Image from the album "Ombra Compagna." Photo by Steven Harris of Mordent Media.

Catching up with opera singer Lisette Oropesa: Performing during COVID and her first solo album

The world today looks much different than it did when we last talked to Lisette Oropesa. Even through a pandemic, the world-renowned and Baton Rouge-bred opera singer managed to safely perform internationally while working on the release of her own solo album.

For everyone, and especially for artists, the pandemic has been anything but easy, with many seeing a whole year of work cancelled.

Luckily for Oropesa, many of her contracts were not cancelled; performing just looked a bit different.

“At first it was a bit tough, but after a while companies started coming up with creative solutions,” she says. “Either they would broadcast something or do a production with a limited audience.”

When lockdowns started in the U.S., Oropesa was in New York singing La traviata at the Met, an opera that would become her most-performed show of the season. She went on to perform La traviata throughout the summer in Madrid, Barcelona and Rome. September marked her debut at the Vienna State Opera–one of the most important opera houses in the world.


Lisette singing La traviata at the Metropolitan Opera when the pandemic started in the U.S.

Despite lockdowns, Oropesa decided to move ahead and begin recordings for her first solo album with an orchestra in August of 2020 after a year of preparing the music. The album, entitled Ombra Compagna, features 10 concert arias by Mozart.

“It was a really exciting project,” she says. “Recording isn’t something that everybody gets a chance to do these days.”

Oropesa’s favorite aria is “Ah, lo previdi,” the emotional center of the album and the inspiration for the album title. It tells the story of a woman whose lover dies before her very eyes. She says she wants to follow him into the underworld as an “ombra compagna”—a companion ghost

“It’s this gorgeous, heartbreaking, amazing music that has a really special quality only Mozart can do,” says Oropesa. “I thought that was the most moving music in the album, and that’s why I thought it would be a good title.”

Ironically, one particular aria on Oropesa’s album left her traumatized for more than 15 years. Oropesa first studied “Vorrei spiegarvi” when she was just around 21 years old, at which time she started having problems with her voice and made the decision to change vocal teachers.

“Even though I loved the aria beyond life itself, I had so much fear and traumatization over that piece that I never touched it again for years,” says Oropesa.

Although she initially did not plan on including her near-career-canceling song on the album, Oropesa’s conductor convinced her that she could not do a Mozart concert album without including the famous “Vorrei spiegarvi.”

For the first time since her fears began all those years ago, Oropesa attempted the difficult aria—she never did forget it. With great success and enough time to record, “Vorrei spiegarvi” made it on the album.

“It was a chance for me to mend the past with this particular aria,” says Oropesa. “Forget about the fear, conquer it and sing it well.”

Ombra Compagna, whose album cover and other photos were shot here in Baton Rouge, will be released on May 7.