Opera lead makes scene reality (sans blood)

2012-10-18T00:00:00Z 2012-10-21T00:58:41Z Opera lead makes scene reality (sans blood)Cathalena E. Burch Cburch@azstarnet.com Arizona Daily Star
October 18, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The irony is not lost on rising soprano Lisette Oropesa.

Last weekend, she stood on the Phoenix Symphony Hall stage in a wedding dress stained with the blood of her new husband as the title character in Arizona Opera's production of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor."

A few days later, surrounded by family from New Orleans and beyond, she said "I do" for real in the rustically charming chapel of Tucson's Ted DeGrazia Gallery In the Sun.

Among the witnesses were bridegroom Steven Harris's parents, who had never seen an opera before watching "Lucia" last weekend.

Oropesa chuckled at the thought of what might be going through their minds after seeing their new daughter-in-law convincingly perform one of opera's most famous mad scenes.

"I thought, oh my God, they are going to see this opera about a woman killing her husband on her wedding night and going crazy. And then they are going to go to their son's wedding the day after. And they are going to go, 'Are you kidding? What are you getting into, Steven?'" Oropesa, 29, said with a laugh.

The couple decided a month ago to get married in Arizona, which has played a big role in their relationship. Back in 2008 when the New Orleans native made her Arizona debut in Verdi's "Rigoletto," Oropesa reconnected with her high school boyfriend Harris on Facebook.

"We realized we were still in love. He kept all of my letters from high school and I had never forgotten him," she said. "He was always the one person that I really loved."

Harris was living in Texas and Oropesa was in New York, so the two had a long-distance relationship for a couple of years before Harris, a web designer, moved East.

The idea to tie the knot in Tucson was a no-brainer, she said. Her parents and his parents - all of them big fans of Arizona's desert - had already planned to be here for "Lucia." With quick planning a month before she came to Arizona in mid-September, the wedding was a go.

"It's kind of like an elopement and everybody will be there," she joked during a phone call before "Lucia" opened in Phoenix last weekend. "I love Arizona. I love the atmosphere. I love the attitudes of people. I think the elemental energy here is fantastic and it is unlike anywhere else in the entire world, and I just always feel happy here. Maybe it's all the sunshine."

If you go

• What: Arizona Opera's production of Donizetti's 'Lucia di Lammermoor.'

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

• Where: Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.

• Tickets: $20 to $110 through www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 293-4336

• Synopsis: A young woman forced and deceived into marrying a man she does not love goes mad, culminating in one of opera's most famous scenes. In the words of Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa, singing the title role in the Arizona Opera's production:

"What makes the mad scene special is everything that builds up to it, everything should motivate. ... Lucia finally snapping and not being able to take it any more. But the thing is nobody else sees it coming. She comes down and everyone is in shock, just utter shock. 'How could this happen? She's the sweetest girl. We all saw her grow up; she's a darling.' Then all of a sudden she is a murderer and a psychopath.

"I never want to show that Lucia is crazy from the beginning. You can show that Lucia has problems; there are things that are not right about her. But she is not crazy in the beginning; it's a process, a journey. ... The girl is manipulated left and right by other people. As an audience member, you sympathize with this woman who has absolutely no power. We want to sympathize with Lucia. ... It's kind of the inevitable result of a person being pushed too far and breaking out in extreme rebellion in an extreme society. We understand why it happens.

"Every girl has deep dark secrets. ... Being in love with someone you can't have, I'm sure a lot of women can relate to that."

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