Liz Cab on life, career and being a woman.
New York City was lucky to have Elizabeth Caballero around this past Fall. While working at The Metropolitan Opera and singing Carmina Burana at David Geffen Hall were her main engagements, she took the time to join us in many Shoperatic events. Her Musetta at our Port Authority concert with Sing for Hope caught lots of our Instagram followers’ fascination during the livestream and we don’t blame them, it was flawless. Liz is down-to-earth and a gorgeous singer. Her energy is contagious.
As a Latina myself, I have been following her career for a while with admiration. I think behind every great singer, there is a great life story. True artists are people with layers. People who have lived interesting circumstances and have something to say.
360° of Opera: You have a unique life story. How has that contributed to who you are today and what you stand for as an artist?
EC: Honestly, I think we all have unique life stories. Mine is the story of another immigrant that came to the USA and made this their home. I migrated at a very young age so these days I am more American than Cuban and I will forever be grateful to this country for allowing me to make my dreams come true here. When I hear the stories from my parents and their friends and other friends of mine who migrated from other countries I always stop to think about how thankful I was to be a child when such a big transition happened in my life. What do I stand for as an artist? I’m just thankful to be doing what I love to do to pay a couple bills here and there. It’s truly the “American Dream”, I think, and I feel that I’m living proof of it.
360° of Opera: You are a woman. You are Latina. Have you experienced any setbacks in your career for being who you are? If so, how have you dealt with or overcome them?
EC: If there have been any setbacks for being a woman or a Latina woman or just being who I am, I haven’t noticed. I suppose ignorance is bliss and I will continue to live that way. I prefer it. As the years go by and I mature more as a person, I like to think that every year I learn a little more about myself and the business. So, I’ve learned how to deal with the setbacks that this business, and life in general, bring. I try to learn from them and not dwell in the negative and move on. I’m learning every day to forgive myself for the mistakes I have made and hopefully not do them again. What this business has taught me is to be grateful for every single thing I acquire, big or small.
When talking to an experienced singer, I always like to connect them to our young artist audience. Singers at the beginning of their career can learn so much from observing someone else who is ahead of them. Usually, I have noticed that singers are very willing to give back and share what they have learned with others who may benefit from their experience. So, don’t be afraid to ask!
360° of Opera: What advice can you share with young artists taking their first steps into the professional opera world?
EC: 1. NEVER DEFER ON YOUR STUDENT LOAN. Make sure you always pay what you can even if it’s just the interest. I really wish someone would have given me that advice after I finished school. I’m paying for this mistake hard now in my adult age so if I can reach any young singer out there about to finish school please listen to me on this one.
2. Grow very thick skin. This career is very painful at times and very lonely too. No one prepares you for that moment when you sing your heart out, take your curtain call, walk off stage, greet your friends/fans after, maybe go out for a bite or a drink after, then come back to an empty and lonely hotel room. That would hit me hard at first and it still sometimes does but it’s a big part of this career. The thick skin is important to have, because we are not all to everyone’s liking and that’s ok. Remember that there is someone who does like you.
Well, there are a lot of people who like Liz and we belong in that group. Liz is a loyal Shoperatic fan and we love her for it! She is a big part of the community and the movement Shoperatic has created to empower female opera singers.
360°of Opera: Why do you love Shoperatic and why do you keep coming back to it?
E.C: I love Shoperatic because I’m a big fan of Suzanne Vinnik and I believe in her vision. When all this first started it was just a group of opera singers swapping and trading and selling and borrowing each other’s gowns that we’d worn before. See, as a woman, once you’ve been photographed in a concert or recital gown, there are only so many other times you can wear it again and even less with social media and photos circulating around. It’s honestly a part of the business, how you look and carry yourself. With Shoperatic, I could help another singer colleague and they know exactly the needs that I require for a specific look. Say, a Requiem versus a Pops concert. Both those events require a different look so another singer will understand my needs. Not to mention corsets, shoes, makeup under lights and many many more things that a woman who is a performer will understand.
I love how much Shoperatic has grown into an amazing website where other colleagues of mine are starting their own small businesses and all of us in the community are there to help and support each other. It’s all from the vision of Suzanne and Sara Duchovnay.
360° of Opera: What is your favorite Shoperatic purchase up to date and what is the story behind it?
E.C: I have made too many purchases to really say but the one that pops into my mind is a Black Halo cocktail dress from Georgia Jarman, which still had the tags. Not only am I a big fan of Black Halo but I think I’m a bigger fan of Georgia!
Looking ahead at Liz’s season, I have my eyes on one engagement in particular. One of 360° of Opera’s missions is to promote contemporary opera and unconventional repertoire, so I could not wait to ask her about the Daniel Catán piece that makes its second appearance in her schedule in the last couple of years.
360° of Opera: This season you will sing the title role in Florencia en el Amazonas again. Can you tell us a bit more about the role and the production and why new opera is important?
EC: Spanish is my first language so singing in my “mother tongue” is like butter. Also, I have fallen in love with Catán’s music and his story telling. While I was doing the production of Florencia with New York City Opera a few summers ago, I got to meet and work with Andrea Catán, his late widow. Seeing her dedication and love for the music of her husband touched me so much and I wanted to make her very proud of my work. So, each time I sing Florencia, I sing it for her and his memory. She truly touched me. It’s as if she herself is Florencia and she’s keeping the memory of Cristobal alive. I’m a hopeless romantic. I can’t help it!
In my process of preparing to sing my first Florencia several years ago, I contacted Sheri Greenawald with whom I worked when I was a Merolini and Adler Fellow with San Francisco Opera. I loved hearing her ideas of her interpretation and since she got to work first hand with Catán himself it was fantastic. She gave me acting tips and ideas and warned me of the vocal lines that will require this or that. It was wonderful to get so much insight from the first “Florencia”.
I stop and I think about how lucky I am to actually talk to the woman who created the debut of this beautiful role and the woman who continues to make sure the music of her husband is still around for us all to listen and enjoy and it gives me so much love and power for the strength that we have as women in the business of music. It gives me hope and I think about other beautiful women in this business and I feel empowered. All I can think about is, “I am woman, hear me ROAR!”
Elizabeth Caballero sings Madama Butterfly with Pensacola Opera this January, will be back at The Metropolitan Opera in March and stars in Florencia en el Amazonas in April with Madison Opera. For more information visit www.elizabethcaballero.com and follow Liz on Instagram (@ecabsop), Twitter (@LizCaballero) and Facebook (@ElizabethCaballeroSoprano).