Last season you made your house debut in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Carmen in the role of Frasquita. This summer you make Central City Opera debut as Micaëla. What is it like to do the same opera, but a different character? What does it take to make the role fresh? How do you prepare a new role and how is this different from a repeat role?
My debut at the Met as Frasquita in their new production of Carmen starring Elina Garança was an amazing experience. Making my debut as Micaëla with Central City feels wonderful. Micaëla is a role that I really love and it's very special for me because it was my professional stage debut at Florida Grand Opera in 2000.
Even if it was the same character, any role changes a little bit, depending on the production, your director and your mood. It's an ever growing and changing experience; that's the joy of live theater. To do a new role, I believe that going into my own life experiences and bringing a little bit more of myself into a role helps me make it fresh and more interesting each time I sing it. Since our lives change day to day, year to year, why not these characters that we sing of? I start with the text and find every inflection and decide how to sing each phrase. As stated before, I think about the things in my life that can help me create a connection to the character by bringing out more of my own life into it. For example, Micaëla is a girl of strong faith in God. Recently I've been experiencing a tough moment in my life that has made me reach out to God more. When I will sing Micaëla's aria in Act III, I'll think of how I've asked for protection in my moments of need, too.
When doing a repeat role I feel more at ease and relaxed. A new role takes a lot of getting used to. Not only are you learning but you also have to get it in your voice. With a role you know already, that long process is over. You can just focus on character, text, and having fun with it.
Many of our readers are young, sometimes aspiring singers; tell us about your reaction when you were named a National Grand Finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2001?
Singing at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions was a wonderful experience. The Metropolitan Opera is one of the greatest companies in the world and their audition/competition gives the opportunity to open many doors for young singers because it's so popular. Also the sheer joy of singing on that stage with that orchestra is unforgettable.
As I read reviews about your singing career and personal story, I am struck by the connection you make to your Cuban heritage. You immigrated to the United States of America as a child in 1980 via the Mariel Boatlift. Could you tell us about your memories of that experience?
I was a small child when I came to America with my family and while I do remember a lot, there are many things that I don't. All I can say is that I thank God I was a child when I came with my parents because my parents were my age now when they did it with two young kids. They had guts and determination. They are my heroes. And I will forever be thankful to them and this country for giving me all these opportunities I now have. What do you do before a performance? Have you developed any special routines or habits? I really don’t have any special routines or habits. I just take it easy, drink lots of water and look forward to singing. I really love what I do.
The article is included in the 2011 Opera Insider (Festival Resource Guide) - pdf created by Central City Opera's Education & Community Programs Department, and the interview was conducted by Deven Shaff, Coordinator of Education & Community Programs. Check out many more insider interviews and background on all of the main stage operas this summer.