Opera singer balances music and motherhood


An opera singer from Seymour is successfully balancing two things that are near and dear to her heart: Music and motherhood.

“Most of the time, I’m a stay-at-home mom who happens to teach voice and piano after school,” soprano Donata Cucinotta said.

“Soon, I’ll be getting ready to go to upstate New York to sing an opera, and sometimes, I might be gone for a weekend or up to a couple of weeks,” she said.

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After looking at the math of hours in a year, she spends way more time with her son than if she had an average 9-to-5 job.

Cucinotta, who grew up in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, has performed with opera companies and professional orchestras across the nation.

She and her husband, Dr. Justin Rasner, moved to Seymour in 2016 after Schneck Medical Center made him an offer he couldn’t pass up.

After spending most of her life in larger cities, Cucinotta has adjusted well to small-town living and grows more comfortable each day.

“The more I travel for work, I’m thinking, ‘Isn’t it awesome that if I can’t get a flight out of Louisville, there are the other two airports nearby?’ which makes my life much easier because I’m trying to juggle working, travel and trying to be a good wife and mother,” she said.

Her latest engagement will see her sing the role of Donna Elvira in the Indianapolis Opera performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Performances are set for March 20 through 22 at The Toby Theater at Newfields at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The performances will be sung in Italian with English translations projected above the stage.

“The Toby Theater is a smaller space. It’s a 544-seat theater, which is great. That’s about the size of an audience Mozart wrote it for,” Cucinotta said. “Plus, all of the singers are so amazing, and I’m very excited to be working with them.”

Based on the legend of Don Juan, Don Giovanni is a story of power, pleasure, violence and the result of their many consequences, although the opera also is known for its many comedic and lighter moments.

“Don Giovanni is a classic opera, and I think of it as the original #MeToo story,” Cucinotta said. “It is based on the legend of Don Juan and his many conquests.”

Cucinotta said through most of the opera, her character is chasing down Don Giovanni and trying to get him to do the right thing and repent.

“Don Giovanni is like the most country music opera ever, but there’s no bluegrass in it,” Cucinotta said. “I spend two hours onstage going around talking about how my man done me wrong.”

Cucinotta said the singers at the opera come from all over the world, and they are independent contractors, so it’s really fun to have a bunch of people come together from all over to put on a show.

“My best friend, Kirsten Chambers, has a very powerful voice and will also be in the opera,” she said. “It’ll be ‘blow you hair back’ Mozart, and I’m legitimately excited about it.”

Cucinotta said it’s a smaller industry that they’re in, so it’s a tight-knit community because they all like this thing called opera, which is just like a musical, only heightened.

Besides teaching from her home and performing onstage, Cucinotta frequently talks to high school students and recently gave a master class at Seymour High School.

Kyle Karum, the school’s director of choral music, asked her to work with his students before the Indiana State School Music Association state competitions.

“Once they are able to turn on their ears and listen to people’s voices and how they use it, then I can help them learn how to make their voices more efficient,” Cucinotta said.

This year, all the of the students she worked with got perfect scores at the ISSMA competitions.

“Those students were able to apply what they learned and get higher scores,” Cucinotta said. “That’s because they were able to work one-on-one with an expert, and I’ve been teaching as long as I’ve been singing.”

She said when it comes to music, people think it’s just going to happen, but it just takes practice and working with a teacher.

“I tell them if they like to be in musicals, double the size of their school orchestra,” she said. “Then do it all without a microphone and fill the space with vibrations and sound.”

Cucinotta said the crazy costumes and outlandish plot points are what drew her to opera in the first place.

She was in high school choir and thought that was cool. Then her parents took her to an opera.

“I started to see the opera singers had way cooler costumes, and they’re really loud and do it without microphones,” Cucinotta said. “To me, it seemed like the punk rock version of a musical, and that was something I wanted to do.”

Cucinotta said she is looking forward to a recital at 1 p.m. May 17 at All Souls Unitarian Church in Indianapolis.

“This is free to the public, and it’s with a favorite collaborator of mine, Greg Sanders,” she said. “He also works with yuletide and symphony orchestra and is in charge of the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus.”

Cucinotta said they have selected a lot of songs in different languages for the afternoon concert, and she continues to pepper through events like that just to keep singing.

“It’s like Dory from ‘Finding Nemo,’ but instead of keep swimming, it’s just keep singing,” Cucinotta said. “I just love singing so much, and it makes me really happy and it balances my life.”

She said it has been great to be able to commute right now. There were times when she has been out on the road and doesn’t know how she managed it.

“I do have a young child, and through the first few years of his life, most of my engagements have been in Indiana or they’ve been a quick concert weekend or week and a half, so I’ve been really lucky,” she said.

Cucinotta said she has a great mother-in-law who watches her son and is awesome and willing to travel. If it wasn’t for her, she wouldn’t be able to be the kind of mom she wants to be and also be a working parent.

“I’d like to think that professional opera-wise I have another 10 years, maybe more, but I also do some crossover,” Cucinotta said. “I also do some musical theater and jazz and different genres, but I like to think that’s an investment in my longevity.”

Cucinotta said somewhere down the line, there might be a play with a role for a grandma. That’s her goal because she really loves storytelling and communicating with an audience.

“Singing with orchestra is my most favorite thing in the world,” Cucinotta said. “My goal is to keep singing with orchestra as long as I’m physically able.”

The singer said she is just trying to be a happy mother for her son and have a balanced life with music being a part of that life.

“At the end of the day, I’m the only one who can give my son a happy mom,” Cucinotta said. “For me, a part of that is singing for as long as humanly possible.”

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Donata Cucinotta is Italian and grew up in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

She obtained a bachelor’s degree in music from Ithaca College in upstate New York and eventually decided on opera.

She returned to Indianapolis to perform in her fourth yuletide celebration in 2019.

She most recently was a featured artist in Vienna to Broadway with the Indiana Symphony Orchestra and can be seen on Encore! Pippin on Disney+.

An Indiana local, last season she performed with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic and Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra.

She sang Musetta in La Bohème with Indianapolis Opera and is looking forward to returning this spring as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni.

She maintains a voice studio in Seymour, where she lives with her family.

Follow Cucinotta on social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube @SopranoDonata

Website: donatacucinotta.com

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What: Mozart’s Don Giovanni

When: 7:30 p.m. March 20 and 21 and 3 p.m. March 22

Where: The Toby Theater at Newfields, 4000 N. Michigan Road, Indianapolis

Tickets: Buy online at indyopera.secure.force.com/ticket

Information: Call 317-283-3531 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday


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