Nicole Cabell is an awe-inspiring operatic soprano with a golden, rich, and powerful voice. On top of her prolific opera career, she has also worked hard to become a strong operathlete. From weight lifting to practicing yoga, to performing many of the soprano repertoire’s most coveted roles, Ms. Cabell is an extremely well-rounded role model for performers both young and old. We are absolutely thrilled to share her interview with OPERATHLETIC.
Ms. Cabell is sought-after for a myriad of dream roles including Mimì, Violetta, Pamina, Juliette and more at some of the world’s leading opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera House, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Michigan Opera Theatre, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Cincinnati Opera, and more. She is the 2005 Winner of the BBC Singer of the World Competition, and has recorded with Decca, Delos and Opera Rara, among others. To learn more about Nicole Cabell, visit her website at http://nicole-cabell.com/.
We are honored and excited to share our interview with this fantastic soprano. Both her astounding opera career and inspiring fitness journey prove that hard work goes a long way. Thank you so much, Ms. Cabell, for sharing your wisdom with OPERATHLETIC!
Q: When did you begin your fitness journey? What inspired you to start?
A: I’d say I’ve always been active on a moderate level, but started going to the gym when I was in college. Yoga came later, and while I’ve been studying for about five years, I still feel like a beginner! It’s definitely the most challenging exercise I’ve ever done. In my case, simply wanting to feel better and have more energy inspired me to start, but in the case of yoga, the mind-body element of the exercise has become the most important aspect.
Q: How would you describe your weekly exercise routine?
A: I believe in moderation. I don’t often do heavy workouts without a day in-between to rest unless I’m concentrating on weights, and in that case I’ll alternate lower and upper body. I’ll try to make sure to do yoga on any day I’m not doing a heavy workout, as I can adjust and do a rather light yoga routine, but there are days when yoga kills me, and in those cases, I will not do weights on those days.
Q: Do you believe that your health & fitness journey has had a positive influence on your operatic career? How so?
A: Opera is becoming more visually oriented, so yes, it has helped me to stay in shape. However, just feeling better and having more energy has been the most beneficial to me, and that energy translates to the stage, I believe.
Q: What advice would you give to a performer who is just beginning their health & fitness journey?
A: Don’t try to be superwoman or superman. Start small, and definitely with an exercise you enjoy. If you hate going to the gym, you probably will never sustain that workout long term. Find something that speaks to your passions and interests, be it hiking, tennis, yoga, etc. and do that. Also, go easy on yourself if you don’t get the results you are looking for for a while (or ever). Genetically it is very hard to change our body type. Concentrate on simply feeling better and getting better numbers in regard to cholesterol and blood pressure, etc..
Q: How do you stay healthy and avoid illness on the road?
A: I will always wear a face mask on an international flight, as more than a couple hours in a plane can leave you ripe for getting sick. In fact, always bring one, just in case you are seated next to someone with a cough or sneeze. Always get as much sleep as possible, and try to stay warm in cold environments. Stress is key, so I concentrate on stress-relieving activities like meditation and yoga. If I start eating bad foods and sugars, my immune system weakens, and of course that leaves me more vulnerable for getting sick.
Q: Do you follow a specific diet or nutritional plan?
A: Again, the theme here is moderation. Eating clean is key, so I don’t try to eliminate all carbs or sugars. Rather, I make sure to not eat too much of any one thing. My best friend is protein, and I never go a day without loading up on it. For a singer, this is key for endurance and energy. My weakness is salty carbs like buttered bread and potato chips, so I’ll make sure not to keep those around too often. I’m fortunate that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and I very rarely drink soda or fruit juice.
Q: What is your favorite mode of exercise (running, cycling, weightlifting, yoga, etc.)?
A: My favorite mode of exercise is hiking, but it’s hard to do that when I’m traveling, especially in winter. So I vacillate between yoga and weights. If I have access to a gym I will do weights regularly, but if it’s the dead of winter, with no access to hiking or a gym, I know yoga is always reliable.
Q: How do you find the balance between leading a healthy lifestyle and keeping up with your performance career?
A: It’s not always easy, as you can see from my previous answers. It’s very tough to eat right on the road, as access to a kitchen is not always guaranteed. For instance, when I was in Geneva, it was tough to come by affordable meat, so filling up on protein was difficult. However, it was easier to buy fruits and vegetables. It’s a trade off. It’s easier to have access to a gym, a reliable kitchen and grocery market, of course, if you lead a “normal” life. However, it just takes using your brain and making healthy choices whenever possible.
Q: How did you discover your passion for singing?
A: It was a bit of an accident. I decided I didn’t want to continue playing the flute once I entered high school, as that meant joining the marching band, and I wanted a more musically focused performing opportunity. So, on a whim I joined the chamber choir at my school, and within a year, after singing in a couple of musicals, I began studying opera. It was very fast and a bit of a stroke of luck to discover I had an operatic singing voice.
Q: What is your advice for those trying to pursue a career in opera?
A: Really love the art and know yourself. Are you ok being alone? Do you want a big family and a traditional life or do you want to live on the edge and do something unpredictable? Are you ok with working at small companies or do you have to sing at major opera houses to be happy (it’s rare to have a major career)? Do you feel your calling is worth the sacrifices you have to make to do this? Just ask yourself these questions and if you simply HAVE to sing, then go for it 100%. Any less will probably put you out of the game.