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Q&A with Opera in the Rock Leading Lady Francesca Mondanaro

Featuring the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Opera in the Rock will present the heartbreaking love story Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Set in Japan in 1904, Madama Butterfly is a tale comprised of betrayal + tragedy combined with a clash of cultures – that continues to captivate opera enthusiasts. We had the opportunity to chat with leading lady Soprano Francesca Mondanaro regarding all things work + play as she prepares for her role as Butterfly in next week’s production.

What are five things you can’t live without when you travel for role like Butterfly?
Traveling is the same regardless of the role – it mostly changes depending on how long I’m away from home – but for a short trip like this one, my must haves are 1) my score 2) my personal notebooks of my word for word libretto translations, historical and musical research notes 3) my recordings of all of my lessons and coachings with my NYC team (my voice teacher and vocal coach) 4) my runners- you can work out no matter where you are, just hit your playlist and head out for a run 5) all of my prescription medicines for allergies, cold, flu, sore throat – singers travel with their own pharmacy just in case!
What motto do you live by?
Life is short, so be brave, give it your all, be your best self, go for what you want, be willing to make mistakes and fail, just get up and try again.  Nobody gets to define success for you – you are the creator of your life, so take responsibility for your own happiness.  If you give your best to the things that are in your control, you will get what you want.  And always remember to have gratitude along the journey.
What other genres of music inspire you besides opera?
Everything!! I’m lucky I live in NYC and have gotten to see almost everyone I love live. A few favorite current musicians are Kurt Elling, Cassandra Wilson, Eliane Elias, Diane Reeves, Lizzo, Carmen Lundy, Poncho Sanchez, Janelle Monae, Billy Joel.  Right now Prince, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack are on constant replay.  Oh, and I’m obsessed with Mina – she’s like the Barbra Streisand of Italy.  And Canzionere Grecanico Salentino.  I could keep going.
Why do you support Opera In The Rock?
Opera In The Rock is the only company of its kind in the entire state of Arkansas.  They are dedicated to educating audiences about the art form,  and to offering quality productions that will bring exposure, performance opportunity, and employment for the local artistic community.  I want to see this gorgeous art form live on for the next generation and I think Opera In The Rock stands to be a cultural gem in its own state.
Photography Janelle Mondanaro // Art by Virginia Osborne
MADAME BUTTERFLY
May 17 & May 19
https://www.oitr.org/
Opera in the Rock | 1818 N Taylor St #413 | Little Rock | oitr.org
Inviting Arkansas
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