Next in our Adler Profile series is Jacqueline Piccolino, a Chicago-born soprano and graduate of the University of Illinois’ music program. Previous roles include Arminda in La finta giardiniera with the Merola Program, as well as major roles in Le donne curiose, Sweeney Todd, Les contes d’Hoffmann, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Die Zauberflöte. She will also be playing the role of the Countess in Merola’s production of Le nozze di Figaro this July. She made her San Francisco Opera debut, as well as returned to the music of Offenbach, in the role of Stella in our current production of Hoffmann.
What was your favorite Merola experience? How did you react when you were offered the role of Stella as well as the Adler Fellowship?
I would have to say my favorite Merola experience from last year was the Grand Finale on the Opera House stage. There was something about standing on that stage for the first time and not seeing a single person in the audience, but feeling the energy of over 3,000 people watching you! Well, I was absolutely enthralled when I was offered the role and the Adler Fellowship. I was in my apartment at school and just finishing my final exams when I received the phone call, and I had to take a few breaths of fresh air until it finally sank in (it took me a couple days for it to truly sink in)! I think the funniest part was explaining to my teachers that I would have to leave school and finish my final exams early to make my debut on the San Francisco Opera stage!!!
(Jacqueline Piccolino on stage at the War Memorial Opera House for the Merola Grand Finale. Photo by Kristin Loken.)
What one word would you say encapsulates your experience with Hoffmann? How did you prepare for the role of Stella?
Whirlwind. I think the last months have been a complete whirlwind experience! I prepared for the role of Stella within two weeks time, and just sat down with my teacher and studied and prepared the score, before I had to be off to the first day’s rehearsal!
Who would you say your musical role model is/was?
My beloved teacher and dear friend Cynthia Haymon. She has been my inspiration to strive for my goals but remembering to always enjoy the gift of singing and sharing it with others.
What do you think is the biggest difference between opera life in Illinois and in San Francisco?
Well, opera life in Champaign-Urbana is quite different, being surrounded on all four sides by cornfields, there is more traveling you have to do to get to the nearest opera house. Here, if you live in the city, it is just a 15 minute bus ride depending on where you are!
Now that you’re portraying the Countess in Figaro, your second Mozart role with the Merola program, what do you, as a performer, think sets Mozart apart from other composers?
As a singer, I think Mozart is quite an essential part of the development of a voice. There is so much you can learn from singing Mozart because he sets everything up for you, but leaves some space for your individual interpretation. What I really think makes his music so compelling is his ability to cover all ranges of human emotion and every time I encounter Mozart’s music, it never gets old! Specifically for the role of the Countess, versus my previous role as Arminda in La finta giardiniera, there are specific new challenges that Mozart requires. Countess has many delicate, beautiful sustained lines, and dynamic changes that have really challenged me as a singer and performer. Mozart’s music demands a well-trained singer to be flexible and to really trust their technique.
What suggestion would you give to people unfamiliar with opera as a genre?
To those unfamiliar with opera as a genre, I think it depends on what one’s personal tastes are. If they are into fun and comedic works, I say go with Barber of Seville or Figaro. If they are into lush melodies and beautiful lines, go with something like La Boheme. If they’re okay with long operas, but want to experience pretty magnificent music, tell them to see the Ring cycle.
(Jacqueline Piccolino in Mozart's La finta giardiniera with the Merola Opera Program. Photo by Kristin Loken.)
What’s your opinion on the Chicago-style vs. New York-style pizza debate?
There is no debate! We all know the delicious Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza is most awesome! Yum!
What are some of your favorite places to hang out/eat/etc. in San Francisco?
In San Francisco, I absolutely love anything close to the water, since I don’t see much ocean at all in Illinois. There is something about being on a beach enjoying the sun (even if the water is only 50 degrees). Two of my favorite restaurants are flour + water in the Mission and domo sushi nearby the opera house!
What are you looking forward to most in your future with the SF Opera?
What has been so exciting and beneficial so far has been watching the professionals work on stage in their environment. I am so excited to continue to work with exceptional directors, conductors, and singers, and most importantly, to just keep enjoying the love for singing and growing as a performer!