A Conversation with Soprano Olga Peretyatko

The energetic opera singer talks favorite roles, travel, and what she's most excited to do in New York during her current run as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto

Richard Termine / Metropolitan Opera
OF 10

On Monday night, rising opera star Olga Peretyatko returned to the Metropolitan Opera in the so-called “Rat Pack Rigoletto”—Verdi’s tragedy set in 1960s Las Vegas rather than 19th century Italy. As Gilda, Ms. Peretyatko’s character is technically part of the supporting cast, but if the emotional oohs and aahs her solos drew from the opening night crowd were any indication, the Russian-born, German-trained beauty stole the show.

After studying music and singing in her native Russia as well as Berlin, and a two-year stint a member of the opera studio at the Hamburg State Opera, Ms. Peretyatko has spent the past several years traveling the world for coveted soprano roles—including her 2014 debut at the Met as Elvira in Bellini's I Puritani—to much critical acclaim. Just ahead of Rigoletto’s opening night, she took a few minutes to answer some of our burning questions about what it’s like to be her.

You’ve played quite a few strong, dramatic, emotional characters. How do you typically prepare for a role? Usually I take a lot of time to read the literature about the subject, the era, historical and political situation—but I never listen to the recordings of the work at the beginning. The first thing I do is to study the vocal score and then the full music score alone, and later with my pianist and my voice teacher. Only then I do listen to a selection of recordings to hear the difference of interpretations. At that point, I am usually ready for the stage rehearsals to begin!

What have been some of your favorite roles to sing? Do you identify with these characters, or enjoy the chance to be totally different? I love my job exactly for this, I can live different lives and on stage I can be a person I would never be in reality. It sounds banal, but it's true. My favorite role is the one I'm singing at any given moment—it’s the best way for me to bring maximum credibility to the character: so my favorite role for this season is Gilda in Rigoletto. 

With so much travel on your plate, how do you keep your voice in top shape? I just try to organize my travels with as much comfort as possible. And sleep is the most important factor for my health. For example I would never take the flight at 6 a.m., once I'm on a flight I always drink a lot of water, and my sea water nasal spray is always in my bag. Good music on my iPhone (you’d be surprised to know what’s on my iPhone!) and an interesting book helps a lot as well.

What do you always have in your carry-on? My iPad with all my vocals scores and books inside, my computer and for sure my concert dress, if I have a concert on the following day—if my luggage gets lost I will have the most important things with me and avoid any additional stress!

When you’re traveling for a performance, do you have much time to explore? If I am in a city for opera performances it is normally for a longer period, at least for three weeks, so I have enough time to explore the new city. Jogging helps as well, so I can discover some unexpected beauty, that I would never see by walking from the flat or hotel to the theater.

Where are some of your favorite places to visit? It's difficult to say, every city has its charms and lovely spots. In New York, for example, I adore Central Park and it’s only 50 meters from my flat.

What are you most excited to do and see during your time in New York? [Last time] I visited all the museums I could possibly fit in my schedule, and especially loved The Frick Collection, MoMA, and Christie's preview exhibitions. This time, I hope to join for a boxing tournament, and also make a quick stop to designer Marc Bouwer’s fabulous showroom. 

Click through the gallery to see more of the cast, and Rigoletto's stunning, technicolor set »