Known for her vivid portrayals, LISETTE OROPESA has achieved worldwide acclaim for her seamless vocal technique, expressive musicality, linguistic affinity, and stylistic integrity. A notable Violetta, her most recent performances of La Traviata have been at the Metropolitan Opera House, Teatro Real, Gran Teatro del Liceu, Opera Roma and Arena di Verona. Lisette has also triumphed as Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Kostanze in Die Enthührung aus dem Serail, Manon in Massenet’s work, Rodelinda and Queen Marguerite in Les Huguenots. Lisette was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Cuban parents, and played the flute for 12 years and she began her studies in vocal performance at Louisiana State University. After winning the Met Opera National Council Auditions, she entered the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and moved to New York City. She sang her first major role, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, at the Met at the age of 22, and has sung there in over 100 performances in many different roles since. She has appeared in concert halls and opera stages all over the world since graduating from the young artist program in 2008, and has become one of the most celebrated singers of her generation, both for her singing and her inspiring personal story. Lisette is a devoted runner who has completed 6 marathons and is an advocate for health and fitness.
Lisette, first of all, thank you very much for having accepted my invitation! OPERA Charm Magazine feels honoured to have the chance to chat with you.
Thank you for the invitation!
The last two months, since we’ve met in Parma, have been quite busy for you. You had your debut at Teatro Regio & at Festival Verdi alongside the musicologist Francesco Izzo, the Scientific Director of the Festival itself, as your pianist and I’d like to start our conversation from that moment: the main aspect that the audience noticed during this performance, apart your incredible charm, was the adaptability of your voice through all kinds of repertoire and a particular music intelligence in managing to use your phrase in order to express a wide pallet of emotions – no one gets bored with you on stage! What’s the story behind this recital and what about the famous public of great connoisseurs of Teatro Regio?
I feel like even though there are always connoisseurs among Italian audiences, and among opera audiences in general, there is still always more repertoire that most people will not know, at least in the context in which it is presented. Francesco Izzo is not only a brilliant musicologist, he is a dear friend, and we have been planning this program for over a year. We purposely sought out pieces that were not the most well known, or perhaps the first which come to mind when a composer’s name, for example Luigi Arditi, is mentioned. But we also were not trying to be pretentious about recital! Our main focus was to construct a program around the idea of an evening in a house concert, or a salon, in the era of Verdi. For this, one needs to find pieces that maybe are one-off compositions, perhaps written in the spur of the moment for a patron or singer. There are several art songs by Verdi that are short, musical snapshots of a moment in time, and these make for a beautiful set surrounded by the more illustrious dance pieces, such as the Arditi waltz “Les belles Viennoises,” which had never to my knowledge been presented in performance, at least not in recent years! This was an era of lavish balls and also intimate salon gatherings. It was nice to keep the social gathering aspect in perspective when we planned this concert. And I think after what the world has been through these past two years, it is even more meaningful to be able to present this recital in person to a live audience of people who truly appreciate it.
Speaking of flexibility, after La Traviata at Royal Opera House, you turned back to Italy for – surprise – Händel’s Theodora, with Il pomo d’oro led by Maxim Emelyanychev & a dream cast: Joyce DiDonato (Irene), Michael Paul Spyres (Septimius), John Chest (Valens) and Paul-Antoine Bénos-Dijan (Didymus). What’s your relationship with the Baroque music and what are the main technical changes, if there are any, that you do when you have to go back in time from Verdi to Händel?
I have always felt that Händel was the first composer of bel canto. His use of accompanied recitativo, aria, largo, and allegro in relationship to a character’s emotion is truly masterful. As a singer, I always find his music enriching to sing because it doesn’t feel far from Bellini or the opere serie of Rossini. There is the pull of the phrase, the arch of the line, the legato singing and the fioratura, always driven by an emotional purpose; there is variation and ornamentation, and there is drama. So maybe there is less portamento and vibrato than you may hear in Italian opera? Fine. But the point is, there are endless elements of expression, which is the key to great bel canto singing. And the building blocks of that style of music are already there with Händel. So yes, it’s a few more steps away from Verdi when it comes to the weight of the voice, tbe style of ornamentation, the fullness of the orchestra, the tuning, and the tradition that is expected. But there are many foundational elements that are part of the structure, and more importantly there is an emotional drive that is constant, and this is why I feel inspired when I sing this music.
Read the entire interview here, in the 7th/2021 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.0