Q & A with Melissa Citro
By: Suzanne Whitney
Soprano Melissa Citro’s return to Opera Colorado has been a long time coming. As many will remember, this production of Puccini’s Tosca was originally scheduled for May of 2020. So, to say it is a joy to finally have her back on stage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House is an understatement. Melissa brings heart and humanity to this role, along with a voice you will never forget. Get to know the ups and downs of her journey from cancellation to opening night!
Take us back to Spring of 2020. What did the cancellation of this production feel like, and how did your life shift after?
Well, beginning in March of 2020, there was this rolling thunder of cancellations, and as time passed, we knew that it would sweep over everything at some point. I remember feeling things were looking bleaker by the day, so I wasn’t surprised when Opera Colorado decided to cancel Tosca. It was hard to know what life would look like going forward. I mean, no one alive today has experienced anything quite like this. We didn’t know if it meant the end of our industry. There was a real fear we might not be able to bounce back from this. Then the tumult of those emotions was overshadowed by the true tragedy of the pandemic happening all around us. It almost felt selfish to worry about something like music when there was so much suffering going on. It was a very charged time. Then, as a single mom of a teenager, my world was focused on helping him navigate this time and doing virtual school. And like everyone else, I sought out a sense of connection everywhere I could—including talking about the latest Netflix show online.
Thankfully, we are in a much different place now! How was preparing the role of Tosca different this time around?
Even though I’ve performed this role before, it felt new! It was almost disorienting. The world has changed, and I have changed. I had to rediscover my process. I had to rediscover the step that would have been rote before. One thing that helped me was just making lists. I even needed a list to remind me to make a list!
What has it felt like returning to rehearsals with a full cast?
Oh my gosh, it is such a great feeling, exactly what I hoped it would be. I walked into the first rehearsal, and I probably sang too much because I was just having so much fun! I just thought, thank goodness, I remember how to do this and why I do this. And the whole cast is absolutely lovely. It is honestly always a good bunch at Opera Colorado. I don’t know what the recipe is, but it isn’t hard to figure out knowing Ari Pelto and Greg Carpenter. Every member of the cast and staff is a genuinely good and delightful person. Not to disparage anywhere else, but there is some kind of magic here.
Tosca can be such a personal role, as she is an opera singer herself. What draws you to this role?
There is a line, just in the last day or so, which particularly resonates with me. She says, “Every time I encountered suffering, I tried to help.” I find this type of rationalization so familiar. It is a reflexive thought for us when something is unbearable. Tosca may be ‘protesting too much’ in this situation. And, I find that very human of her. She is an extremely clever human with flaws. You can relate to her in every moment. Tosca is not a caricature of an opera singer. She is not just the diva in the red velvet gown and tiara. She is a real person trying to solve a terrible problem.
If you loved getting to know Melissa in this post, you will love seeing her perform live and in person! Tickets for Opera Colorado’s November production of Puccini’s Tosca are on sale now>>
What else would you like to know about Melissa and her process? Did you see her perform back in 2016? Which parts of Tosca are you most looking forward to?