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Shine Bright: Opera Star Ana Maria Martinez on Finding Your Inner Light

Shine Bright: Opera Star Ana Maria Martinez on Finding Your Inner Light

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Soprano singer Ana Maria Martinez’s voice has resonated throughout theaters and venues across the world with her breathtaking performances and spell binding theatrical roles. Music has always been a passion of Martinez’s since she can remember.

“At an early age, I felt that I knew I had more to offer singing than anything else, and I knew I felt more alive doing this than anything else,” says Martinez.  Martinez’s mother Evangelina Colon was also an opera singer and, when Martinez was growing up, she would spend hours at rehearsals with her mother in the company of opera greats such as Plácido Domingo. Later, Martinez went on to win Domingo’s international voice competition, receiving the  1995 Pepita Embil Award at Operalia II.

Her connection with music, as well as the connection she feels with those she works with throughout a production (whether they are on stage with her, in the orchestra pit, the stage hands and even the audience), are the things she loves most about her profession. In her current role as Donna Elvira in a new Robert Falls production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which opens the 2014-2015 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Martinez, with the help of the fire arms expert, shoots a pistol in one of the acts. “Although the pistol is filled with blanks, I could feel in the first few rehearsals and performances that my knees would tighten every time I had to pull that trigger and making sure I am aiming slightly away from him just in case a little metal came out,” says Martinez, “And even in that moment, I am just an instrument, and this wonderful music and the energy that inspires that is what is connecting all of us.”

Although music brings her great joy, her other passions in life are psychology and things that cater to the spirit and the mind.  Her father, Dr. Angel Martinez, had an impact on her curiosity and interest in psychology, as he himself is a psychoanalyst.  “I would love to continue my readings on the subject of psychology, and to gain a greater awareness of people and what makes us all tick and how to help,” says Martinez.  At 19 years old, Martinez stood at the crossroads of wanting to pursue a career in classical music, or pursuing a career in psychology: “I came very close to completing the application for the psychology program at NYU, but I was very torn, and my father told me something at that moment that I love to share, especially with young people. He said ‘We are all born with many gifts, but it is up to us to choose and to identify the one gift to which we want to reach our fullest potential,’ and then I said ‘Shouldn’t I have something to fall back on because music can be so uncertain?’  And he just smiled and looked at me and said, ‘How can you consider dividing your focus and expect to have success at the one thing you want to pursue if you are not completely devoted to it?’ ”

Beyond her devotion to music and her interest in psychology, Martinez has a reoccurring role that surpasses any dream she has ever had. “Being a mom is my greatest dream come true,” says Martinez. Balancing a career and motherhood is a challenge for all moms, and for Martinez it’s no different. Living in Houston, TX and having performances all over the world, Martinez spends every free moment she has with her son. “For the first 5 years of my son’s life, he went everywhere with me,” says Martinez. Although her son’s father is also an opera singer, there is no expectation for her son to follow in the footsteps of his parents. “People often ask me if I expect my son to be an opera singer, and I say I don’t expect that at all. I expect him to do what he likes to do with his life, I just hope that music brings him joy,” says Martinez.

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For Martinez, the importance of instituting music into young minds is an ambition she continues to strive for. Having visited various schools, hospitals, and community centers, Martinez drives home the relevance of music to each person and child she meets. “It’s been documented how music can stimulate and improve cognitive thinking. There are children that are challenged in certain areas of their academic life, but when they discover music, and especially if they are playing an instrument, it doesn’t have to be playing it well, just playing it, improves their overall academic performance,” says Martinez.

Above all else, Martinez simply desires each person to have the courage to reach their full potential at whatever it is they dream of doing: “It’s not just the wish to follow your dreams, but it’s having the courage to go through something even if and when you are terrified.”

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