“Higher Power” – Opera News feature

Leah Crocetto, who stars this summer in the Glimmerglass Festival’s U.S. premiere of Donizetti’s Assedio di Calais, is that rare animal—a true lirico-spinto soprano. Now thirty-seven, Crocetto has a large-scale instrument that can ride over the massed forces of Aida’s triumph scene yet also navigate bel canto coloratura at its most intricate. “It’s a special sound—Italianate and flexible,” says Sheri Greenawald, director of San Francisco Opera Center and an early mentor to Crocetto. “She can access the high notes in ‘D’amor sull’ali rosee’ in a pure piano, then open that up, and the color remains beautiful. She should have a fabulous career—fun, fun, fun!”

At either extreme, Crocetto’s voice—for all its unquestionable heft—leaves an overwhelming impression of warmth and sweetness. Small wonder that in the six years since the American soprano emerged from San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship Program, she has built an international reputation by tackling some of the most challenging assignments in the Italian repertoire.

But Crocetto almost ducked her “fabulous career” entirely. Hampered as an adolescent by chronic stage fright, Crocetto avoided auditioning for conservatories. She studied voice for an undergraduate year at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago but dropped out. She spent her early twenties in New York City, waiting tables at the Olive Garden in Times Square, then running to piano bars after her shift, to sing jazz. In 2006, feeling the need for a steady job, and having abandoned all hope for a solo career, Crocetto auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. “I thought I was too old. I thought my operatic life was over,” she says. “So I sang my two arias for the audition panel, and they were like, ‘Why did you audition for us? You aren’t a chorus singer. But keep singing!’”

Read more of Fred Cohn’s interview with Leah at OperaNews.com