Larisa starts rehearsals for her role debut in Traviata. Wichita Grand Opera.
The first time the singer was featured in
a small soloist role was when she was 19 and
performed in a local production of Tosca staged in
San Juan’s historic Bellas Artes opera house. The
performance was particularly memorable because
she was cast in the role of a boy.
“Yes, normally it’s done by a little boy, so they
dressed me up like one,” she laughs. “It was a
little part, as a shepherd, but it has the most
beautiful aria in the last act that is sung in old
Italian and is incredibly exposed.”
She was studying with a singer in Puerto Rico,
but he was a tenor, and she decided she needed to
study with someone who had a similar vocal range.
“I found a teacher in New York, a soprano, that I
liked very much, and she suggested that I attend
Mannes School of Music (a noted conservatory),”
she recollects. Larisa transitioned to a new life in
the U.S., earning a Master’s in vocal performance
at Mannes while launching her international career.
One of the most demanding aspects of
starring roles in opera is the necessity to sing
fluently in several European languages. Larisa
studied French and Italian extensively, as well as
Russian and German. “I’ve studied German the
most,” she admits, “but it stuck the least! In that
language I can order coffee and say ‘hello’ and be
pleasant in an elevator, but the problem is that
opera singers study a version of German that is
dead! People give you strange looks when you use
In 2016, Larisa had the honor of being chosen
to create the role of Isaura and become the first ever
to perform it in an obscure opera, Francesca da
Rimini, by 19th Century Italian composer Giuseppe
Saverio Raffaele Mercadante.
“It was discovered only fairly recently,” Larisa
explains. “There is so much music in Italy that has
remained unknown for a long time.” Performed in
the Bel Canto style (a variety of operatic singing that
originated in Italy during the late 16th century), it
proved to be a challenge for everyone from the
technical crew to the singers because there were no
recordings to provide a point of reference.
Larisa’s reputation as an emerging artist of
undisputed talent caught the attention of the Obama
Administration, and in 2016 she was invited to travel
with a select group of other notable artists to Cuba
as part of a cultural exchange program.
“I was the only Spanish-speaking person
in the U.S. delegation, so I spent a lot of time
acting as an interpreter,” she recalls. “But
Role debut as Violetta in Wichita Grand
Opera's production of La Traviata. With
Cody Austin as Alfredo. Century II
Performing Arts. April, 2018.
we mostly communicated through art. The
experienced let to an opportunity for the Cuban
musicians to travel to New York City, where they
performed for a PBS special at Lincoln Center.
“I did the same music I had performed in
Havana, including ‘María la O,’ by Cuban composer
Ernesto Lecuona, and the folk song ‘Guantanamera,’
Larisa was struck by the fact that most of
the musicians in the Havana Chamber Orchestra,
including the conductor, were women. And
the experience of working with Cubans ended
up being more than just about music.
Larisa’s association with Bocelli will continue
this year with a packed schedule of European dates.
“He lets me choose my repertoire,” she comments,
Larisa performs The Merry Widow, San Juan, PR. 2015.
24 LATINAStyle www.latinastyle.com Vol. 25, No. 1, 2019