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Isabel Leonard balancing singing and being a mother / The Mainichi

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Isabel Leonard had just finished singing Sesto in Handel's "Giulio Cesare" in Paris and was taking a few days off with her 8-month-old son Teo when her manager's office contacted her and asked whether she was on a plane back to the U.S.

"I'm like, no, I'm actually in Vienna," she said.

That was good news for the Vienna State Opera. The performer scheduled to play Cherubino had gotten sick, and the company wanted the mezzo-soprano to make an unscheduled debut that night in Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro."

"I just need to find a baby sitter," Leonard said.

Three days after her 29th birthday in February 2011, Leonard rushed through a one-woman rehearsal that lasted about 30 minutes per act -- "just add hot water. It's an instant opera" she said with a chuckle. She took the Staatsoper stage hours later in a cast that included Luca Pisaroni, Erwin Schrott and Dorothea Roschmann.

Such has been the life of Leonard, a two-time Grammy-winner and, at 37, a single mom and a sought-after singer. After starring in three productions at the Metropolitan Opera this season, she appears at Carnegie Hall on Monday night in an all-French program for new music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin. It's his first concert leading the Met Orchestra. "This is probably for me one of the healthiest voices I have ever encountered in my life," Nezet-Seguin said. "The incredible artistry and the attention to words and meaning that she brings to every role she approaches makes it a conductor's dream."

A native New Yorker, Leonard married New Zealand baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes in 2008. They divorced and she has sole custody of Teo, who just turned 9.     Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

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