Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

My luxury life: Soprano Lea Salonga on style, watches and her dream home

The Filipino soprano opens up about her obsessive drive to maintain her voice, and why a good steak and gaming session are her ideal ways to unwind

Lea Salonga is renowned for her work both on stage, and as a voice actor in several Disney films. Getty Images
Lea Salonga is renowned for her work both on stage, and as a voice actor in several Disney films. Getty Images

One of the most accomplished sopranos of her generation, Salonga made her mark at the age of 18 as an untrained actress in the 1989 West End production of Miss Saigon. Her critically acclaimed performance not only made her the first Asian woman to win a Tony Award, but also the first artist from the Philippines to sign with an international record label. This led to more high-profile roles, including as Fantine in Les Miserables, as well as the singing voice for Disney’s Princess Jasmine in the 1992 animated classic Aladdin and the title role in the 1998 film Mulan. She was in the UAE this month to perform two shows at Dubai Opera.

If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you be?

In Japan, up in the mountains in Niseko. It is one of my favourite places in the world. It has peace and quiet, and that clean mountain air. It cures everything.

You’re sitting down to the perfect meal. Where are you, who are you with and what are you eating?

I’m at a good steakhouse with my daughter. We both love having an amazing steak with cream spinach and mash potatoes. The last steakhouse we went to that was superb was Wolfgang Puck in Manila. We both know our steaks very well.

What does luxury mean to you?

For me, it means having good taste. It doesn’t mean wearing the most ostentatious thing that you can find, like a big watch with diamonds or a Balenciaga bag. That’s not what it is about. Luxury is the exercise of good taste.

What does your dream home look like?

I’m living in it here in the Philippines. It’s definitely a quiet place but with access to my neighbours. So if anything happens to me, they could call the police. I am surrounded by greenery, it’s calm and comfortable. I also have an apartment in New York. What makes these two places a dream for me is that I can get the best sleep. That is important to me.

How would you describe your style?

The best way to describe my personal style is a tailored kind of comfort. Meaning it is simple yet elegant and nothing too showy. This fits my personality. I always let my let my personality speak for itself and let the clothes just kind of be there for support.

Are you a collector?

Yes, I collect watches. I have so many that it is a little embarrassing. I have a lot of Philip Stein because I endorsed them a few years ago and I had the most fun. Because of that, I was able to get quite a few pieces and I gave some to my mum, husband, daughter and brother. They were all lovely.

Your next holiday destination?

That’s a good question, because I honestly don’t know. I was just in Japan on holiday, so the next trip will probably be some place different. The thing is, I am not a beach person, but I do have a few concerts coming up in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the beginning of April. So I will probably be there with the aim of just resting my voice. I am very paranoid about my voice, especially when I am feeling under the weather. As soon as I get an allergy or something, my body goes into complete protection mode. So I take no chances.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

That I am a hardcore gamer and I will play video games until the sun comes up. Right now, I am playing one of the Final Fantasy games. It’s a classic series that I revisit a lot just to relax. I can’t get enough of it.

If you were curating a soundtrack to your life, what would be on it?

A lot of different styles; people would be surprised by the mix. Of course, there would be some Broadway tunes in it, as well as 1970s and 1980s pop, and the odd theme song from Korean soap operas. It would be such an eclectic mix that the challenge would be how to sequence or fade the songs into each other. Once I can do that, I think the list will make a lot of sense.

Updated: March 17, 2020 12:32 PM

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