Hers is one of the most eagerly awaited debuts at the Arena di Verona, and her sunny voice and personality have already conquered the Opera world: she is Latonia Moore, and tonight she will debut on the legendary Verona stage to perform Aida, one of her signature roles. We interviewed her just few hours before the big event, and looking at the amphitheater she told us about her Aida and how Opera changed her life

Your vocation as a singer was born among the benches of the church: how you discovered Opera and when you decided to devote your life to opera?

My first foray in opera was in college. We were doing Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci. Even though I was just playing an Italian villager in the chorus, there was something about transforming into another person that made me feel at home….like I belonged there. I’ve always wondered why I felt different from most of the people I grew up with. There was always something inside me that I never knew how to express. Opera was the outlet I needed. Being in that chorus was the moment I knew opera is what I was always meant to do. 

Gospel and Jazz are an important part of your music background: how this genres influenced your process through the opera music (I think to their concepts of freedom and also improvvisation)…

Ultimately, all genres of music are linked. I’ll always have gospel to thank for my ability to vocally express emotion, and I’ll always be grateful to jazz for my ability to text paint and bend phrases. I’ll continue to incorporate both genres in all of my opera performances. It may not always be everyone’s taste, but these elements make me undeniable unique. 

©Coco Jourdana

You made your Met Debut as Aida and you made of this character one of your signature role: what is your vision of Aida and which aspects of your interpretation, production after production, changed?

Aida was not vocally ideal for me initially, so I was overly preoccupied with how challenging it was to sing. To a degree, those kinds of thoughts still haunt me. But, as the years went by, I became older and wiser and much more willing to take chances that pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Every time I sing this role, I’ve found that I use my colleagues more and more to paint a richer character. Different energy changes how you react, if you allow it to. In that, the interpretation grows and grows.

Now Aida will mark your house debut at the Arena di Verona: what are your expectations and your emotions for this new adventure?

Since the first time I sang in Italy back in 2005, I felt like it was my musical HOME. I’d always hoped to sing in the great Arena. I went to Carmen here last week. I mean…I had seen photos of the Arena before, but NOTHING prepares you for its magnificence! I’ve never seen an opera venue like this in my entire life, and although I’m admittedly kind of terrified, it’s a blessing from God and an honor for me to perform here. 

©Met Opera

Next year you will return at the Met again as Aida and also as Musetta, why you decided to perform this role after being an acclaimed Mimì and in which way you “studied” this character through Mimì’s eyes? 

Honestly, after singing so many dying heroines, I CANNOT WAIT to finally be sexy and funny on stage…and to actually be ALIVE at the end of the show!!! Hahaha! I’m excited to be something people don’t expect me to be. 

In the next Met season you’ll play Emelda Griffith in Blanchard’s Champion after having been Billie in Fire Shut Up in My Bones: what are the difficulties and the sensations of performing a role that is qui new and in which there are no models and consequently comparisons? 

Actually, the role of Billie was created by soprano Karen Slack, and Emelda by the great mezzo, Denyce Graves. I definitely draw from them both. However, Terence Blanchard is the type artist who demands you put your real life feelings into your characters. It’s a dangerous line that I LOVE to cross, which allows me to put my special stamp on his characters…on ALL characters, really. 

©Jeffery Salter

What are your dream roles at the moment? 

Although I’ve gotten to perform it once in concert, my dream role is Desdemona. 

Next engagements. 

Il Trovatore at Washington National Opera; Aida, Champion, and La Bohème at The Met; Madama Butterfly at Berlin Staatsoper; Mefistofele at Teatro Lirico di Cagliari.

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