Broadway Performer to Make Detroit Symphony Orchestra Debut This Weekend

Soprano Meghan Picerno shares her thoughts on Broadway, the upcoming Detroit show, and how she got to where she is today.
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Photograph by Chris Singer (@chrissingerme), courtesy of Meghan Picerno

“It’s funny,” says Meghan Picerno, a silken-voiced soprano, “I always say that I’m a rockstar at heart, but I was born into a soprano’s body.”

Picerno, who this weekend will make her debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Wynton Marsalis’s Blues Symphony, which runs Dec. 1-3, 2023, is known for her versatility as a vocalist, appearing both in musical theater and in opera, on stages throughout the world. She has performed as Cunegonde in the New York City Opera’s production of Candide and as Christine Daaé in Phantom of the Opera.

But, Picerno says, “If I could legitimately be a rocker — like, literally be an actual rockstar — my life would be complete.”

Picerno compares “singing opera like an opera singer [and] singing Broadway like a Broadway singer” to “wearing the appropriate outfit to the appropriate event.”

“It’s a lot of hard work,” she says — but it’s not unlike putting on a dress, a mask, or a costume that can later be swapped out for another outfit.

“But if I tried to sing actual rock?” she laughs, “it would be like an SNL skit.”

Picerno’s performance with the DSO will combine some of her diverse interests. Together with the Wynton Marsalis’s Blues Symphony and led by Music Director Jader Bignamini, Picerno will lead an evening of songs by Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin.

“There’s something really magical about…[having] a symphony that’s mostly classical playing works that have crossed over into the Broadway world,” Picerno says. “So, when you have those two worlds merged together, the most beautiful marriage can occur.”

Picerno is particularly looking forward to singing work by Bernstein this weekend.

“Bernstein’s work, for me, is some of the most soul-fulfilling music to sing. There’s mischief, there’s passion, there’s pathos,” she says. “There are certain composers that speak to your soul and Bernstein is absolutely one of them for me.”

Picerno says her path to the stage was neither clear not straightforward.

She was introduced to opera her junior year of high school when her French class visited the Lyric Opera of Chicago for a production of Romeo and Juliet. While her classmates were falling asleep, Picerno says, “I sat there mesmerized…I was utterly overwhelmed with how incredible this art form was.”

Eventually, Picerno made her way to school, where she studied music. But, she says, “if I’m being really honest with you, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.”

But a shift occurred, and she began to get focused: “Then I was, like, ‘Oh, no — I want to do this.’”

Picerno moved to New York City after college, a scene she describes like something out of a musical: “As soon as we got off the train, I’m telling you, the pulse that went through my body! I was just like, ‘Oh my God, this is where I’m supposed to be.’ I just knew it. And I was right.”

Throughout her up-and-coming years, Picerno worked a variety of odd jobs. “You know, it’s wild,” she says, thinking back. “I was a personal assistant, I was a server — oh my gosh, I was a member of the meat cutters’ union at one point because I was [working] at a deli.”

Picerno is willing to ascribe her success to qualities like adaptability and determination, which drove her onwards — but, at the same time, “the boldness and resourcefulness come out of necessity,” she says.

“Due to the fact that I’m not from a wealthy family, I had no choice but to ask for things and be creative with how to make ends meet,” she says. “I was working 60 hours a week while I was going to grad school.”

For now, Picerno’s ready to have some fun in Detroit and to keep her audiences in a state of surprise.

“When people meet [me] and they hear that I’m an opera singer,” she says, “they think I’m gonna be, you know, this perfectly coiffed human. And a lot of times you’re gonna get me in leather pants, boots, and a rock shirt, probably. But you just never know — keep ‘em guessing.”

For more information on Picerno’s DSO performance, visit dso.org. Plus, be sure to visit hourdetroit.com for details on more weekend happenings in our area.