Spotlight on Aleksandra Romano, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist
Mezzo-soprano Aleksandra Romano returns for a second season with the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists. Read even more about her here.
Where were you born? Did you grow up in a musical household?
I’m originally from New Haven, CT. I grew up playing violin, but no one in the house was classically trained. I grew up on a healthy diet of folk and rock music, sprinkled with a little gospel. My brother is also a musician, though of more electronic music and rock.
Is that where you consider “home” today?
CT will always be my hometown, and I relish every minute that I get to spend there, but as a traveling singer, you learn to bring home with you, either in the form of small mementos or a dog or bringing your entire family along with you. I bring a couple of pictures and small things wherever I go, so that I can feel grounded, even if I’m in a hotel for a week or two.
What was your first transformative musical experience? How old were you?
It’s difficult to remember the very first, since it seems like every year or so, I have a new watershed realization while watching some musical performance. When I was four years old, my mother’s cousin brought her violin to the house, and I watched her practice with rapt attention, and apparently immediately told my mom that I wanted to take lessons. Although it wasn’t my ultimate instrument, it was my first, and my four-year-old self instinctually understood how important music was going to be in my life.
When did you first know you wanted to sing opera (become an opera coach/pianist)?
Somewhere in the world, there is a tape of me “singing” in different languages circa age six, so some part of my childhood consciousness always knew. I didn’t make the decision until junior year of college, and even then still toyed with the idea of heading off to medical school or some other career path with more definite structure. It’s a little comical when I sing any other genre for people: they usually laugh and tell me to go back to opera. I think there’s just something about the timbre of my voice that lends itself to the genre.
Which university or conservatory did you attend?
I did my undergrad at Bard College, a place that really engendered in me myriad possibilities and gave me all the tools for intellectual discovery. I took a couple of years off and then did my masters at Yale School of Music, where I learned about the specifics of musical preparation and the business, and my prospective place in it. I also had the privilege of watching my incredible colleagues, which was an education in itself.
What is your favorite role that you have performed so far? What is your favorite opera? What is your dream role that you would like to perform in the future?
I have to say that my favorite role is always the role I’m singing/preparing at the present moment. I just love immersing myself in a score and a story. I love the sassy Rossini heroines, and I can’t wait to see Angelina in La Cenerentola again. My favorite opera is Carmen – cliché, I know, but I just love everything about it, and had the amazing opportunity to be a part of the production at WNO this fall. My dream role is Charlotte in Werther.
Do you have a favorite popular artist? How about movie?
I love Adele, Mumford and Sons, and Suzanne Vega. My favorite movies (disclaimer: I love animated movies) are Inside Out, Over the Hedge, and Braveheart.
Do you have a pre-performance routine?
Hah! It’s like the whole day. I’m an obsessive planner, and I usually have a plan for how the day is going to look, what I eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, always snacks. Coconut water, B-12, and yoga are my constants. I like to warm up early and have plenty of time to mentally get settled, which usually means I’m in the theater way ahead of my dress call.
There are many skeptics that believe opera is a dying art form. Why do you think opera is still relevant today?
Arguably, the function of all art is social commentary or memorialization of the current paradigm. One only has to look at the plethora of new works all over the world every season to see that opera is addressing many of our most pressing social issues. I think that the business has definitely recognized that much of the opera canon functions as a museum, but the museum definitely has its venerated place in the art world. The enlivening force of new works and constant influx of new perspectives from young musicians and production professionals ensures that even the oldest operas can be performed in a modern light, with a nod toward current issues.
Was the District different from what you expected when you moved here for the program?
I have relatives who live in Maryland, but I’d never spent a lot of time in DC proper. I think I had this idea that DC would be more like New York City, but I’ve found that there’s much more space here!
What do you like to do for fun around DC? Do you have any favorite hangout spots?
On our days and evenings off, I really like to get outside, walking or hiking. I’d say my favorite is Cape Henlopen State Park, especially when it’s still a little chilly, and there aren’t too many people there. I’ve seen so many dolphins there! During the week, I love visiting the Sligo Creek Trail. I grew up next to East Rock Park in Hamden, CT, with easy access to a wooded area, and I love walking after a day of rehearsal before I go home.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I always thought that I would grow up to be an athletic trainer. I was a three-season athlete in high school, and a college volleyball player. I think that all that movement work has definitely helped me in opera, especially since I play a lot of young boys, and it pays to know how to throw yourself around and spring back up again. I’ve continued my love of the inner workings of the human body by doing yoga and assorted other body work, and by spending an inordinate amount of time studying vocal anatomy.
If you didn’t become an opera singer, what other career would you have pursued?
My first answer is orthopedic surgeon. As I said, I love the inner workings of the human body, and in a fantasy world where I didn’t love sleep as much as I do, I think I would love to do something as specialized as orthopedic surgery.
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