Beginning in January, Palm Beach Opera will present a trio of main-stage operas, including La Traviata (January 25-27), Don Giovanni (February 22-24), and Die Fledermaus (March 22-24). But first, it will kick off the season with a rising stars concert on December 18. This new offering will feature budding vocalists from the opera’s Benenson Young Artist and Apprentice Artist programs. PBI recently caught up with soprano Joanna Latini, a member of the Benenson Young Artist Program, to discuss life as a young opera singer and just what makes these experiences so valuable.
PBI: At what age did you begin your operatic training and what inspired you to pursue the craft?
Latini: The reason I began singing classical music was because of a random email. I received an email from Classical Singer Magazine advertising their competition with a coupon enclosed. I was in high school at the time, and the first round of the competition was at Westminster Choir College, which isn’t too far from my house. I competed and won, moved on to the semi-final round in New York and was noticed by a voice teacher from a university. She invited me out to her summer program, and there, I realized that singing was something I could actually pursue in college and make it my career. My first official voice lesson was at the beginning of my senior year of high school.
What has been the most meaningful accomplishment of your career so far?
This past year has been full of so many wonderful surprises. There are three major meaningful accomplishments I can name off the top of my head. It’s hard to narrow it down to only one because they are so different. No.1: Singing the final dress rehearsal of a role in a world premiere opera with Houston Grand Opera with only 24 hours’ notice (that included packing, printing the score, learning the score, flying to Houston, having a one-hour rehearsal, and singing the final dress rehearsal). No. 2: Advancing to the semi-finals in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. No. 3: Singing the title role in The Cunning Little Vixen with The Glimmerglass Festival.
What do you feel is the most misunderstood aspect of being an opera singer?
Some people will still say to me something like, “Sure, you sing, but what do you actually do?” I actually do this! Performing is my full-time job. Most people don’t know how intense this life actually is. It truly takes a special kind of person to be able to give their whole selves to an audience night after night. There is also a ton of travel involved, which means that you don’t get a lot of family time and you miss major events. Sometimes the road can get lonely, but this business is full of beautiful people who are so open and caring. It really is a family.
What appealed to you about the Benenson Young Artist Program, and what do you hope to get out of the experience?
What appealed to me most about Palm Beach Opera, other than being in Florida for the winter of course, was the repertoire of the season. When I applied, I knew there were roles that I really wanted to study and sing. During my time here, I get the opportunity to learn Violetta in La Traviata, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and perform Sally in Fledermaus. I hope to leave the program ready and equipped to perform those two iconic soprano roles.
What role tops your bucket list?
My dream role is actually not an opera role. Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to play Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. She is such a fabulous character who gets to sing some of my favorite music ever written.
Why are young artist programs so crucial to the growth of an opera singer?
Young artist programs are so important to an artist’s development because they are a safe space for young singers to grow—not only as singers or artists but also as people. We’re allowed to not be perfect, ask the hard questions, and dig deep, all in the quest to define who we are as artists and what we want to communicate to audiences.
What would be your top tip for keeping your voice in tip-top shape?
First and foremost, my whole body is my instrument. I need to take care of it and make sure it is working as efficiently as possible—that means exercise, a healthy diet, and mental health. You never know what a production will ask of you, so you always need to be ready for everything. But for my voice specifically, it’s figuring out the balance of when to sing and when to rest. Finding that balance comes with knowing your body really well. As artists, we get to be in tune with all parts of ourselves, which is both thrilling and terrifying.
Who would be your dream duet partner and why?
This seems like an impossible question to answer! The list is endless, but ultimately, I think an artist that really has something to say is the dream duet partner.
What venue are you dying to perform in and why?
I have already sung on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in their National Council Auditions, but I would love to sing a full role on the massive stage with that incredible orchestra.