is an opera singer – also a soprano. She put her career on hold to raise a family, but music must have been an important part of your childhood. Do you sing with her? The tenors Daniel Behle and Björn Casapietra have both made recordings with their mothers, the sopranos Renate Behle and Celestina Casapietra. Now that you’re established in your career, have you and your mother ever given a concert together or performed in a program together? Is this something you may want to do in the future?

    LO – I would like to plan to sing a concert with her. She doesn't know that yet but I'm going to try to get her to do that. There are some plans in the works.

    OL - How early did you begin to take voice lessons? Did you study with your mother?

    LO – I studied with her my whole life. I never took formal voice lessons from anyone except her, until I went to college and I studied as a voice student. My mother all my life gave me a very good foundation of singing, because she was always singing, always practicing. I was in Church all the time singing with her, and listening to her and imitating her. Sometimes to be funny but even as a small child I was singing in an operatic way. For years, while I grew up she developed my voice very well and gave me an appreciation and an understanding of what it is supposed to sound like, from a very young age.

    OL – What age?

    LO – Oh, very small, I was singing when I was three. I have recordings of myself when I was three years old.

    OL - When you were 21 you won the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions. How did you prepare yourself for this competition? Any memories of the event to share with us? How was it psychologically for you, to come and win it?

    LO - Well, I didn't think I would win it. I didn't even think that I would make the finals, or the semifinals for that matter because it was the first time I had ever done a major competition. I thought I would maybe make the regional and that would be it. But I just kept progressing and progressing, and I was just in shock the whole time, because things were going so well, and eventually I realized that I had a shot at winning it. I learned a lot because you get coachings from people here for that whole week between the semifinals and the finals. You coach and work every day. And I realized "this is really serious stuff." So, I was very nervous.

    OL – So, did you go directly from that to the Lindemann? Did the competition open that door?

    LO – Yes, exactly. When I was here during the competition they asked me if I was interested in the Young Artists Program and I said yes. So the week after I won the finals, I came back and sang an audition for Maestro Levine and the rest of the faculty for the Young Artists Program. They invited me to join the program that very day. I moved up here that summer and started my work here.

    OL – What does a program like this do for a young singer? You have coaching, and languages…?

    LO – Coaching, languages, and more. There is a set of people who run the program, a set of singers, and pianists. We all work together and we also work separately. We have coachings with the young artist pianists, and when I was in the program, John Fisher who would coach us several times a week, Ken Noda also worked with us a lot; on top of the musical part, we also had language coachings several times a week. We had many, many master classes with different opera singers – Renata Scotto, Mirella Freni, Sir Thomas Allen, it was a lot of people. I was always getting something from someone all the time. It's like school. And we got to see all the final dress rehearsals of the operas.

    OL – How long does it last?

    LO – It's three years. For international students it's two.

    OL – It's probably better than any college.

    LO – Yes, it's school of music times ten.

    OL - You were still in the Lindemann Program when you sang your first major role at the Met, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, with Erwin Schrott. It sounds a little like a Hollywood script, but I think you were replacing another soprano and made a great success of it. Were you nervous at all when you found out you would be singing one of the leading roles? What was going through your mind then?

    LO – Yes, I was covering, and the leading soprano was pregnant, and quite far along. I remember getting a phone call and being asked to sing the final dress and first performance. I was nervous because I had had very little rehearsal. It felt very last minute, but that’s how it happens sometimes...as a cover you have to be prepared for the most sudden changes. Looking back, I think probably it wasn't the easiest way to make a big role debut. I had only sung very small roles at the Met before. I had been on the stage, I had been with the orchestra, I had been in the process but I had never done a big, big role like that. So I was very nervous. But as soon as the curtain went up I just said, "you know, it's Mozart, I love Mozart, I am just going to sing it like I love it and do my best, I know that I have the energy, the enthusiasm for the role." It ended up being a huge success.

    OL - Since then, you’ve sung a variety of roles at the Met and worked with other major international stars. In 2008, you sang Lisette in a production of La Rondine with Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna. What was it like working with them?

    LO – Wonderful! I loved being in La Rondine. That was the first time I had done a pretty large role in a new production in HD. So, I was very excited to see how that was going to work. Everybody was coming to see us in the theater and we were wearing all these cool costumes, 1920’s stuff. I loved Gheorghiu and Alagna, I’m a huge fan of both of them. They were so gracious! Wonderful colleagues! I have a funny story. One time in a performance I had forgotten a prop. I was supposed to have a notepad that I was supposed to give to Roberto Alagna and tell him to write something down and I didn’t have it in my pocket. And I reached in my pocket for it and it wasn’t there. I didn’t know what to do; I was in the middle of the performance. I looked at him like “I don’t have it.” And I tried to telepathically tell him, “memorize what I am going to tell you instead of writing it.” And he communicated back “OK” and he played along, “yes, I’ll remember that.” Then he went in his pocket and pulled out a pencil – I don’t know how or why he had that – and he wrote down on his hand what I was telling him. And I thought, “he is a genius.” It was the nicest thing he could have done because he totally fixed the whole situation. He is the perfect professional.

    OL – Super interesting, thanks for sharing that.

    LO – Oh, sure!

    OL - At the Met, you also created the role of Miranda in the Baroque pasticcio, The Enchanted Island. There is controversy about it. Many European commentators didn’t like it, and kept complaining about singing in English these baroque arias. I found it spectacular, I loved the idea of a modern pastiche in English, going back to Baroque music. What were your memories of that? Is there a difference in the way you prepare a role in a pastiche and the way you prepare a role in one of the standard repertoire operas?

    LO – Yes, the preparation was a little different because it wasn’t an established piece. Everything was kind of tailored to the artist. I didn’t have any say in what I was singing, but the people with the bigger roles had more collaboration, being able to say “I want to sing this aria,” or “I don’t want to sing this one,” “this key is good for me,” things like that. As we were going, sometimes they would rewrite things. People would say, “you know, this recitative is not so comfortable for me, maybe we should rewrite it like that.” It was very much like working on a brand new piece. But at the same time, we were doing different, obviously established, composers so we had to remain respectful to the style. I loved the production, I thought it was fantastic and beautiful as well, I think it was gorgeous to watch and very fun to be a part of. The story was interesting and neat in the way it all came together. The cast was phenomenal. I really feel like it was one of the greatest successes we’ve ever had at the Met.

    OL - You have a wide-ranging repertoire, from Baroque roles to Wagner. How would you characterize your voice in terms of Fach – in what kind of role you feel most comfortable in terms of tessitura and agility?

    LO – I always say I’m a lyric coloratura. I’m not a straight coloratura because I don’t live in the extreme top. My voice can move, but I don’t think I’m a full lyric. Maybe not yet. I’m a lyric, but with coloratura. That’s what I think.

    OL - Two of the roles you’ve sung, Lucia di Lammermoor and Konstanze in The Abduction From the Seraglio, are both very demanding technically. Is Lucia the most difficult role you’ve sung so far? People say Mozart is honey for the voice but at times Mozart can also be quite difficult.

    LO – You know, Konstanze is more difficult to me than Lucia, because Lucia is bel canto. Not that Konstanze is not. “Everything is bel canto,” that’s what I say, or should be sung like bel canto. Lucia though, the way it is written, has more of an arc for the character to develop. It’s not as long a role as Konstanze. Konstanze’s arias are extremely difficult, all three of them. And she has the duet with Belmonte which is huge. Then, the quartet, which is also huge; it’s a big, big sing, and the orchestra is full blast. So I find Abduction’s Konstanze to be one of the most challenging roles in my repertoire.

    OL - In addition to appearing with several U.S. companies, you’ve also sung with the Welsh National Opera, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein at Duisburg, and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Do you plan to remain based in the United States, or are you seeking more career opportunities overseas? Is performing at other major international houses one of your goals?

    LO – I love living here. I want to stay based in New York when possible, but I definitely want to work in all of the great houses in Europe. My dream of course is to have a wonderful international career, and be able to sing in all the great houses; it would be a dream come true.

    OL - Zarzuela has been an important part of the culture in Spanish-speaking countries, with Plácido Domingo and Montserrat Caballé, among others, both singing zarzuela roles. Cuba has its own particular zarzuela tradition – and you won the Zarzuela Award at the 2007 Operalia competition. Would you like to make of Zarzuela a part of your career as it progresses, and to advocate for its diffusion especially in the United States?

    LO – It’s very hard to get the opportunity to do a Zarzuela here. I’m not a big enough star yet that I can say “I want to sing this Zarzuela in Miami, put it on for me.” If I were, then yes. Basically Plácido Domingo is the one who spearheads that repertoire here. Zarzuela is popular in Spain and in Cuba, and I would love to be able to do one, because I do feel like it’s a beautiful art form. Especially in major cities in the US that have a giant Spanish-speaking population, like Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, places with a huge Hispanic community – it would mean a lot to them. I do want to try it, later on. I have an interest, and people have asked me about it, “please sing Zarzuelas!”

    OL - In November, 2008, you participated in your first Lieder recital with the Met’s Chamber Ensemble performing Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes with James Levine and Daniel Barenboim. Do you plan to include more Lieder concerts in your schedule in the future?

    LO – Yes, I love German Lieder. I think that Lieder is very special. Right now I’m focusing a lot on opera but I do want to do more recitals because it’s very intimate, and in a lot of ways more challenging than singing an operatic role, because you don’t have the sets and the costumes and the acting to really distract people; it’s just you and the piano! Yes, I have done a very nice recital with Ken Noda playing the piano. I shared the recital with another singer, his name is Brian Mulligan and he is a baritone; it was for the George London Foundation. And that was very special. It takes a lot of preparation; it’s like preparing a role.

    OL – Yes, singers I interview often tell me it’s more difficult, because you don’t have an arc, you don’t have pauses to go off the stage for long stretches of an act, you have to mix different sub-genres and try to adapt your voice up and down, then it all gets to be more exhausting than singing a role in an opera.

    LO – Absolutely! When I did that recital, I did Bizet, some songs by Mozart, arias from La Sonnambula and Lucia, a lot of stuff, so, yes, it can be very tiring.

    OL - You’ve sung two leading roles, Gilda in Rigoletto, and Leïla in The Pearl Fishers, with the New Orleans Opera. It must have been a tremendous experience to go back and sing with your hometown company. What was it like when you came back there?

    LO – Easy! Wonderful! Not easy as in “I don’t care,” but easy as in “Oh so nice!” Because when you are at home everybody knows you, everybody grew up with you; you always have wonderful support. The New Orleans Opera has treated me so, so well! Even after the hurricane, right when I went there to do Rigoletto. We had a very limited kind of rehearsal space, and a small theater that was mopped up for us to work, but it was very touching.

    OL – How are things there, now? The main Performance Arts Center there, the Mahalia Jackson Theater, fortunately did not suffer a lot of damage, but economically there is a hit, as people dealing with the losses don’t have as much disposable income, the population of the city has decreased, and so forth.

    LO – They are better now, they are trying to keep their seasons going, but they don’t do as many operas year round. But they’ve been revamping their seasons. Now that they are back at the Mahalia Jackson they are doing a lot better.

    OL - The tenor Bryan Hymel, who is also from New Orleans, is making quite a name for himself as well. Have you and Mr. Hymel ever had an opportunity to meet?

    LO – Yes, I have met Bryan Hymel. That’s right! We’ve known of each other for many years, though I can’t say that I’m close to him because we’ve never had the opportunity to work together, but we study with the same teacher here in New York, Bill Schuman. So we run into each other, and he is doing so well, I’m so happy for him! He is a marvelous, marvelous singer, and a very nice guy, so I’m glad that he’s been so successful.

    OL - When you’ve been back in Louisiana, have you ever been able to stop by Baton Rouge to visit Louisiana State University, perhaps speak with some of the voice students there?

    LO – Yes, as a matter of fact I was there just a few months ago, giving a master class to some students and doing some small coachings. I have always taken voice lessons with my teacher there, Robert Grayson, and it’s always great to see him again and catch up; I love to go home any chance I get to see my family.

    Lisette giving a master class at LSU

    OL - Now that you’re well established in your career, what advice would you give those who are still studying? What are some of the things to which the young singers should pay particular attention? Well, I’m saying that, but you are also very young, you are thirty, right?

    LO – Twenty-nine, I’m not thirty yet! [laughs] Usually, it’s just giving them ideas about how to interpret whatever piece they are doing. Sometimes, I teach them concepts about breath support because what I’ve noticed with young singers is that they need to learn how to manipulate their breath so that it works for your singing – I still have this challenge too; we all do. I try to give them a little advice on how to sing with your breath without a lot of pressure on your voice. I also pay attention to language issues when I hear them.

    OL – What about career advice, and risks associated with it?

    LO – Yes, I often get a lot of questions about the career. I try to be very honest with them about what it is really like, in our world. It is extremely competitive. There is not a lot of work to go around and there are a lot of singers, all trying to get the same roles. I tell them about the risks of putting in a lot of work and not always being successful, but they need to always stay positive, always work hard, and never feel defeated or feel that you aren’t good enough. A singer will do a competition and not win and not ever know why. There are lots of factors. No one ever tells them, “you have a problem with your top” or “your voice is too small” or “you are too young” or “you are overweight” or “we don’t like the way you dressed today.” Rarely does a judge tell singers these things. So they go into it blind. They think they may have sounded great, but perhaps aren’t aware of the little things that can derail them. So it’s very important to be honest with them about what the issues are and how to fix them. Also what teh career is like financially...you don’t learn about that in college, so yes, I’m very real with them.

    OL – You were fortunate to have been to the Lindemann and all, but I was interviewing another young singer, Jessica Pratt from Australia who is having a nice career in Italy, and she was saying that these days there isn’t enough mentoring. You escaped this fate, but for others, often people are thrown in the fire by greedy agents who want them to make a splash and make some quick bucks but then their voices get damaged and they get discarded for the benefit of the next wave.

    LO – I think it’s like that in any business. It’s very cut-throat. And because we are singers, we are like athletes. You come in in your prime, you have a very good voice for a little while, you look great for a little while, and it is very much up to you, personally, to manage your voice. At the end of the day the only person who is responsible for it is you. You are the one who can say, “yes, I want to sing this role, but no, I don’t want to sing that role.” You have to be your best advocate all the time, and sometimes it means you must turn some things down, you have to put your tough shoes on and stand on your own, because a lot of people will try to manipulate you into doing things you know are not right, so you have to have good technique but also good understanding of your technique and who you are as an artist, and not let anybody mess with that.

    OL - Many of today’s stars mention great singers who were their role models when they were studying or beginning their careers. Did you or do you have a singer or singers whom you consider role models for your approach to singing, other than your mother?

    LO – Yes, there are a lot of singers today whom I adore. I love Renée Fleming. I think she is one of the most incredible artists alive, one of the most fabulous singers, and incredibly intelligent. She knows so many languages, she is marvelous. I love Natalie Dessay, there are things she does, when I watch her, that move me so deeply, more than any other artist. I love everybody. You can learn something from everyone. Of course I listen to Callas and I adore Callas, I listen to her interviews, how she thought about things, how she approached things, and Scotto, I can go on and on. [laughs]

    OL – Yes, and since you’ve been immersed in opera since age three, you were exposed to a lot of singers.

    LO – Absolutely!

    OL - You’re active on both Facebook and Twitter. How important are social media for your career?

    LO – Nowadays it is important because we are trying to build a younger fan base, get people exposed to opera from a younger age. The better you can do that, the better we will have people in the future coming to the opera and keeping it alive. And young people are so enthusiastic about opera, they really are! People send me messages every day about how much they loved the productions, or ask questions about something. Sometimes they are younger singers, sometimes they are audience members or fans. It is important to always remain open as an artist to younger singers because they look up to you, they want to pursue that, they get excited about it, they tell their friends, and that’s how you build fans. If you keep opera only in the theater, it becomes very closed; a very closed world, and we want to branch out.

    OL – What about outreach? With your background, you could be instrumental in addressing the Hispanic kids. In Venezuela, for example, there was a concerted movement to get disadvantaged kids who were involved in gangs, in touch with classical music, with wonderful results. Would you like to be involved in this kind of activism?

    LO – I haven’t had that opportunity yet, but when I was in Miami doing Pamina I participated in a lot of outreach, doing interviews and posting a lot of stuff in Twitter aimed at the young Hispanic community, although it wasn’t a lot of outreach like going to a school and doing a performance there. It hasn’t happened to me yet but I definitely believe in sharing with kids and with the younger community so that they see it is a safe and exciting place. In Miami they do invite students to the dress rehearsals, and the Met does that too, they invite kids to come to the final dress, which is huge, because sometimes it’s their first experience with opera ever. You don’t know who is in that audience – twenty years from now those kids could be running the Met. So yes, this kind of thing is extremely important.

    OL – How is this coming season shaping up for you?

    LO - This coming 2013-2014 season is one that I’m looking forward to greatly. I am making my debut with the Santa Fe Opera as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, as well as participating in two new productions at the Met, both of which will be featured in HD. The first is Falstaff, where I’ll be singing Nanetta; the second is Werther, where I’ll be Sophie. In addition, I’ll be performing in concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony in Carmina Burana, and will appear with the Washington Concert Opera in a single performance of Verdi’s I Masnadieri. This is a season I’m really looking forward to!

    OL – Besides opera and your family, what other interests do you have in life?

    LO – First of all I have my husband whom I love so much! I’m very active in health and fitness. I used to be very overweight and I came to the Met and found out that losing weight would help me a lot, so I began to go into a fitness and health journey that has lasted for many years. A lot of people asked me how could I do it, and how should they do it, and I’m actually part of a couple of groups on Facebook that are health groups for singers. We all contribute and share information, and that’s one thing I often get a lot of messages from young singers about – “I want to lose weight and I don’t know how; can you give me some advice?” Health and fitness are a big part of my life. I run Marathons, I’m a vegan on a 100% plant based diet, I practice Yoga; I have a very strong connection with health and fitness. That’s my other big thing.

    OL – There’s always a debate about looks in the current operatic environment but we do have some larger ladies who are able to have great careers, like Angela Meade and Leah Crocetto, who remain relevant in this Live in HD and Blu-Ray disc era even though the emphasis on looks has been so intense. A few decades ago ladies like Montserrat Caballé were loved by everybody in spite of their body weight. But some of the younger singers today are experiencing a lot of pressure around this issue. Do you think this new emphasis on looks and fitness is a good thing, or is it limiting the talent pool for opera, since genes that codify for a great vocal instrument don’t necessarily come together with genes that codify for great looks and a healthy body type.

    LO – I do feel like it is important. Even Pavarotti said this. Singers are athletes. When you are on stage and you are singing, it’s not just your voice, it’s your abdomen, it’s your entire body, you are moving around, you are getting up, you are sitting, you are going upstairs, you have to use your body. It’s not just about your voice. You have to use your face, you have to use your expression. When you are up there and you are overweight, it’s not just about how you look, it’s about how you feel. Even Callas said this; she was getting too heavy. If you are overweight it’s harder for you to climb upstairs, it’s harder for you to keep your breath calm. When you get nervous and you are heavy, your heart is beating out of your chest and you sweat and you get uncomfortable. You sweat through your costume. It’s not just about looking pretty. Looking pretty is fine, everyone loves to see someone beautiful on stage, we can’t say as an audience we don’t appreciate that, but also, it shouldn’t be beautiful people who can’t sing. Because we don’t want that either; I absolutely don’t agree with that at all. It’s very important that your voice be in tip-top condition first, absolutely, it’s the most important part. But you cannot neglect your health as a singer, because you are using your body. If you maintain a healthy lifestyle, you don’t get sick as often, you recover more quickly, you don’t sweat as much on stage, you are physically more agile and stronger, you are in a better mood, you are more confident, you sleep better, and all those are things that will boost your career. Fine, you look better too; yes, absolutely, you have better skin, you have healthier hair, whatever, all that is fine, yes, you look better. But absolutely, at the end of the day, your health is what makes of you the best singer that you can be, so don’t neglect that.

    OL – How are you as a person? How do you define your personality? Are you reserved, or outgoing? Would you share with our readers something on the person underneath the artist?

    LO – [laughs] Yes, I took one of these personality tests, the Myers Briggs, you know what that is?

    OL – Yes, I’m a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

    LO – Oh my God, that’s why you are asking this question! [laughs hard]. OK, here is what I am: I’m introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging.

    OL – Wow, I always ask this question in my interviews, and that’s the most precise answer to this question I’ve ever heard from a singer! [laughs]

    LO – [laughs hard] I think it’s very important every day to wake up and find a reason for happiness. I believe that happiness is a choice. Keeping a positive attitude is very important. I’m not always a happy-go-lucky but I try and make every effort to be happy.

    OL – Do you fear a bit that the meteoric success you’ve been having at such a young age might change too many aspects of your life, such as making family life more difficult and so forth?

    LO – That is true. It’s a big challenge. In fact I just had a conversation with my mother, who is here this weekend to see Rigoletto. Yes, it does take a toll on your routine – because you have no routine. You have no schedule. Every day you have a different set of things that you have to do. Sometimes you have to wake up in the morning and sing at 10 AM. Sometimes you have to sing at 11 PM. You have to maintain a certain look all the time, you have to maintain a certain persona. When you go to rehearsals you have to act professional, you can’t dress like a slob and go to a rehearsal, you have to maintain a certain level of integrity as a professional. And you have to find a way to balance your time, because if you just live and eat and breathe opera, and you only think about opera 24/7 which is very easy to do, you go crazy, because you have nothing else to share in your heart, except opera singing, and it can be very stressful because then everything becomes about your voice, 24/7. I never wanted that to happen to me. I always wanted to be free to express myself, because I’ve been singing like I said since I was three years old, it came naturally to me.

    OL – Some people will get into all sorts of rituals; they can’t do this or that because they will sing tonight. For you, it does seem like it comes more naturally, you’ve been doing it your entire life. So, you are granting us an interview just minutes before you’ll be singing on the Met stage. Most singers will say they won’t grant an interview right before a performance.

    LO – [laughs] Well, I have a very small part tonight [editor’s note – Ms. Oropesa was about to sing the wood bird in Siegfried]. If I were singing Gilda tonight, I’d have said that we needed to pick another time. But I can’t sit in bed and watch TV and wait for my performance. I do have a routine that I go through when I have something big and it is very stressful. Running and exercising help me a lot with managing stress. I’m very lucky that I have a wonderful partner in my life who has always been so supportive and loving. I’m never alone, I never travel alone, he always travels with me. I actually feel very blessed.

    OL – Good for you! Are you guys planning to have kids?

    LO – No! [laughs] Not yet!

    OL – Just like my daughter. I don’t have grandchildren, but I do have a grand cat. She has cats.

    LO – You have a grand cat! I love it!

    OL – Thank you so much! This was really a lovely interview!

    LO – Thank you! Thank you so much!


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