Soprano Madison Leonard in the Spotlight

Madison Leonard

She’s a poet, a jazz aficionado, and a fan of many Steves!  Madison makes her Wolf Trap debut this weekend in Four of a Kind.

Which experience(s) most influenced your decision to become a professional singer? What’s the earliest point in your life that you can identify in pointing you in this direction?

When I was nine years old, I took a field trip to see Madame Butterly at my hometown opera company. It was my first experience with opera and I remember just being in awe of the voices, costumes and sets. And then I didn’t encounter opera again until college! I studied voice with the magnificent tenor Henry Price, who is singlehandedly responsible for my falling in love with opera. Over the course of my first year of school, he sent me links to recordings of Sills, Callas, Tebaldi, and Scotto on YouTube and I immediately felt that same captivation from when I was a grade school kid. Without knowing a single thing about what they were saying or about the story, I felt something so human and relatable and indescribable. I am so glad that I get pursue that feeling again and again every time I sing.

If you hadn’t chosen this career, what would you have pursued instead?

If I hadn’t been introduced to opera, I might have pursued journalism or some other form of writing. I loved writing for fun as a kid! My family members can attest that I gifted them hand-crafted poems for every special event for many way too many years. I even edited for my university’s newspaper, until I started using my position to promote the operas in the arts section a little too heavily and got called out for a potential conflict of interest. So I decided to focus on music from that point forward — and just judge people’s grammar in my free time.

What non-operatic music do you enjoy? Do you dabble in performing/playing/singing any other genres?

I absolutely love jazz and funk. My number one goal in life (besides being a good person/singer/etc) is to be able to sit down and play improvised jazz piano like those amazing folks who play at Nordstrom stores. I love to sing it and listen to it, but to be able to play real jazz piano would just be the dream for me.

Do you have any artistic heroes? People whose careers or artistry you particularly look up to? / What’s been your most memorable live music experience as an audience member?

I am in awe of countless artists, and usually add a new person to my list every time that I go to the theater. One person who comes to my mind is Sondra Radvanovsky. I was fortunate to score a cheap student ticket a couple of years ago at the Lyric Opera of Chicago when she was singing the title role in Anna Bolena. She embodies grace, control, courage, technique, beauty, style — all at once! I was already a total sucker for bel canto, but between her and Jamie Barton’s divine voices and style, I was basically weeping in my seat for the entire four hours.

Which non-classical musician would you love to work with and why?

I would give anything to work with Stevie Wonder. I was brought up listening to his music and just have that feeling that we would get along — you know? Or Steve Martin. I love his bluegrass music and really respect the fact that he casually tackled a myriad of different careers in one lifetime with total success. So, either Steve would do.

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