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Former Quincyan Makes European Opera Debut

A year ago soprano Melissa Citro watched the Los Angeles Opera production of "Jenufa" from the wings in her role as the lead's cover or understudy.

Last month she was center stage as Jenufa when the Staatsoper in Stuttgart, Germany, presented Leos Janacek's opera.

"It was a really, really exciting and wonderful experience," said the former Quincyan. "It's a lucky break to get to make your European debut in the title role of an opera like this. I was certainly aware of how fortunate I was to have landed such a gig as my debut."

Citro said learning to sing the Czech was intimidating at first, but she grew to love the language and the role.

"I was thrilled to get a chance to do it myself so quickly and at such a great house with such a great orchestra," she said.

Citro was recommended for the part by contacts connected with both opera houses. She landed it after auditioning about six months ago. Having just covered the role, she was ready for the part.

"Being the cover at a house like LA is an honor in itself," Citro said. It's "a great way to learn a role backward and forward. Sometimes you get to rehearse with the orchestra, sometimes you go on in place of the scheduled artist. In any case you're able to turn around and do the role somewhere else because its fully prepared and rehearsed. ...

"Everything came together," she said.

Back with the LA Opera, Citro is preparing for her role in Puccini's "Il Trittico," a trilogy of one-act operas. She'll appear in "Suor Angelica," directed by William Friedkin. He's directed several operas since his film career, which included directing "The Exorcist" and "French Connection."

Working with Friedkin has been interesting and fun, and more like being on a Hollywood set than in opera rehearsals, Citro said.

"He's used to ... having everyone in the cast available" as he directs, while the singers are used to coming in for specific rehearsals, Citro said.

She is also looking forward to meeting Woody Allen, who is making his opera directing debut with the third opera in the trilogy, the comedy "Gianni Schicchi."

"It's exciting for all of us," said Citro, who admitted to peeking at his rehearsals.

In January, Citro will be singing Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs with the Richmond (Va.) Symphony.

"I have loved these songs since I first heard them," she said.

After that, she returns to LA to perform in "Die Walkure," the first of four operas in Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle. She'll be singing the role of Ortlinde, one of the Valkyries, and covering the lead role of Sieglinde. Placido Domingo will star as Siegmund.

"This is the LA Opera's first production of the Ring Cycle, so there's some buzz and excitement about it," she said. A documentary will be filmed on its making.

Citro travels with her 3-year-old son, Henry, who attends preschool when they're at home in New York. Her husband, Ray, times his visits for the last week of rehearsals and opening night.

Sister Kate spent the summer in Stuttgart to keep an eye on Henry. Her mother, Kathy Citro, made the trip to Germany to see Melissa perform.

"I wished I could speak German so I could tell everybody 'I'm her mother,' " Kathy Citro said. "I was extremely proud."


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