Our summer season starts this Sunday at The Paramount Theater with Così fan tutte! Featured in Così is Cassandra Zoe Velasco, a Mexican opera star who will perform Dorabella. Velasco is said to have an “authentic mezzo voice, with warm and dark color” and has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, as well as in Mexico, China, and Europe. We sat down with Velasco and talked about her experience at the Met, her relationship with Maestro Placido Domingo, and more!
Tell us about your work these last few seasons at the Metropolitan Opera!
I did my Metropolitan Opera debut in January 2015 at the beautiful production of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta with the wonderful soprano Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala and Maestro Valery Gergiev! It was a dream for me, because since I started my career the idea of working with that company was one of my biggest dreams, as was sharing the stage with Anna, who is a big inspiration for me. I feel very grateful to the Metropolitan Opera because since then, they have invited me to sing at the production of Madama Butterfly and Simon Boccanegra (2016). I also had the honor of learning from Maestro Levine and of singing with Maestro Placido Domingo for a third consecutive time. I´ll be back at the Metropolitan in 2017 as one of the nymphs in Rusalka and I will also sing at their production of Mozart’s Idomeneo.
You were a member of Placido Domingo’s Young Artist Program at the Los Angeles Opera and participated in his international competition, Operalia. As a fellow Mexican, has Mo. Domingo been inspirational in your career?
I feel that I am a very lucky singer. I did Operalia in China when I was 22 years old and I was looking for the opportunity to study outside of my country, Mexico. The experience in Operalia was one of the most important moments of my life, because it gave me the opportunity to hear the voices of other young singers around the world, the excellence and perfection in them. It made me know how important having an agent, speaking other languages and being a true artist on stage are, and how important is to share your heart through our voice. I had lots of dreams and my dear Maestro Domingo gave me the biggest opportunity of my life: he chose to believe in my voice and invited me to be one of the young artists at LA Opera, where I learned how it is to be in one of the most important companies of the world, how it is to work with wonderful coaches, directors and conductors. I basically learned how to be a singer in the United States, because my experience at that time was in Mexico and Europe. I will always be grateful to Maestro Placido because he gave me the biggest prize: education. It is because of him that my life changed, it is sad to accept that in my country the opportunities are very limited and being a singer is very hard… sometimes an artist only needs the impulse of an “angel” and Maestro Domingo is that angel for lots of artists. Of course he is one of my biggest examples as an artist and as a human being.
There are so many successful Mexican and Hispanic opera singers — do you think there are similarities among Hispanic singers?
Yes, it is possible that we have a particular sound, but I think the success is more about the temperament and the passion in the voice. We grow up with music, in my case with Zarzuela and traditional Mexican music, in Mexico everyone sings and the music is part of our culture and language. When I am in Italy I have the same sensation as when I am in my country and the same happens when I am in Spain, we share a lot of story and traditions. I also think that as foreign singers, we have only one opportunity to show what is special and unique in us and it is necessary to be ready to do our best, especially because we are far away from what is familiar and we need to make the distance from our people and our home worth it.
You sing so much Italian music from Rossini to Puccini. Does Mozart offer its own particular challenges?
I enjoy singing Mozart a lot, he is a composer that provides a lot of knowledge for my instrument. The clean lines that he wrote, his intelligent ability to create beautiful and healthy music for our voices is magnificent, it’s an experience that helps my voice relax and to grow as a singer. I know that my voice is healthy if I am able to sing his music. It also helps me to mature as an artist, because Mozart’s music is so human, his characters are very complex and his orchestration provides all the information that I need to create an interesting role. I also admire how we can play with his music and put the stories in his period or in ours and the stories are still fun and interesting for everyone. In his music we have the fireworks and also beautiful peaceful moments to sigh in and to become more than an instrument.
Photos from top
Thaïs at the LA Opera
Headshot by Ana Lourdes Herrera
Thaïs at the LA Opera with Placido Domingo
With Anna Netrebko in Iolanta at the Metropolitan Opera