Author | Photo Rebecca Fay

Jazz Singer Turned Opera Star: Leah Crocetto

Soprano Leah Crocetto is making her Toronto debut as the female lead, Anna, in Rossini’s Maometto II this May. She also used to sing in NYC nightclubs before switching to opera full time. We chatted with Leah about Anna, her operatic pet peeves, and makeup (she’s a makeup fanatic).

What do you love/loathe about your character, Anna?

Anna is truly a pillar of strength. There is nothing I loathe about her, except maybe her choice in men! She fell in love with the wrong guy and did everything she could to try and make it work. The relationship she has with Maometto is steamy and short-lived, even though she loves him until the very end.

She makes many incredibly difficult choices in this opera. Anna decides the only way to save her father, her betrothed, and country is by ending her life, which is a great sacrifice. I also think David Alden has created one of the most intense and moving death scenes in all of opera with this production.

Can you walk me through a typical day in your life?

If there is an afternoon rehearsal, I wake up at 9:30am, make my coffee, feed my little doggie Ernie (he’s a Maltese), and chase him around a little. I wash my face…currently using Sunday Riley products (obsessed with those!) and sit with my computer and do any busywork I need to get done that day, and might also have Netflix running in the background. Then I grab my protein shake and head out the door for rehearsal, or to the gym if I have a free day.

If it’s a performance day I take Ernie for a walk and then come back and review my score for the show that night. Typically I sing every day even if I don’t have rehearsal, but sometimes, with an opera like Maometto II, I take silent days to protect my vocal cords. I head to the theatre a couple hours beforehand to get into hair and makeup (the team is amazing here at COC). I warm up and get into costume, they call places, and away I go! Once Anna opens her mouth, she does not stop singing the entire night, so pacing is key! This show is very special to me and I always want to give it my all.

If it is not a performance day, I usually study the score of the next production in my schedule (I’m currently preparing to sing Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at Santa Fe Opera). If you are lucky enough to be in a show with some of your best friends, as we are in this production, we will have a meal together, catch up on our days, and laugh a lot. It is wonderful getting to make music with your friends!

What are your opera-related pet peeves?

Sometimes there is a misconception that opera singers simply “park and bark” and don’t offer anything in the way of acting or stage presence, aside from singing. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In addition to training our voices in a very specific way, we all learn the craft of acting – in school, from directors, and observing and working with our fellow artists.

Opera has been around for more than 400 years, and many of the emotions you’ll see and hear coming from the stage – jealousy, lust, rage, heartbreak – resonate just as much today as they did when opera was first created. Our job as singers is to create an atmosphere that allows the audience to experience those emotions right along with us, and a lot of that comes from our acting!

What do you miss about singing jazz in night clubs?

There was never a shortage of interesting personalities in the jazz world, but singing in night clubs is a difficult life – one that I truly do not miss. I love my life now and wouldn’t trade it for anything!

How are opera are jazz similar?

Of all the genres in opera – verismo, bel canto, classical – bel canto is the most like jazz. A lot of people think bel canto is a really strict style, but in the end you are expected to perform variations on the repeats. As long as you meet the conductor at the end – within reason of course – anything goes!

What is your idea of a perfect Saturday?

My perfect Saturday is waking up at a leisurely pace, having a cup of coffee, and heading out for a gorgeous hike in San Francisco with Ernie. Then I meet up with friends for some brunch and a mimosa, we take a stroll at the farmer’s market, and see where the day takes us! I like having no plans – that’s the best. One constant is that we always have a great soundtrack!

Leah with Ernie - Photo by Rebecca Fay

Leah with Ernie – Photo by Rebecca Fay

Do you bring Ernie with you on set?

I brought Ernie with me once, and every time he heard me sing he would howl like a little wolf! That obviously didn’t work out very well, so now I leave him at my apartment.

Do you do your own makeup for performances?

I always have a say in my look, but I typically do not do it for the show. I arrive to the theatre early enough so the makeup and hair team can work their magic! It is my favourite part, but since I like to think of myself as an amateur makeup artist, I occasionally adjust minor things after their work is complete.

Can you share with us one makeup tip you’re loving for spring?

Makeup is pretty fresh and nude this season. It is about letting your skin shine through and not to be covered up by layers of makeup. I find that achieving this is easiest when your skin is hydrated and plump. I use Marc Jacobs’ Coconut Primer under my foundation to achieve this. I love a ‘halo’ eye look too….when you have darker shades on the outer and inner corners, and a beautiful shimmery color right in the middle of your lid. I am also (for the most part) loving the matte lip. It stays forever! But sometimes it feels a little dry, so for those days I like my Clarins Instant Light Lip Perfector. It is really emollient and easy to use.

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