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“Looking for beauty”: A conversation with international opera and AGT star Barbara Padilla

Leora Zeitlin

Opera and crossover singing star Barbara Padilla says “when we listen to music, we are looking for beauty. And the beauty in the music – whether it is sad, or mad, or happy – it’s going to make us feel better.” Padilla learned this lesson early in her childhood in Guadalajara, when her family would drive five hours to reach the beach, traveling from the high plateau where Guadalajara is located, down the mountains, through the jungle and finally to the coast. “All that road was accompanied by beautiful music” that her mother love to play in the car, she told Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin in this interview at KRWG. “And I was singing along with those pieces. I liked the feeling of singing those notes.”

That love of music and beauty would prove critical to her life when Padilla was diagnosed with advanced cancer while in college, and again when it reappeared after five years of treatment. Although doctors said that the radiation would probably mean she would never sing again, she said, “music was my refuge, and I never stopped singing. And I had dreams, and I had goals.” Padilla put those goals on hold after she married and adopted a child, but at the urging of her mother (be sure to listen through the interview to hear this charming anecdote!), she started looking for auditions, and found one for America’s Got Talent. Inspiring clips of her performances can be found online, as Padilla sang her way right up to the finals, when she became the first runner-up in 2009. The exposure launched an active career of performing and recording. “Every time I work, I get to live my childhood dream,” she said.

This weekend, Padilla will perform 17 songs with the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra in two concerts conducted by Lonnie Klein. They take place at the Atkinson Recital Hall on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Listen here to Padilla talk more about her background, her illness, her teachers, the research she does for every song, her favorite Mozart opera, “The Marriage of Figaro,” and much more.

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