Soprano Danielle de Niese is hitting all the right notes in today’s opera world.Danielle de Niese seems to have it all. The 32-year-old Australian native has performed with some of the most prestigious opera companies in the world, including the Metropolitan in New York, London’s Royal Opera and the Paris Opera. She’s released a variety of albums — Handel Arias, The Mozart Album and Beauty of the Baroque, to name but a few — and she’s the subject of the BBC series Diva Diaries (she also manages to squeeze in time to blog for The Huffington Post). This fall, “Opera’s Coolest Soprano” (as The New York Times Magazine called her) will be traveling around the world, performing first as Atalanta in Handel’s Xerxes at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, then crisscrossing Europe with Beauty of the Baroque and, finally, in December, she’ll head to New York, where she will open in the Metropolitan Opera’s world premiere of The Enchanted Island, a pastiche of baroque repertoire. But before getting started on all that, she had time for a quick chat with American Way.
American Way: When did you realize you had a talent for singing?
Danielle de Niese: I fell in love with singing when I was about 6. … I won a national talent contest, which was the Australian equivalent of America’s Got Talent. I was the youngest winner in the history of the competition. I took my first classical singing lessons [when I was around 8] and discovered I was able to produce that classical sound in my voice. I was bitten by the bug and decided that I wanted to become an opera singer.
AW: I understand you also had a television career.
DDN: I’ve done television since I was a child — one-minute commercials that featured me singing, as well as voice-over work. When I was 11 in Los Angeles, I was featured as “L.A. Kid of the Week” on a show called L.A. Kids. The producer noticed I was very natural on camera and asked if I would become the first child host of the show. I spent five years doing that and won an Emmy Award when I was 16.
AW: You’re obviously a road warrior — what are some of your favorite places?
DDN: As a performer, I [travel] all around the world, and because I live a great part of my life in these cities, they each become home in a way. I feel like a citizen of the world — with my mixed background, my birth in Australia, growing up American — but I’m a California girl at heart!
AW: Do you have favorite composers?
DDN: Mozart, Handel (the god of the gods), Wolf, Schubert, Grieg, Dvorak, Puccini, Verdi, Donizetti, Bach. There are so many.
AW: Is there a role you’re just dying to do?
DDN: Oh, yeah. Massenet’s Manon [Lescaut, from Manon]. This is a role that — when I have the chance to do it, and when I’m old enough — I’m dying to do. I don’t want to jinx it, but I feel that role is made for me, and I will endeavor to make it like nothing anyone has ever seen before. She’s a very complex character to explore as a pure actress.
AW: Is there a relationship between fashion/what you’re wearing in a performance and the performance itself?
DDN: There is a very important relationship between the fashion of costume designs and the performance itself. I feel that first and foremost, I build a character from the inside out. But the external costume of a character builds the skin that the character lives in.
Getting to Know Opera’s Coolest Soprano
Travel must-haves: Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream for my lips and hands. A face mask in case I need to protect against illness (better to be safe than sorry).My notebook for plenty of list making. My iPod, fully loaded and charged.
Person who has influenced me the most: My mother. She is the person I trust the most.
Favorite perfume: Van Cleef & Arpels’ “Feerie” and “Oriens,”Lolita Lempicka, Viktor & Rolf’s “Flowerbomb”
Best way to relax/unwind: Watching a movie or episodes of How I Met Your Mother or Sex and the City, taking a bath (sometimes I watch movies while in the bath!) or talking to my mom on the phone for a good giggle.
Beauty must-haves: Laura Mercier’s Hydrating Foundation Primer and Eye Basics in Buff. They were used on my face on a movie set, and they really work wonders for getting makeup to stay put!
Right now I’m reading: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
If I weren’t a singer I’d be an… Olympic gold medalist in figure skating! It is still a dream of mine. I loved watching Oksana Baiul dance on ice when I was a kid. She was just so moving to watch and made me feel as if I could skate too.