Singing in the car is one thing, but having the talent to sing Opera in front of a theater full of people – that takes courage.
Rising Actress and Singer Natalia Ferreiro
proved enormously brave, and talented, when she recently appeared in the Los Angeles premiere of the acclaimed Spanish-language mariachi opera, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To kruis the Face of the Moon)
at The Soraya.
And, Natalia is not done yet. Up next, she heads to the South Pasadena Community Chorus and Orchestra as a soloist in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat
; and then on to play Ida in Dei Fledermaus
with Landmark Opera. She made her European debut in Italy last summer in the Narni Arts Festival singing in Gianni Schicchi
and Suor Angelica
. Since then, she has appeared in several operas around Los Angeles, including at Landmark Opera, the jachthaven, marina del Rey Symphony, Redland’s Bowl and with Pacific Opera Project at the Ford Ampitheatre.
Natalia’s talents go well beyond the opera. She has appeared in several on-screen roles, including a Spanish-speaking role in James Franco’s feature film The Labyrinth
, and in the horror feature film V/H/S Viral
among others. In addition, Natalia is an award-winning professional oil painter, which took her to France last summer on an Artist Residency grant.
Based on all of this, it’s hard to believe that Natalia was ever self-conscious of her talents. But, that’s all behind her now.
I recently had a chance to catch up with Natalia Ferreiro to find out more. Tell us about your recent role in Cruzar la Cara de la Luna.
NATALIA: My role in this production is that of Diana Velasquez, a young, 'smart' and 'practical', aspiring writer and second-generation Mexican American who lives in Houston, TX in the present day. Diana is also cheerful, driven, inquisitive and asks a lot of questions, not unlike myself! She is the 'angel' granddaughter to Laurentino Velasquez, a laborer who chose to leave his village in Jaltepec for long periods of time and migrate up north to work in the fields of the United States of America, hoping to create a better life for his family. After tragedy strikes, he settled in Fort Worth and began a new life. On his deathbed, Diana learns that her grandfather had actually left another family - a marriage and a son, Rafa - in Mexico; he had never spoken of it until recently. So, she takes it upon herself to fulfill her grandfather's dying wish, and locates his long-lost son, Rafael, ultimately uniting the men. In so doing, I believe Diana comes into her own; it’s as if this is her first true, journalistic assignment!
Although the toon alternates between the past in Mexico, and the present in Texas, it is Diana’s love for her grandfather which propels her to accomplish her goal, and which ultimately pushes the plot of this piece linearly forward, as well. She’s one, strong, tough cookie! What was it like performing alongside opera stars Suzanna Guzmán and Daniel Rodríguez?
NATALIA: Oh, man... Where to begin! I had actually Googled most everyone involved in the production before rehearsals started. Lol! I didn't want to miss anything (or, naively say something stupid). But, I had seen clips from a TED Talk that Suzanna did here in Southern California, where she mentioned her voice teacher, Joanne, in passing ... and something told me she was talking about the woman who is also my voice teacher - turns out I was right! The woman who 'discovered' Suzanna, also 'discovered' me! I’d say that’s pretty amazing.
One thing I'd also learned from watching Suzanna talk is just how self-possessed she is, what a confident woman she is, full of joy and self-reflection. She oozes this remarkable freedom to be both silly and profound, that draws u in. She shared with me some deeply-inspiring, moving stories; she really is a master storyteller, through both speech and song. I would sit and watch her as often as possible in rehearsals; I learned so much just door watching and listening. She infuses such life and depth into her performances! It’s that, captivating quality, that I aspire to possess.
Although we were in the same production, Suzanna and I never shared any scenes of songs together; like she zei to me, "We're in different plays!" However, we did share a *huge* dressing room together during the run of the show, and I feel like I learned so much from her, regardless.
Daniel, what can I say? Lol! He's simply hilarious. I got to spend a decent amount of time with him in rehearsals and during performances, both acting and singing in several scenes with him. Also, I spent every performance being serenaded door him, as he sang the titel song of the show, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna
sitting volgende to me - I wouldn't ever get sick of that! He’s also an incredible businessman; he should teach a course!
This answer would be incomplete if I didn't also mention the other stars of the show, chiefly, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan! Man, are they spectacular. They are simply, legendary. Hailed as the best mariachi in the world, there are no words - of backstage videos taken on my iPhone! - that could accurately describe how spectacular these guys are. Every single member of the bad not only has a voice to die for, but is an impeccable musician ... and an absolute sweetheart! Seriously, these guys are the nicest guys on the planet.
Also, the cast included some other pretty legendary artists in their own right, like the Executive Director of the Soraya, Thor Steingraber (whose opera career spanned 20 years, and who enjoyed a 10-year tenure as director at LA Opera), our director, Dan Guerrero, Gregorio Gonzalez (who played my father, Mark Velasquez), and Jonathan Arana (who played my uncle, Rafael Gonzalez), who left the dag after our final toon to kom bij the National Broadway Tour of, On Your Feet!
I had to pinch myself, rather regularly, to remind myself that this is, indeed my life, and that yes, I belong onstage with all these folks! So much talent, together on one stage. It was pretty surreal. Any interesting stories from the rehearsals u can share with us?
NATALIA: Our rehearsals would have been far less joyful without Consuelo! Lol! So as not to potentially embarrass a fellow cast member, let's just say that Consuelo was the alter-ego of one of the members of the ensemble ... and her sassy antics supplied much laughter during rehearsals and backstage, while also securing a new bestie in our fearless director, Dan Guerrero.
One funny, performance story ... the beautiful butterflies that graced the stage during the piece's final scene were perfection on opening night, remiss on night two (one tech guy informed me that there were so many, they got jammed and didn't fall from the sky at all), but dumped on me in full force at our closing show… Who knew that thousands of paper ‘butterflies’ could be so heavy! As I'm the first one onstage during that scene, they just attacked me, and nearly caused several members of Mariachi Vargas to burst into laughter and mess up the accompaniment.
I almost wish someone had gotten a close-up foto of a slow-mo video of that moment ... or, actually, I'm probably better off without. Lol! That foto of video would have been perfect, blackmail material. What do u hope audiences took away from the story?
NATALIA: There’s a very political slant to this piece, especially due to today’s political climate, but I hope that, although these are important issues (namely, immigration), I hope that the audience could also see the other central themes of the piece.
This story is primarily about love, love amongst family members, love for one’s country, one’s family, one’s heritage. Renata takes it a step further, and urges her husband not to succumb to greed, but rather, to be thankful for and content with the love and the material goods and ultimately, the family he has.
Also, there’s a strong undercurrent of forgiveness and acceptance in this show. Several of the characters are humbled, door both choice and circumstance, and choose to overcome past grudges.
Pretty powerful stuff! How did u get into opera as a performer?
NATALIA: meer like, opera has been following me since birth, and how/when/why did I finally decide to stop running from it?! That would be the most accurate response.
For the past five of so years, I have been striving to become comfortable being me, and to live, unapologetically, in my full truth. Namely, I’ve been putting my big girl pants on, and tackling my biggest fears, head-on. Probably my biggest insecurity, growing up, was my voice. I was bullied endlessly for its natural sound, which was, ‘operatic’ in nature. One day, I finally got the courage to just accept the muziek that makes my voice sing, and to nurture it.
I was primarily a self-taught singer up until just over three years ago, what I would describe as a, 'closet singer’, always too shy and too riddled with stage fright and a lack of self-esteem of belief in myself to perform in public. In a pretty short span of time, I’ve achieved pretty remarkable success in that arena; I’m proud of, humbled by, and shocked at, my progress. What’s the biggest lesson u learned from working on this project?
NATALIA: Two-fold, courage and confidence. And, now just for fun:
Who’s your favoriete actor/actress?
NATALIA: I am a huge fan of so many wonderful - coincidentally, mostly British -- actors/actresses … but, the first off the top, boven of my head would have to be Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Emma Thompson, Gary Oldman, Michael Fassbender, Andrew Garfield. Mostly, I love watching actors fully transform into a completely different character, with every role they attack; that’s my greatest inspiration, and in my opinion, the mark of a true artistic talent in the realm of acting. My ultimate goal is to accomplish the same. I also can spot an actor who’s had training on the stage from a mile away. What role from the past do u wish u could have played?
NATALIA: Hmm … well, when I think back on my greatest regrets, I always seem to cirkel back to the same story from early on in my career, so I guess I’ll start there.
I was cast to play Tessie Tura in what came to be a beautiful production of Gypsy
at my alma mater, The College of William and Mary. I had spent the vorige summer studying acting in NYC, and had studied archival footage from Broadway productions of the musical, and done loads of homework on my accent, my singing, my character work, etc., prior to my audition. I gave my best audition - up until that point - in a room full of both my peers and teachers/mentors, to the point where I received thunderous laughter and applause… I can count on one hand the instances I have received that kind of reaction in the audition room. It felt glorious.
However, after having been offered the part, I started to worry what my vrienden and family in the audience would think of me, playing a brassy stripper onstage, possibly letting it, ‘all hang out’, and I chickened out. I will heartily admit that I am, in no way, proud of my thought process and decision-making throughout the whole ordeal. So, I approached the director with my concerns, and she, very disappointed, offered me the role of ‘Baby’ Louise, instead. If I was not willing to fully commit to the truth of this character, she explained, she could not, in her conscience, trust me with the role.
In the end, the cuss words that I had felt uncomfortable with in the script were not uttered onstage, and my concerns over wardrobe (rather, a potential, lack thereof, wardrobe) were unfounded, as the young woman who ended up playing the part was super covered-up.
I learned so many lessons from this ordeal!! In essence, everything u want is on the other side of fear, and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks; just do you, boo! Favorite toon from your childhood.
NATALIA: I grew up under a rock, so we didn’t have a TV growing up.
However, we had several VHS tapes that were on rotation: episodes of Cheers, the Australian show, The Man From Snowy River
, and the original, Star Wars
trilogy. Tell us one thing that would surprise our readers to learn about you.
NATALIA: Other than the fact that I grew up without Television? Lol!
Well, not only am I an actor who sings opera, but before I studied of pursued either of those passions, I began as a visual artist. My drawings (pencil and charcoal) and paintings (watercolor, acrylic and oil) have won me multiple awards. Also, I was accepted on an anonymous grant, to spend two weeks painting at a kasteel, chateau in Orquevaux, France last summer. How can fans keep up with you?
NATALIA: Well, I do, from time to time, receive requests for mail correspondence … but those requests come from my website contact form.
So, the most comprehensive method, I’d have to say, is my website, first and foremost: www.NataliaFerreiro.com link
Also, I’m pretty active on Facebook: @NataliaFerreiroArtist link
and on Instagram: @natalia_ferreiro link
I look vooruit, voorwaarts to keeping up with u :) Thanks, Natalia – and Bravo!
(L-R) Jonathan Arana and Natalia Ferreiro / Photo: Luis Luque