Q & A: Advocating For Women On and Off Stage With Rebecca Krynski Cox & Maria Todaro

By Afton Wooten
(Photo credit: Leonor Anthony)

Hours before her final debut performance as Mimì in Florida Grand Opera’s “La Bohème,” soprano Rebecca Krynski Cox announced via Instagram that she is nine months pregnant.

Cox and Florida Grand Opera’s General Director Maria Todaro spoke with OperaWire about working together through this process and on the importance of supporting women and pregnant people within the industry. Not believing what people say about their bodies is by no means a new theme, but the rise of people talking openly about their stories and discrimination is changing the narrative. The joint respect, excitement, and partnership exhibited by Cox and Florida Grand Opera is a milestone for equality.

OperaWire: Why was it important to you to keep your pregnancy private until now?

Rebecca Krynski Cox: I post a lot on Instagram because I like to share what I’m doing. I’ve had friends that have had babies and didn’t share anything until the baby was here, and I was like I could never do that. Then when it came time for us, it was my instinct to keep it private. We had several different reasons, but I think one of the really big ones is that I didn’t want it to affect my higher ability in the eyes of opera companies. I didn’t want them to see that I was pregnant and say “oh, well, we won’t consider her for this season or next season.” I wanted to be the one to decide my own timeline.

I told Florida Grand early on that I’m gonna be pretty far along by the end and was fully expecting them to say, “okay, well, let’s have a conversation – do you think you’re capable?” but they were so supportive and immediately went above and beyond to make me comfortable, it was more than I could have ever hoped for or expected. I’ve been hearing so many recent stories of singers having been either fired or pushed to the next season, and to be honest I was open to that conversation because it’s just all I’ve heard so far. But, this is my role debut and I just couldn’t give it up easily because I’ve been waiting a long time for one to come along, but I also wanted to do it justice and I wanted the company to be happy with what I was doing. So, for them to encourage me and celebrate along with me is just incredible.

OW: How it is performing at nine months pregnant?

RKC: It’s been so special to be on stage and feel her moving along. And next season it’s gonna be so fun to have another little being with us traveling around. I’ve seen people do it and I was always like “I can never do that!” but here I am and I’m going to do it.

OW: How did you support Rebecca throughout this process?

Maria Todaro: First of all, this is so brave and courageous of her. She has taken on a lot and handled it so professionally. From the beginning of our conversations she has been very matter of fact and open. We ask her “if she’s okay, and we believe her if she says she’s okay.”

We have taken every precaution to ensure that she is safe and feels supported. We have been in communication with her doctor and have had a doctor on call the entire time. For the performances an EMT is back stage who has eyes on her 100% of the time. If something happens, we are prepared.

There has been great communication between Rebecca and the costumers. They rebuilt her entire costume to not only be discreet, but comfortable and as easy as possible to get in and out of.

OW: What have you learned about your voice throughout pregnancy?

RKC: Interestingly, I feel like I’m singing better than ever before. It was definitely something to get used to with the different breath sensations, because not only is the baby taking up literal lung capacity, but some of your oxygen is going straight to the baby, so you just have less of it. It’s a team effort at this point. I definitely needed a couple of months to adjust to what I’m working with. I got used to taking more breaths and now that the breath is worked out my voice feels awesome! There’s more warmth to it and a little more roundness to it which serves me really well in the repertoire that I sing. When I’m on stage, I can’t even tell you how much I’m enjoying myself now!

Funny enough, I think I worry a lot less now. I’m of the mindset that whatever comes out is going to be all I’ve got, because I know I’m always going to give 100% of what I’ve got. That really takes a lot of stress out of it and I definitely want to apply this to future roles.

OW: What advice do you have for opera singing mommas-to-be?

RKC: Listen to your body, you know yourself the best. I have my doctor’s blessing to be here and I have a lot of really good advice from teachers that I trust that have also been through it, but ultimately you are in control always. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and I think this applies to everybody not just moms to be. Kindness and courtesy goes a really long way.

OW: How can companies best support pregnant cast members?

MT: Let’s make a choice to believe women. It all stems from them saying, “I’m okay, or I’m not okay,” and everybody must be okay with that. We have to strive to be as educated as possible on supporting pregnant singers. We must collaborate, communicate, and be attentive to our singers.


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