Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra spring season welcomes home opera singer Lisette Oropesa

She’s been around the world, performing everywhere from the Met in New York City to Italy’s ancient Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Now, prolific soprano Lisette Oropesa is returning to her hometown April 14 to perform with BRSO. With a full year of concerts awaiting her, we checked in with Oropesa between her travels.

What have you been up to lately?

I just returned from Rome, Italy, where I made my debut as a singer in Italy. I sang [Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem in D minor, Op. 48], which is a very beautiful mass and a beautiful solo for soprano. It was very well received, and they loved me! Now I’ve got some music to prepare for doing concerts in the spring.

You spend so much of your year traveling and performing—how much time do you get to spend back home in Baton Rouge?

Very little. Throughout the entire year, I spend maybe a total of two months in Baton Rouge. More often than not, I’m not actually home.

How does it feel to do a homecoming show like this one with BRSO?

It’s really exciting! I haven’t sung with Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra ever. I sang in choruses that worked with BRSO when I was really young, and I was in band growing up, so I’ve probably worked with some of the members, so that’s about the association I’ve had with BRSO. It’s my first time being invited to do something like this. It does feel like coming home, but it also feels like a first time.

What are your favorite cities you’ve visited while touring?

Some of my cities are really the obvious ones—Paris, New York is fantastic, San Francisco is beautiful. My favorite city in entire the world, though, is Amsterdam. It’s the Venice of the north and probably the most charming, amazing, gorgeous city we’ve ever visited.

Sounds like you’re living the dream.

Yes! Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and I’m like, ‘Where am I? Are we in Chicago? No, are we in Pittsburgh?’ Sometimes you literally forget. You’re always sleeping in a different bed, and the jet lag can get rough sometimes, but it’s just something you learn to love. If you don’t love traveling, you won’t love this job.

Having experienced so many other cities, how do you feel about the arts and music scene back home?

I went to LSU, and the School of Music there, their voice department has always been very, very strong. A couple of months ago, I actually got to go back to LSU and lead some classes there, and I got to hear a lot of the current crop of students. And the group that I heard was extraordinary. It’s still a great school and a great place to go and study, because the staff really cares about the students.

You come from this Louisiana history, and you’re also Cuban-American. How do you bring that blend of cultures into your opera performances?

Being Cuban is something I can’t hide about myself no matter how hard I try. I grew up in a bilingual house. I always spoke Spanish, and I’ve always been very interested in language. In Louisiana, we grew up learning French in schools. And one of the big, big, big keys to being an opera singer is being able to communicate in many languages—not just singing but also speaking because you’re visiting foreign countries for a big chunk of your time. So being bilingual has always been an advantage for me, because I’m open to other languages and other cultures and other backgrounds.

My family came here in ’68 as refugees, so I feel a very great appreciation and respect for having been born in this country as a first-generation American, because I’m lucky. If my family had stayed in Cuba, I would never have had these opportunities. Every time I perform somewhere new and I get a compliment and I get another job, there’s this huge sense of gratefulness for the sacrifice my family made to come here. So I bring a sense of that to what I do.

Tell us about what you’ll be performing with BRSO.

It’s Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor, which is one of his great masterpieces. The melodies are extraordinary. It’s a mass text, so it’s a religious text. It’s what a typical mass is, with five movements. The text is very beautiful, and if you’re a Catholic person or even an Episcopalian person, you follow this structure in your church service, so even though it’s all sung in Latin, you will recognize the translation as what you do in church throughout your service.

It’s mainly chorus—and it’s a stunning chorus because Mozart was an absolutely masterful writer—and then some solos. I have—the soprano has—a really gorgeous solo aria, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever sung. Mozart is a challenge for any musician, but it’s like medicine. It’s one of those things that’s really good for you. … It’s stunningly gorgeous.

The Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra performs at the Rural Life Pops event in 2014 at the Rural Life Museum.
The Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra performs at the Rural Life Pops event in 2014 at the Rural Life Museum.

Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra prepares for an eventful season

The men and women of Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra have been rosining their bows and tuning their timpani ahead of a spring season packed with performances. Whether it’s transforming the soundtrack of Finding Nemo or welcoming the Grammy-winning Renee Fleming, the busy calendar leaves little room for dull moments.

Take a look ahead into the upcoming season, and add a little art to your spring schedule. brso.org


Beyond Mozart
White Oak Plantation, 4-8 p.m.

The season tunes up with a fundraiser dinner for the symphony with Chef John Folse in the kitchen. The chef will emcee the evening of auctions, dining and the music of Mozart.


Return to Baroque
Location TBA, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

From its 18th-century heyday to more familiar modern cadences, the music of the Baroque period finds new life in this concert, curated and performed by the symphony orchestra’s principal wind quintet.


The Viennese School: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven
Baton Rouge River Center Theatre, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Our hometown girl and internationally renowned soprano Lisette Oropesa lends her voice to this show, featuring the works of three of iconic composers.


PIXAR in Concert
Baton Rouge River Center Theatre, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

PIXAR’s 13 beloved films, from Toy Story to Up, come together with live orchestral performances of each film’s memorable music. Associate Conductor David Torns brings these cinematic worlds into reach with another installment of BRSO’s Family Pops series.


Rural Life Pops
LSU Rural Life Museum, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

On the lawn of the LSU Rural Life Museum, BRSO will queue up the fourth annual installment of Rural Life Pops. This year’s performers hadn’t been announced as of press time, but previous headliners for this symphony-meets-pop show include American Idol alums and Broadway star Ana Adracain.

MAY 13

Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation Great Performers in Concert Series
Baton Rouge River Center Theatre, 8-10 p.m.

One of BRSO’s biggest nights of the year, this gala will bring to Baton Rouge four-time Grammy-winning soprano Renee Fleming to take the stage with the full orchestra. Tickets range from a $37 admission fee to a $195 deluxe package.


Country Roots
Baton Rouge River Center Theatre, 3-9 p.m.

The Family Pops series continues with BRSO backing up rising country stars Rachel Potter and Patrick Thomas as they pay tribute to greats of the genre, including Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Hank Williams.