A Chat With Larisa Martínez

Soprano Larisa Martínez has a stunning pedigree. A formidable presence onstage, her long list of high-profile credits includes bravura performances of La Traviata (as Violetta), West Side Story (as Maria) and years of touring alongside operatic tenor superstar Andrea Bocelli. She’s currently on tour with acclaimed violinist (and husband) Joshua Bell on a concert tour dubbed “Voice and the Violin.”

How does your Puerto Rican heritage and culture inform your approach to opera?
Music is so important in every Puerto Rican family; it’s part of every event. My grandfather would always hire musicians for family events. As a child, I would go on long drives to the countryside with my mother; we would listen to the standards of Latin American music the whole way. Having the roots of those rhythms certainly helped me be a better musician for any music, not just opera. I come from a fresh perspective when I’m singing classical music.

What is it like to sing with a full orchestra behind you?
There’s nothing like it. For a lot of the rehearsal time and practice, you’re totally alone. You’re in a little studio with a piano, and you’re working towards that goal. But everything comes together when you’re finally with the orchestra; you’re a part of it. You’re part of the wave. It’s very hard to describe, but the incredible thing is that you’re with your fellow human beings making music. You hear the instruments, but we’re all people behind it. We’re all people with our own issues, with our own history, our own stories, but we come together and we focus on this same goal which is to make music in perfect synchronicity. I think it’s a magical thing.

What can you tell me about the upcoming release of your album, Saudades: Songs of Love and Longing?
I had all these songs – from Puerto Rico, Brazil, and some from Spain – that really encompassed my feelings around the time of solitude during the pandemic. I [decided], “This is gorgeous music; it needs to be out in the world again.” A lot of them were written for guitar or just piano, so I worked with the maestro Steven Mercurio to orchestrate them. We recorded them in Prague with the orchestra, and I’m very excited about it. It has an old world feel to it. Saudades should be out around the end of this year.

What do you think explains the enduring popularity of classical music and opera in the 21st century?
It just transcends. The more you listen to it, the more you like it. The more you’re familiar with it, you keep finding more meanings and layers. And every time you listen to it, you may think something different about it. It’s beautiful in its complexity, and I think that’s why we don’t get tired of it. I think there comes a point in life when you think you’ve heard everything, and you don’t want any more silliness. You feel like you need something profound listen to. And that’s classical music.