In the Wings: The Cast of Opera Philadelphia’s Don Carlo

Our revealing rapid-fire chat with Leah Crocetto, Michelle DeYoung, and Dimitri Pittas.

Verdi’s classic tale of a love triangle gone wrong is taking shape at the Academy of Music as Opera Philadelphia presents Don Carlo. We wanted to lighten up the otherwise tragic tale, so we sat down with the opera’s three leads, Leah Crocetto (Elisabetta), Michelle DeYoung (Princess Eboli), and Dimitri Pittas (Don Carlo) and had them take our rapid-fire Q&A about their experiences on stage and, boy, did they reveal some interesting secrets!

Leah Crocetto

Leah Crocetto

Leah Crocetto

My name is … Leah Joanne Crocetto, the first born daughter of Richard and Marcia Crocetto of Waterbury, CT and Brookfield, CT, respectively.

I am a … superhero. No. But if I were a superhero, I would want my super powers to be the ability to fly. Invisibility would be to hard: There would be too much information to glean. Flying. Yep! Flying is the ability for me. I would, of course use my super power for good and quick travel. It would come in handy in this job.

On opening night … my family will be here! I am so excited whenever they are in the audience. I will also look into the balcony and feel my dad with me. I dedicate each performance to him.

My favorite part of the show is … just after the first big scene. That means the stage fright is over and I am in the moment! That is the best feeling. Everything else just melts away and it is just me and team Don Carlo! 

To get into character for this show, I … read my score and review my lines just before going out onto stage. I go and talk to my cast mates and touch base with them and see how they are doing. And then, I put my fabulous costumes on! SERIOUSLY, people, these costumes are incredible!

Crocetto in performance.

Crocetto in performance.

My first stage kiss … was also my first kiss in life! I was 16 and was doing my first show at the Croswell Opera House in Adrian, MI (where I grew up). I was in It’s a Wonderful Life during Christmastime and the guy playing George Baily was named Eric Parker. All the girls thought he was some kind of stud. Well, I was playing Mrs. Martini and I had to sing a song about owning my own home and walking with pride, etc etc, and I had to sing “St Peter’s Dooooooome” that ended on a big High A natural. When I finished that note in rehearsal, Eric came up and planted one on me in front of everyone. That is my non-romantic very silly first stage kiss story.

The first opera I was in was … Madama Butterfly at age 17. I was in the chorus, also at the Croswell Opera House in Adrian, MI singing with Opera Lenawee, a short-lived company that was in my hometown! My hometown, Adrian, MI, is just incredible. Imagine growing up with live theatre and performing opportunities in your backyard!

My dream role is … Rodolfo in La Boheme by Puccini. Seriously. The range is perfect and the character is perfectly real. Not weak, not strong. Just a normal guy. And he has the best music. The reason I picked a male role is because I am singing my dream role right now in Philadelphia: Elisabetta in Verdi’s Don Carlo!

My surprising celebrity crush is … Roman Reigns of the WWE. WWE? Yes, WWE. My sister and her boyfriend got me hooked on WWE. It is hilarious and awesome! Roman Reigns is this big hunky Samoan-American guy from the Anoa’i Family, a renowned American Wrestling dynasty (also including Dwayne “the Rock”Johnson)

The most famous person I’ve ever met … Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, backstage in L.A. I was watching a friend play in Spring Awakening and went back stage to see him, and there were Jessica and Justin. They are both striking and tall and very nice. The most star-struck I have ever been is when I met Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg. She has done so much for women’s and human rights that I just didn’t even know what to say. It was humbling.

The last thing I binge-watched … Call the Midwife on the BBC (the first three seasons are on Netflix and the 4th season started on Sunday). It is miraculously written and you find yourself cheering for these mom’s delivering babies in Poplar, what was once a poor part of London.

To stay in shape I … try lots of things. I have lost about 60 pounds total, give or take a few, and have managed to keep it off for 3 years. I love Pure Barre and I actually love intervals on the treadmill. I love taking different classes too (Soul Cycle, pure barre, etc)! I also try really hard NOT to eat too much after a show, but I am an empty stomach singer, so sometimes that gets tricky.

The last time I dined out in Philadelphia, I ate … the best burger of my life at Village Whiskey. It was their burger of the month, called the Kimchee King. Holy smokes, that thing was so good.

The best show I saw recently … Peter Grimes in concert at the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas and starring two of my dearest friends on the planet: Elza van den Heever as Ellen Orford and Stuart Skelton as Peter Grimes.

The best thing about Philadelphia’s opera scene is … I cannot possibly just pick one thing! I love everyone involved with the opera: the cast, crew, administration, everyone. I have never done a show where I know every person in the cast personally! Opera is such a small world. The “scene” itself is very intimate as well. The proximity to everything in the city is wonderful! But, for sure, the best thing about the opera scene is the people involved on every level. This is one of the best companies I have ever worked with.

Michelle DeYoung

Michelle DeYoung

Michelle DeYoung

My name is … Michelle DeYoung.

I am … usually mezzo-soprano but also sing soprano roles in both opera and concert.  

On opening night … I’m always very excited and very nervous; It’s an incredible high!

My favorite part of the show is … the duet with Carlos going into the trio with Rodrigo

To get into character for this show, I … consider how all the character’s different emotions relate to me and how to make her human.

My first stage kiss … The first time I sang Sieglinde it was at Chicago Lyric, and Placido Domingo was my Siegmund. There was one staged kiss in the production, but by the time we got to opening night there were at least a dozen, and involved a bit more than a staged kiss usually involves!

The first opera I was in was … Tartuffe by Kirke Mechem.

My dream role is … I do sing my dream roles, but I would like to do Marie in Wozzeck, Ariadne, and Brunnhilde, but I don’t know if it will ever happen.

My surprising celebrity crush … was Philip Seymour Hoffman.

DeYoung in Performance.

DeYoung in Performance.

The most famous person I’ve ever met … Sting.  I was doing Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder with San Francisco Symphony. I had a piano rehearsal with MTT, but it had to be at his house, as there was a charity concert at Davies Symphony Hall.  I warmed up in the concert master’s studio, and when I came out, Sting was sitting right outside my door, having been listening to me the entire time. He said hello, and I melted and got a terrible case of shyness!

The last thing I binge-watched … Boardwalk Empire

To stay in shape I … Work out every day and try to eat healthy.

The last time I dined out in Philadelphia, I ate … lamb French dip and pickled beets at Fado, across from our rehearsal space. It was incredible!

The best show I saw recently … I’m a bit of a CHOPPED fanatic.

The best thing about Philadelphia’s opera scene is … I don’t know yet, but I can’t wait to find out!

Dimitri Pittas

Dimitri Pittas

Dimitri Pittas

My name is … Dimitri, though my friends call me Meat.

I am a … Tenor, cancer survivor and Beatles fan. I also dig Springsteen and Billy Joel.

On opening night … I don’t give cards or gifts to my fellow cast members. But I will buy the first round after the show!

My favorite part of the show is … anytime I get to eat on stage. I love singing with food in my mouth.

To get into character for this show, I … have to be careful about getting too real. See, my character is in love with a woman who just married my father, the king. So in short, I’m in love with my step-mom. I’ll probably listen to some music with angst, like Muse or Avril Lavigne.

My first stage kiss … I was dating my co-star so I really got robbed of that first awkward feeling of kissing someone I didn’t know for the first time.

The first opera I was in was … Amahl and the Night Visitors. I sang an aria entitled “This is My Box.” I still giggle every time I think of it.

My dream role is … Tony in West Side Story. For an opera singer I’m told I have dancer legs ;)

My surprising celebrity crush is … My wife, Leah, has been on TV. She said “One Dollar, Bob,” to Bob Barker. So, the answer is, my wife!

The most famous person I’ve ever met … I’ve had dinner with Mary-Louise Parker, chatted with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg after a performance and passed Elliot Spitzer jogging through Central Park.

The last thing I binge-watched … Firefly. And I DVR The Voice so I can fast forward through the commercials.

Pittas in performance.

Pittas in performance.

To stay in shape I … Eat Greek yogurt, do push ups using an app on my iPad that counts them for me and try not to eat steak, even though I ADORE steak.

The last time I dined out in Philadelphia, I ate … Steak. With kale sprouts and a few dirty gin martinis with extra olives at Rouge.

The best show I saw recently  Beatles Love by Cirque du Soleil in Vegas. That was over a year ago. Despite being a performer, I don’t actually get to see anything.

The best thing about Philadelphia’s opera scene is … How engaged the entire city seems about having Don Carlo performed. It’s a masterpiece that needs to be in every opera theater’s repertoire.

Don Carlo runs April 24 through May 3 at the Academy of Music. For tickets or more information, click here.