Macaroni Kid Talks to Opera Star & Mom Isabel Leonard

How She Keeps It Real!

By Courtney Daly-Pavone February 1, 2019

Multiple Grammy award winning opera star Isabel Leonard's schedule is packed! This month, she will be singing opposite Andrea Bocelli in “Three Centuries of Love” at The Met Feb 10th and Feb 17th, and starring in Marnie, the opera based on the famous Alfred Hitchcock thriller which premieres nationwide  on PBS (check local listings).   Isabel is a single mom. Her nine-year-old son Teo loves visiting The American Museum of Natural History with his mom, and kicking back and watching movies about Ninja's. I spoke with Isabel about juggling work and family, and how she makes her family dynamic work!

There's nothing more glamorous than the life of an opera star, and nothing more real than being a mom!

MACARONI KID: How do you balance parenting with your career?

ISABEL LEONARD: I don’t even know sometimes!! I try really hard to make sure whatever time I have with my son, it’s as quality as it can possibly be. Finding the balance between work and home can be hard sometimes.  Rehearsals for an opera can mean long and exhausting days.  I’ve learned the only thing I will ever regret in the end is time I’ve missed with my son.  I will have no other regrets. So, I try to keep it all in perspective especially when work seems like it is taking over.  

Is there a downtime in the opera business where you have time to parent?

 If you are fortunate, you can pretty much work year round as an opera singer. Of course, it’s challenging when you have more than one full time job, and parenting is the other.  I have to build in that “off” time. And not time when I am technically not on a contract and therefore am studying for the next job.  Actual time off where I can truly stop the wheels from spinning a million miles an hour.  We come from such a grueling work culture. Especially in New York it seems! As if it were the “cool” way to be- to work work work all the time.  “I love my career and the time I spend engulfed in it, but it is equally important to me to cultivate time with my family, friends, and expand my mind with things other than work.

What have you learned from your child?

I’ve learned that he is a mirror of me, my attitude, my soul, my heart, plus all the other incredible attributes that are all his own.  So when I get frustrated with his behavior, I really try to look at myself first and see if I’ve been giving off another color that he’s picking up.  If I can adjust myself first, I most likely help the situation. Then I can address whatever he is really bringing to the table on his own.  He’s a kid. He is smart. Intuitive. Funny. Super loving. And still learning.  I am his role model. Point blank.  

Are you different than your mom?

In some ways I certainly hope so! I think many of us try to parent differently from our own parents. There are things that I’ve learned about my own relationship with my mother, through parenting my child. I am fortunate to have her in my life still, and my son can spend time with her. I have also learned a ton from their interactions too. No one is perfect right? Everyone has fears and insecurities. Families are complex and flawed. I’ve learned that I want to strive for the best kinds of communication and learning without fear. It’s hard. But I think it’s really worth the journey and evolution.  

What does your child think of mom the opera star?

Sometimes my son will say “mama, you’re famous”. And I laugh and reply with “Well, I don’t know. Honestly, it’s the opera world, it’s a small world. I’m probably known within that world, and even then...”.  He just replies “Well, you’re famous”.  Some days he gets me with “Mama, why do you have to go work again?” That is hard for me to hear.  For any child, it is their world. It is what they know. Even if their friends have different home experiences, their experience is what they know and I suspect they just aren’t too concerned with it! Haha

What fun things do you like to do with your child?

My son and I love watching movies together. He always wants to order sushi for dinner (I’ll never know how I got so lucky) and watch a movie (or a ninja obstacle course show- or our new favorite The Titan Games, with The Rock!). He calls it a “mama-son night”.  I love it. ♥️  We do battle every now and then on what to watch as there are only so many times I can re-watch the same movie. We also love traveling together. I hate having to go work away from home, so when he can come with me, we are both super happy.  

Do you have any advice for working moms?

 I try to give myself the advice of, slow down.  Don’t forget to play.  To laugh.  To let some things slide.  Always always, think before you speak! I’m a single mom, and in order to do my job, I need help of course. It’s always a scheduling puzzle.  There are many days that I’m on the move from 6:30 am until midnight and I do everything in my power to put all my personal responsibilities during my sons school hours so that when he is out, I can be with him.  That doesn’t work everyday of course, and that’s okay.  I think we have to give ourselves a break, a pat on the back, and sometimes, truly have our own time to recharge.  Whatever that means to you.  Even if it’s getting your kids to sleep a little early (if possible) to have an extra 30 minutes of your own to...bathe!  Truly, finding time to refresh your spirit and creativity is so important. You were just you before your children, they need you to hold your identity as well. 

For More Information About Isabel Leonard Visit:

 Follow Isabel on Instagram  @isabelleonardNY

Click Here to See Isabel Leonard on Sesame Street

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