What inspired you to become an opera singer?
I grew up listening to classical music. My parents put me to study piano when I was 11 years old. Since I was a little child I knew I wanted to be a musician. When I turned 14 I decided to join a local choir in the little town I grew up in the south of Brazil. Singing was such a natural thing for me that I fell in love with it immediately. At age 15 I auditioned for the Opera Chorus of the capital city of my state, about one and a half hours away from our house. I was blessed to be accepted since the minimum age required was 18. My first opera was “Die Zauberflote” (The magic flute) by Mozart. When I first heard Tamino’s aria: “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schoen” I immediately fell in love with opera. I remember my thoughts as tears rolled down my cheeks: “I want to do this for the rest of my life…” I was only 15!
While I respect many genres, I think of opera as the Olympics of singing. Do you believe that singing this music takes more commitment than other genres?
Absolutely. I have sung other genres and can speak from experience. Opera demands great body and mental conditioning. We not only have to master a great vocal technique in order to sustain demanding singing for long periods of time but we also have to act and move on the stage while doing that. I am not saying that other genres do not require training and conditioning. However, as you already said, Opera requires total devotion from us as if we were training athletes.
How important do you think a formal music education is to those who wish to pursue a career in opera?
Since formal education has been my only experience in pursuing my craft, it is difficult for me speak about other forms of training. There have been cases of singers who had great careers and did not have formal education in a university or conservatory. However, it is important to keep in mind the fact that formal education is not only expected these days, but in many cases it is even mandatory. Several competitions, young artist programs and also singer’s management agencies do not even listen to you if you do not have a background of formal education in your resume. Therefore, I do believe it is a very important factor to consider when wishing to enter the opera field.
I’ve watched you completely transform into your character when you sing onstage. How do you prepare for a role?
As you already know I am still in the very early stages of my career. With five fully staged operas on my belt all I can say at the moment is that the most important thing is to know your text and the overall story very well. Then, I try to picture myself “Cristina Piccardi” (not the role I am playing) in such situations, and from there I try to imitate reality. Once I know how I feel about the story and the scene, I then make sure I speak the words and don’t just go through the motions. It is very easy to get caught up in the music or the technique. One must focus on the words and really MEAN them while singing.
What is your favorite role you’ve performed so far, and which one would you most like to perform in the future?
So far Gilda from Rigoletto by Verdi. My dream role is Amina from La Sonnambula by Bellini. I love the music, the story and her character as well.
What are your favorite languages to sing in?
ITALIANO, of course.
What are your thoughts about modern staging of operas? Do you approve?
Honestly, I don’t feel like I have to approve it or not. It is the times we are living in. If we want opera to survive, it has to reach the younger generation. The stories have to make sense in the world we are living now. Most plots could actually happen today, right here. There is nothing wrong with modernizing the stage and the costumes. The only problem is when it deviates so much from what the author wanted that the meaning gets lost. It is a fine line and we have to be careful to find the right balance. Also, lowering the cost of massive expensive productions would help opera companies to continue in business.
Which singers do you enjoy listening to?
So many… Pavarotti is my favorite at all times. From the older generation I listen to Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Edita Gruberova. Renata Scotto, etc. Of this generation, Diana Damrau, Jonas Kaufmann and many others.
Your first CD “Rejoice in the Lord” came out in 2008. What was that experience like and can we expect more recordings from you in the future?
The experience was great. Expensive and tiring, but great! After inverting so much time and effort in preparation it is always a good thing to listen to an older recording of my singing and be able to enjoy it and at the same time measure the progress as I compare it with how I am singing at the moment.
I definitely hope to record more. Every artist should. It is wonderful to be able to capture great moments of our lives and art which would have been forever lost if not recorded. It is also a great gift to others, specially future generations.
Also, it is a rewarding thing to hear from local people many years later: “I was just listening to your singing on my cd player the other day and I was so blessed!”
Competitions are an important part of getting noticed for an emerging artist such as yourself. How do you prepare yourself mentally for that kind of pressure?
Competitions are very important for those planing to embrace this career. It does not only force you to strive for vocal excellence but it also helps in preparing for the actual role auditions.
Competitions are always tough… Actually, singing in a production with colleagues, a stage, props, and specially without the pressure of being analyzed in every aspect by a panel of judges who may or may not pick you (talk about pressure), is always easier and definitely more enjoyable. I believe most singers do much better when performing than when auditioning. It is just an enormous amount of pressure that one has to go through.
In my preparation I try to avoid thinking of all I have just mentioned above. Focus on the music, interpretation and try to forget the panel in front of you. I like the idea of singing to God to bless the ones hearing, as if offering them a gift. Or, as my voice teacher Charles Reid says: “Do not put all your eggs in one basket; remember…it is just another audition, that is all”.
What challenges have presented themselves to you as a woman of faith in the music business?
I have not found any challenge in the opera field that I have experienced in my other circles of interaction. Our faith is challenged and
we are faced with temptations everywhere we go. The difference is how spiritually prepared I am when facing them and not where I am.
So far my greatest challenge has been being away from my husband. I miss him a lot when I am away and wish I could always have him by my side. However, it is part of the package/deal. All I can do is to make sure I keep nurturing the relationship every day, as much as I can, so that we don’t grow apart from each other.
As a voice teacher yourself, what advice would you give aspiring singers?
If this is really what you think you were born to do and that God has given you a unique gift to share with the world, go for it, dive in full force. Don’t waist you time; work hard and be diligent. As long as you are not sinning God will be with you and will use you mightily to bless many people whom your life example may be the only bible they will ever read in their lives.