Give Nicole Dupré five minutes, and she’ll convince you that you’ll love opera almost as much as she does. It’s an important and unique storytelling medium, and you can find her take on it at Opera del Sol.
She is celebrating two years as the creative director of the opera company, and their latest work, “The Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan,” will take place at the Orlando Rep next month. The non-profit is her love letter to the genre and to the City Beautiful, a home she’s grown to love since moving here nearly 20 years ago.
You’re not from Orlando originally. How did you end up here?
I spent my childhood in Pennsylvania until I was 14. Then I moved in with my dad and my stepmother to Atlanta. My stepmom works for the Japanese Consulate General there, which is kind of cool. She’s been working there for 20 years now.
I lived there during high school and realized that Atlanta was not for me. After I graduated, I had some friends who were going to Full Sail, and I moved here in 2003.
I read that you had a very Orlando experience as soon as you moved.
I was lucky enough that my very first job was with Transcontinental Talent. You know, Lou Pearlman. I worked there for a year-and-a-half until I got there one day, and the doors were locked.
I did the hospitality thing for a little bit after that. And then, when I was 24, I decided that I wanted to pursue skincare. My stepmom, when she lived in Japan, was an esthetician. Her sister is a really highly regarded skincare technician outside of Tokyo. And my mom is a cosmetologist, so, growing up, I was always around that kind of thing.
I went back to school, and I got my esthetician license. But, about 75% of the way through, I realized I didn’t want to do a spa thing. The intimate, quiet, relaxing atmosphere is not me.
TV and the performing arts were more your speed?
My real job is TV, and that’s my love. My first big gig was with WESH 2 News. I’ve been doing the makeup there since 2010. Every time they hire a new anchor, I do a lesson and train them on what to do. Every debate or big show they’ve got going on, I’ll be there.
I got a couple of big gigs when the Today show came down. And then I worked at the Golf Channel for a while.
Since I had the time, I started volunteering and working backstage at the Florida Opera Theatre (which later became Opera Orlando). I took a special-effects makeup class, and they asked me if I could help fill in on makeup backstage. I hadn’t known a lot about opera at the time. I had loved Phantom of the Opera and musicals growing up, but I don’t sing; I don’t dance. I never went to theater class or anything like that.
On my fourth show, in 2012, the head costumer for the Orlando Philharmonic asked if I would be their hair and makeup designer. So I started with the Philharmonic. That’s about eight or nine years between the Phil and the opera doing wigs and makeup and building a team and making all the designs.
Was there one show that was a particular challenge?
At the Orlando Ballet! I always wanted to do some work for them. There was something about doing the ballerina makeup. I think it was the little girl in me.
I worked with them on Don Quixote, then we moved on to Beauty and the Beast. That was probably one of the greatest things that I’ve ever done in my whole life. I got to make the Beast’s facial prosthetic. I designed the wig. In the show, he wears his body suit that has fake fur on it. There’s a scene where they’re in a garden for a snowball fight, so we had to winch on his jacket.
While he’s wearing that, he does the choreography, he picks Belle up over his head and does his whole dance routine. The sweat poured off of him. So then I had to make a drainage system. It was just this series of challenges, trying to figure each one out and then the new ones that cropped up. That’s what gets me; that’s what I love.
Speaking of love and a little bit of sweat, you’re really involved with the Milk District, too, right?
I am the president of the Milk District Neighborhood Association, so I represent the residents there. For the last year-and-a-half, since we started the neighborhood association, we’ve been doing events every other month to build community.
The other big initiative is to officially change the name of the neighborhood. Technically, this is actually East Central Park on the downtown map. Apparently, no one has tried to change a name for 13 years. And it’s a strategic change. We have the Main Street program, which is called the Milk District, and it concentrates on the businesses and serves as the liaison between them and government officials. That connectedness in our identity will make the neighborhood even stronger.
It’s a really young district going through a transition, so it’s an interesting time to be here. We’re not too fancy, but we like really cool things. One of my goals in the future is revitalization. Festival Park by the executive airport — I’m part of an exploratory committee where we are looking into a permanent amphitheater there. We want to figure out how can we have more biking and ride-share programs, maybe even someday autonomous vehicles to bring people straight to and from Downtown. And T.G. Lee really wants a mural on that side of their wall right there on Robinson. So stay tuned for what’s to come!
Nicole Dupre recently appeared on WPRK’s To a Certain Degree with Georgoudiou, and they discussed Opera del Sol’s upcoming production of The Mikado. That is in partnership with Central Florida Vocal Arts and featuring the Space Coast Symphony Orchestra. The Mikado opens Friday August 9, 2019 at Orlando Repertory Theatre.