Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and pursue a career in music?
I’ve always been a singer, as my whole family is full of musicians of different types. I knew music was my journey but wasn’t sure how exactly to focus it; I wanted to be a singer/songwriter for a while, then a flutist, and now I’m really glad that I began to pursue a career in opera.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My mom was/is a beautiful singer and she really was the foundation who set the example of great singing for me. My music teachers throughout life, and my band directors when I played the flute, all influenced me heavily and taught me music formally, including how to read and write it, how to interpret, and how to express. I’m forever grateful for those formative years. Paul Taranto, Jill Swetnam, and Pam Chaffin were the biggest stars in my young life.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
At first it was tough moving to NYC to be a young artist at the Met, and get used to the new vibe in the big city. I had to learn to swim or I would sink! But those years in my early 20s were the most powerful years of training I could ever imagine, and I learned so much. The next big challenge came around the time of my international debut, when my first manager’s office was cut from his agency, and my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness which took his life quite suddenly. It was a hard time for me, I had just gotten engaged to my fiancé and without his support I don’t know how I would have gotten through it. Since then of course challenges come and go and there are too many to name, but those were the biggest ones.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I am always criticizing my own performances pretty harshly but honestly I feel like this past year I have been singing my best. My debut as Ophélie in 2017 was so well received and I really felt like I had a break through both musically and interpretively. It was the first time I had had a major success in a big coloratura role. Then my subsequent debut at Glyndebourne as Norina was such a positive boost for me, followed by my Royal Opera House debut as Lucia, which was the best professional success I think I have ever had. So I’d say 2017 for me was a landmark year!
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
In my heart I feel like I shine the most in bel canto lyric coloratura parts. Lucia, Elisir, Fille du Regiment, along those lines. Oddly enough, these are the ones I am only just now starting to sing all year round. And there are several that I’d love a chance to sing, and hope to very soon. I also love singing in French and there are many roles I’d love to explore in that repertoire as well. The opportunities are presenting themselves, and I am so happy.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I really think that casting is more out of my hands than in it, but when I do well in a role somewhere, generally chances are I’ll get an offer to do it again someplace else, and so the most important thing I can do is decide what to say “no” to. There are a few roles I’ve been offered that are too high, or too heavy, or that I don’t feel ready for yet, and that’s when I have to rely on my instincts, about whether or not to accept something. If there’s something I’d like to sing, I do suggest it to my managers, and they do their best to find the opportunity for me.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I really enjoyed singing in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. What an incredibly beautiful hall, magnificent orchestra, and fabulous acoustic!
Who are your favourite musicians?
The ones that learn their music.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
The excitement and panic of singing the super exposed and challenging Mater Gloriosa in Mahler’s 8th symphony in concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin. It was only two lines of music but I was sweating bullets!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
If you feel like there’s still room to grow and you are always striving for better, and you are actually happy and enjoying the process, then you are succeeding. It’s not an arrival point. It’s a journey.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
As Americans, I think our singers always do wonderfully when their language skills outside of singing are strong. If you can carry a conversation in the language of the country you are in, you engage in different ways with your international colleagues and make some long lasting relationships. It adds another layer that I think makes a huge difference in your rapport with everyone at whatever company you are at.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Hopefully with a healthy voice, and still singing.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I have it already every time I wake up next to the love of my life.
What is your most treasured possession?
My flute from my student years.
What is your present state of mind?
I’m getting excited about the future and trying not to get overwhelmed. I’m often engaging in monkey-mind, but always trying to return to the present.
Lisette Oropesa will be making her role debut as Eurydice in the French version of Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice” with the Los Angeles Opera and James Conlon, in a new production directed and choreographed by John Neumeier, opening on the 10th of March.
Other season engagements include “Rigoletto” at LA Opera, “Lucia di Lammermoor” at Teatro Real, “Adina” in the Rossini Opera Festival, and “La Traviata” at the Teatro La Fenice.