A Conversation with Barbara Padilla


Barbara Padilla

It is such a joy to welcome one of my all-time favorite singers to “Jake’s Take”: the lovely Barbara Padilla. (Photo property of NUNU & courtesy of Moon Moosic Records)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

It is such a joy to welcome one of my all-time favorite popera songbirds to Jake’s Take.

Soprano Barbara Padilla first came into the public eye when she delivered a powerful cover of the opera standard “O Mio Babbino Caro” during the America’s Got Talent: Season Four Houston auditions.

After receiving a standing ovation from then judges: Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and David Hasselhoff, Ms. Padilla earned not only the coveted three “Yeses” that every act wanted to hear, but also won America’s hearts.

With each and every performance that she did on AGT, Barbara beautifully showcased her gorgeous gift to the world with her outstanding covers of “Time to Say Goodbye” and “Ave Maria.” Despite finishing in second place, Ms. Padilla set the standard for future contestants to come and started a legacy that introduced the country to numerous classical crossover singers such as Jackie Evancho, Prince Poppycock, Andrew de Leon, the Forte Tenors, Branden James, Arielle Baril and Vox.

In addition to sharing her love of music across North, Latin and Central America, Ms. Padilla recorded her self-titled debut album in 2014. She recorded material for her album at Los Angeles’ legendary Capitol Studios and London’s iconic Abbey Road Studios with the London Symphony Orchestra.

For this edition of A Conversation, Ms. Padilla reflected on her time on America’s Got Talent and talked about the recording process of her debut album.

Jacob Elyachar: When did you start singing? How did it develop into a passion into having a career in music?

Barbara Padilla: I started singing when I was very, very little! I am from Guadalajara, Mexico and my mother used to take my brother and I to the beach. The beach is my favorite place in the whole world. We packed into our Volkswagen Beetle and we drove five hours to the beach. As we drove, we listened to my mother’s huge collection of classical music. I would always sing along with it. I must have been five or six-years-old or younger when I first listened to opera and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” I related that music to the happiest moments of my life. Ever since I heard that music, it bonded with me and I will never let it go.

JE: This year marked your sixth anniversary since you appeared on “America’s Got Talent (AGT).

BP: Time has moved so fast and I literally cannot believe that it has been six years. It feels like my audition happened yesterday!

JE: How did you arrive at the decision to audition for “AGT”?

BP: I have had some ups-and-downs moments in my life. As you know at one point, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While I was battling cancer, I also got a full scholarship to the University of Houston and in this order: I beat my cancer, got married and graduated. Throughout my career, I sang in numerous opera companies. At the same time, my husband and I decided that we were going to adopt. Because of all of the hard treatments including the chemotherapy and radiation, I was unable to conceive a child. Once, we adopted my beautiful daughter, I decided to stay-at-home to be a mother and a wife. However, I missed my music and the stage.

I remember talking to my mother and told her that something was missing. Then, she asked me: “Barbara, what are you doing with your career?” I told her that I taught some classes, stayed at home with my daughter and insisted that I was fine. My mother told me: “No! You have a career, a Master’s Degree in music, a husband that supports you all the way; you speak four languages and a God-given talent.” She also added that I had the wings of an eagle and a mind of a chicken. (Laughs)

I was very shocked with her response and I pondered, “What am I going to do with this?” My mother’s powerful push inspired me to look for auditions and started to live like an artist. I think the secret to success is to not give up. You have to audition and have the desire to be heard and to open doors. I realized that America’s Got Talent was going to have auditions in Houston. I decided that I was going to go, try out and you know the rest! I went onto the finals of my season and my life was forever changed.


Barbara Padilla AGT audition

Barbara won America’s hearts when she performed “O Mio Babbino Caro” during the show’s fourth season. (Photo property of NBC and SYCO-TV)

JE: During your time on “America’s Got Talent,” you produced several incredible performances such as “Time to Say Goodbye” and “Ave Maria,” which in my opinion were some of the best vocal performances in the entire series. What were some of your personal highlights from your time on “AGT”?

BP: My experience with America’s Got Talent was awesome. I remember everything being filled with light and every time that I was on that stage…I just did not want it to end. They were some of those moments that you wished would last forever. From the judges’ comments to the times that Nick Cannon announced that America voted me through to the next round, it was surreal and I thought they were talking about a totally different person. I could not believe that I was named the runner-up of my year. I was as high as I wanted to be. Everything was wonderful!

JE: 2009 was a memorable year in singing competitions. You, Adam Lambert, Susan Boyle and Olly Murs made your debuts and took the world by storm. While all of you did not win your respective series, let’s fast forward six years later and now all four of you are in better positions than your respective winners. Does persistence pay off?

BP: Oh my gosh, yes! The other day I was doing an interview and they asked me: “What was the biggest sacrifice that I made?” They expected me to say: “the fact that I do not get see my daughter or my husband every day.” That’s hard! But, when they support you, you are happy and everything is fine in the world around you…. it is a very nice feeling. When your family is with you, it is not the hardest part. The hardest part is not giving up! Sometimes you stop and see everything and you do not know if everything that you are doing is going to pay off. If you work hard, it is going to pay off. But, you will not know until it actually pays off! It is easy to say: “I am not doing this anymore. It’s not working!” But, there is a time that you invested so long and so much, that giving up is not an option! You need to keep on going and believe that persistence definitely pays off. This is not just for me; I have a full team of people that have been working with me in a tremendous way and have not let me give up on my dreams and they fully believe in me!

JE: Since you have participated on “AGT,” many popera singers such as Jackie Evancho, Prince Poppycock, Andrew de Leon, the Forte Tenors and Branden James have graced the “AGT” stage. Do you feel that you played a crucial role in America accepting classical crossover singers on reality TV?

BP: I certainly hope so! (Laughs) We all want to inspire! As we go on our life’s journey, some people inspire us and in turn, we would like to do something to inspire other people. I find your comment very flattering and I hope that I can inspire the American public to accept more of these musicians, because this genre of music is beautiful.

JE: How have you grown as an artist and performer since your time on “AGT”?

BP: I have evolved as an artist since my time on America’s Got Talent. This might look like a small example, but it is not. In the opera world, the singers portray a character for up to four hours on stage and we sing without a microphone. We rely on the fact that we are going to have to carry our voices when we perform in front of 4,000 people and over the orchestra. However, I fell in love with the classical crossover genre when I was on AGT. I found out that I could use the microphone to establish a deeper intimacy with the audience. I did not portray an opera character; I was my true self. I would sing a four-to-five minute piece for the audience and then I could talk to them and say “Hi” to them! I would not need to act out scenes where my character was dying from tuberculosis or killing somebody else on stage (laughs), I could have a nice conversation with them. I also found out that I could use the microphone to tell my story. I would talk about the miracles that I received or talk about God and what God’s purpose in our lives. This opportunity gives me a way to communicate with people that I have not done before. I think America’s Got Talent helped me find a new way to use the microphone and I am very thankful for that.

Barbara Padilla album cover

Last year, Barbara released her outstanding self-titled debut album that featured a diverse group of arias that ranged from “Nella Fantasia” to “Time To Say Goodbye.” (Album cover property of NUNU & courtesy of Moon Moosic Records)

JE: Recently, you released your self-titled album. What were some of the challenges that you faced while you worked on the album? How did you overcome them?

BP: When God gives you some opportunities, it is almost like a process that you do not even realize what is recurring at the moment. I decided that I wanted to record an album that featured popular songs with symphonic arrangements in an operatic way. I wanted to be faithful to who I am as an artist and to my technique. During the planning process, my husband contacted Gregg Field, who just won a Latin Grammy for Producer of the Year, and Jorge Calandrelli. Gregg took my husband’s phone call and said to both of us: “Come over here to L.A. and let’s plan the whole album.” In our meeting, we came to the conclusion that we wanted the album to have an international sound. We went to Capitol Studios and recorded three quality songs that came out wonderfully! Gregg was pleased with the results and wanted to record seven more songs with us. He wanted to take the recording process to the next level and stated that we should record the seven songs at Abbey Road Studios and work with the London Symphony Orchestra.

When I first heard his plan, I stated: “Are you crazy?” (Laughs) But, the plan came together thanks to the support of my family, my friends and my husband! Because of their support, we ended up recording the rest of the album in London! This album is a compilation of 10 songs that made the cut and I want to thank Gregg for producing and Jorge for not only producing, but also arranging the songs and conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

JE: I was so overjoyed when I saw “Time To Say Goodbye” made the cut. I have been waiting to download your cover of the aria for six years!

BP: “Time to Say Goodbye” had to be on the album! This song is the perfect presentation for what a classical crossover singer should be doing. It’s an anthem and it is the perfect classical crossover song! Every popera singer should be singing this song.

JE: Which artists or producers are on your dream collaborations list?

BP: Right now, I am collaborating with Juan Gabriel. He is the most important singer-songwriter in Mexico! He has had a 43-year career in the music industry and I have collaborated with him for multiple concerts. If you are Mexican or speak Spanish, then you know who Juan Gabriel is and know at least six of his songs. I am very happy working with him! In addition to working with Juan Gabriel, it would also be a thrill to work with Placido Domingo. He’s my idol and I would be honored to sing with him.

JE: If you had the chance to meet with aspiring performer who want to have a career in the music industry, what advice would you share with them?

BP: There is always a voice inside of everybody’s head that is telling them; “Why are you going to try if they are going to say no!” When I auditioned for America’s Got Talent, I first thought: “Why am I going to the cattle call? They are never going to see me!” I think the most valuable piece of advice that I can say to someone is: “Don’t give up!” “Don’t say ‘no’ to yourself!” Let others tell you: “no!” But, what if they are going to say: “Yes!” Never say “NO” to yourself, just try to go for it. You will never know what could happen.

I can also exclusively reveal that Barbara will be performing the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Detroit Lions home game against the Denver Broncos on September 27. The game is a part of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” line-up!

For more information about Barbara, visit her website!

 You can also connect with Barbara on social media. Head to her Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube channels!

All of the clips that are sprinkled into the interview are properties of NBC, FremantleMedia North America & SYCO Entertainment.

Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar