Girls of Summer
ZULIMAR LÓPEZ-HERNÁNDEZ, Zerlina at Des Moines Metro Opera, talks to TRISTAN KRAFT about Mozart and other matters.
López-Hernández as Norina in Don Pasquale at Des Moines Metro Opera, 2011
© Duane Tinkey 2012
Zulimar López-Hernández, who sings Zerlina in Des Moines Metro Opera's Don Giovanni this summer, has a personality that seems ideally suited to the role: in conversation, one first notices her youthful enthusiasm, then her intelligence, then her pragmatism. The soprano only started taking voice lessons in college, where she studied to be a dietician before switching degrees to music. "At least I always try to take care of myself and eat well," she jokes. Since then, she has made signature roles out of Despina in Così Fan Tutte (which she covered for New York City Opera in March 2012) and Norina in Don Pasquale (which she sang at DMMO last summer). Other engagements last season included Susanna (Annapolis Opera), her first Juliette (Knoxville Opera) and Musetta (Opera Grand Rapids). "My teacher [Ruth Falcon] says, 'You should consider yourself a lyric soprano with an extension, but on the lighter side.' I'm not going to be singing Mimì for some years. I like being in the fach that I am in right now."
López-Hernández is technically making a return to the role of Zerlina, which she sang as a student in her native Puerto Rico. "You know what? I did sing it when I was a student, but that was so long ago that I feel like it's totally new. It feels like something that I've never even looked at before — and I love it." Will the comic roles such as Despina and Norina mean that she'll bring some humor to Des Moines? "I love doing comedy. It may be something that I do gravitate to, but I do play comedy as a very serious thing. That's the only way you can actually affect people — if you play comedy as something that's really serious, and you're inside that seriousness and that realness of that character."
Director Tim Ocel and conductor David Neely lead DMMO performances of Giovanni in June and July. Michael Mayes sings Giovanni, Marjorie Owens is Donna Anna and Brenda Harris is Donna Elvira. López-Hernández offers profuse expressions of respect for current singers when talking about influences for Zerlina but says, "I'm really an old-school kind of girl when it comes to recordings. I want to know how these singers used to do this without all the resources that we have. I have a husband who's really supportive, and he loves opera as well. One of his hobbies is just getting on the Internet and buying DVDs and CDs of operas. When I get to be home for at least two or three weeks, then we just watch whatever I'm working on and different takes on it."