“There’s stage fright no matter where you sing,” says soprano Ailyn Pérez, who’s currently in Milan to sing what has become one of her signature roles, Violetta Valéry, in Liliana Cavani’s production of La traviata at the famed Teatro alla Scala. “Maybe it’s just part of being a soprano,” she muses, “but there is nothing that I sing that doesn’t have a legacy behind it of great, great singers.”

“I have found it helpful just to ask a fellow artist how they take courage,” says Pérez of finding her place among that legacy. “Yesterday I saw Roberto Bolle, the world’s most celebrated male ballet dancer, and asked him about stage fright. He gave me a beautiful response: ‘Forget worrying about who is there and what will be said, and instead, give yourself over to the character and be as devoted to the moment of the story as possible.'”

With roles like Violetta and Mimì in La bohème becoming staple repertoire for Pérez, she is well aware of the operatic giants who have performed the same roles in past decades. “You can’t get too haunted by the ghosts of the past,” says Pérez. Adding some words of advice for fellow lyric sopranos, “you have to get used to it right away.”

For Pérez, Verdi’s beloved Violetta “never feels ordinary to me.” It’s a role she sings a lot, yet it demands too much to let her grow bored. “Just like any jog around the park feels different, so would singing a role,” Pérez explains. When she revisits a role like Violetta, she strives to be more technically efficient, and works for “more beauty of sound”; with each new production comes a new geography of the stage and lighting. With so many variables, Pérez finds little challenge staying invested in roles she sings frequently. “A lot of that freshness comes from concentrating on doing your job.”

“Violetta, in particular, has so many musical and dramatic moments that are as varied as recounting every petal of a flower,” Pérez says. “There’s so much care needed in crafting a good arc to portray her not only in every scene, but to develop her as naturally and powerfully as Verdi writes her. It’s a much more heroic approach to the character Marguerite Gautier (inspired by the real life story of Marie Duplessis) found in Alexander Dumas, fils’ La Dame aux Camélias.”

Read the entire feature via Schmopera