Before the lights come up at some of the world’s biggest opera houses, you can hear Isabel Leonard‘s voice backstage. But you won’t catch her singing a tune from her wide classical repertoire, ranging from Mozart to Poulenc. She’s singing lullabies to her son over the phone.
“My son is older now and his new question is, ‘Mama, when are you gonna stay at home and work here forever?’” Leonard told me. “It’s like someone stabs me with a knife! I think he gets that Mama has to work. If you were to ask me what the most important thing in my life is, I’d say it’s my son and my work, because work is how I can give everything to my son.”
Luckily for the New York-based Leonard, she’s found a healthy amount of work between both Manhattan and Philadelphia for the next several months, which is much, much easier on the commute compared to flying half-way round the world. She just finished a stint as Rosina in The Barber of Seville at The Met Opera (and will soon return there to reprise Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro in late February). For now, the down-to-earth diva is here in Philly, prepping for the East Coast premiere of Cold Mountain, a project that she’s been involved with since the concept was first announced at a press conference at the Santa Fe Opera.
“I remember going up to Jennifer Higdon and introducing myself,” she recalled. “I knew Gene Scheer, and I just had a feeling about this piece, that it was going to be something great. I knew Higdon’s choral music, and I knew Gene was going to write an incredible libretto because that is what he does.”
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