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Interview with … Lisette Oropesa

Interview with … Lisette Oropesa

With her luminous voice, her stunning coloraturas and her magnetic presence on stage, Lisette Oropesa now triumphs throughout the most important Opera houses.

Paris will have the opportunity to welcome her twice this season at the Opéra de Paris. In a few days, she sings Marguerite de Valois in a new production of Les Huguenots ; and then, she will be Adina in l’Elisir d’amore in the acclaimed production of Laurent Pelly.

Can you tell us about what decided you to sing and about your debut ?

Yes, I grew up with music my whole life because my mom was a singer.  My sisters and I always sang at home in harmonies and it was really fun and a beautiful part of my home. I also grew up playing the flute and wanted to be a flutist, and go to school to study the instrument.  But when I went to college I auditioned for the voice faculty because my mom told me she thought I should give it a try, so to please her I went for it. I also auditioned for the flute faculty and was accepted by both.  But eventually I had to choose one and voice was the bigger gift, so I went with it 100% and now I am very happy I made that choice !

My professional debut was at the Metropolitan Opera, in a small role in Idomeneo, a Cretan Woman. It’s a quartet of people that sings a lovely presentational hymn to the king. My major role debut was one year later at the Met, when I was covering Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, and ended up going on for 5 performances.  It was an incredible boost in my life and an experience I will never forget !

You are about to sing Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots at the Opéra de Paris. How do is it feel being part of this huge production ?

Of course it is all very exciting and I am quite nervous. But the main feeling I have is gratitude because this engagement means a great deal to me. I had to move mountains also to make it work, by learning the role in less than a week, changing my schedule for a month, rebooking flights and disappointing a few people along the way. It is not easy to just jump in to a new production in Paris, or anywhere for that matter. There is a lot of scrambling that is going on behind the scenes. But I’m glad I was able to learn the role and begin the rehearsals with this amazing cast !

You sang this summer at the Pesaro Festival in a quite rare Rossini’s Opera (Adina). Is it important for you to promote this less known part of the belcanto repertoire ?

I was honored to be invited to sing Rossini in his home town of Pesaro. Of course, one always wants to do a good job with Rossini, no matter the work, because there is a lot of expectation from audiences at this Festival. I felt very happy to have a chance to sing a role that was the title, but also was a one act opera that the action was concentrated into. It was so fun ! We really had a wonderful time staging and working on the piece musically, discovering it all together. That’s one of the best things about lesser known works.

I would love to find more rare belcanto, and there have been a few opportunities floating about. The difficult thing is deciding if a role is appropriate for you or not, because there aren’t a lot of clues if there are few recordings, and the scores that exist are either very old or very new. I am lucky to be good friends with several musicologists and bel canto specialists, whom I reach out to on a regular basis for expert advice.

You speak French. Where did you learn it and do you like to sing French operas ?

Merci beaucoup ! I took French in school growing up in Louisiana, but I also dedicated some time to learning it when I was in the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Program. One summer I came to Paris and studied for 3 weeks at the École Suisse, a foreign language school, and I think my French improved a great deal.  Now I will be in Paris for 3 months so I really hope it gets even better.

Would you like to sing more baroque music, or with period instruments ?

I do enjoy a lot of baroque music and sometimes I swear Handel is my favorite composer. But I don’t know that I would call myself a baroque specialist ; there is a lot of music that I sing and baroque is one of the genres that I have had the chance to explore, but perhaps not specialize in. That said, I’m looking forward to improving and learning the style more and more as I take on new roles. I can’t wait to sing Rodelinda this winter with the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

What are your main projects today and which roles would you like to sing in the future

My main projects are probably the major new roles I’m doing this season, which include Marguerite de Valois (Les Huguenots) and Adina (L’Elisir d’amore) in Paris, Rodelinda in Barcelona, and Isabelle (Robert le diable) at La Monnaie in Brussels.  I am also excited for the new production I have in Rome as Gilda (Rigoletto) and my appearances in the United States, as Norina (Don Pasquale) in Pittsburgh, and Leïla (Les Pêcheurs de perles) in Santa Fe.

Which artists would you like to work with ?

I am lucky to have already worked with some of the most incredible artists in the world. At the moment I’m in Paris working with Ermonela Jaho, whom I consider to be one of the greatest actresses in the world. I’m also fortunate to be working with Bryan Hymel, a tenor of immeasurable gifts also from Louisiana ! And Maestro Mariotti is simply one of the best musicians and conductors I have ever worked with.

It is hard to top artists like these, and I truly feel honored. Of course it would be a dream to sing with some other conductors whom I admire such as Gustavo Dudamel, Riccardo Muti, and Philippe Jordan. I have worked with Maestro Jordan in the past, he conducted my big debut as Susanna at the Met and he was wonderful. That was over 12 years ago ! There are many singers that I admire and perhaps too many to name, so I will just say one name.  It would be a treat to work with Ludovic Tézier again. He sang the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro with me those 12 years ago and he was amazing then and still is amazing now.

Apart from music, do you have any hobby ?

Many !  I love to run and cook, we are vegan and love making our meals at home. I love French wine especially Burgundy, and we enjoy hiking and the outdoors. I love going to national parks and spending time in the vast wilderness. It always puts me back in touch with what is important.  I also enjoy reading, and playing my flute still, from time to time.

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