Take Your Broken Heart and Turn it Into Art

How Music Can Help Heal Wounds of Addiction:

Take Your Broken Heart and Turn it Into Art


Estimated watch time: 22 mins

Available credits: none


Everyone heals from addiction and its far-reaching impact in different ways, but Opera del Sol believes that creative media provides a universal platform from which people can heal together.

In this presentation, Founder and Creative Director Nicole Dupré discusses the firsthand experience that led her organization on a mission to reduce stigma, raise awareness and help people recover from addiction and substance abuse.

Presentation Materials:


Welcome to the Community Education Series, hosted by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems. 


Hey, my name is Allison Walsh. If I haven’t had the chance to meet you before, it’s nice to meet you now. We’re really excited to be able to kick off Recovery Month with such a special series. I had the privilege and honor of meeting Nicole through the work that she does and that I’m also a part of with Project Opioid in the Central Florida community. Her story moved me tremendously when I first heard it. Then, to also be able to experience the performances that come along with what she’s created was something I had never seen or heard about. I immediately thought about ‘what can we do?’ How could we collaborate? How could we share her message and really raise additional awareness around addiction, and also the fact that recovery is possible? I wanted to do something special this month. I welcome all of you to the first edition or the first episode, or however you want to call it. This is a five-part series throughout the entire month of September.

So, before I take too much of Nicole’s time, I wanted to go ahead and introduce her. She’s a community leader. She has a trusted voice. She’s a member of Project Opioid. She served the people in Central Florida in so many capacities as the founder of Opera del Sol. Her work brings beauty through art, and I can tell you firsthand that is absolutely true. She’s also one of the founders of the Milk District and she works for the economic and cultural thriving of the district. As a board member for several educational initiatives, she helps ensure students find success through mentoring. Now, through Project Opioid, she’s mobilizing community leaders towards solutions to the most drastic health crisis of our time. So, without further ado, Nicole Dupré, welcome. The stage is yours, and I hope everybody enjoys today. Thank you for being here.


I am so thankful to be here, and today, I’m going to give you a little presentation that I like to call “Take Your Broken Heart and Turn It Into Art.” I am very excited to give you this five-part series. This five-part series was really started because I founded an organization called the Opera del Sol with these four incredible women three years ago. What we were on a mission to do is to change the way that people feel about classical music and the way that it is being performed within the community. I fell in love with classical music and opera, in particular, because opera is all about storytelling. It is about passion, love, betrayal, and I wanted to figure out, “How could I modernize this?”

What we’ve been doing in the community in the last few years is taking stories and modernizing them. What we really want to do is to figure out, “How can we take music and really be a part of the community?” We didn’t want to just take stories that had been told thousands and thousands of times. What I really believe that art and music should be is a way that we can really connect with one another. So over the last few years, we have done some really incredible projects with some really great community partners. On the bottom left, we had a great show that we did with Lynx Buses for their 30th anniversary. We took people and we popped up on a bus. That’s it. The people who had never experienced this type of music before. Then when SunRail, the rail service, heard about it, we put together an original show for Christmas where we were able to go on the spot from Winter Park, all the way to Sanford and back, and deliver a really cool story onboard a train. We’ve even set operas in outer space. Again, we were always doing things within the community, like FusionFest and creative city projects and all those amazing things that we used to do before for pre-pandemic.

We were on a roll. Last year, what we wanted to do is we wanted to start to tackle on more tough subjects. We were really becoming our own. We found some great musicians and a great band of singers, and so we wrote an original show called Requiem. Requiem was an original show based on one woman’s path through addiction. We took modern songs and opera songs and classical songs, and we matched them up to what we like to call pop-rock. This was supposed to be premiering in May at the Orlando Fringe Festival; that was one of the longest-running theater festivals here in the United States. We do that here (if you are familiar with the Orlando area) over by the Shakespeare theater, the museum of art. Unfortunately this year, it was postponed. But when we were putting that together, we were introduced to an organization called Project Opioid. With them, we started to realize these statistics and the sheer numbers of the amount of people that are going through addiction or have known someone with addiction or known somebody who has lost someone through addiction. Once I heard that, I realized that I really knew that I wanted to take this and really start to tell my story. Because, for me, this is personal.

Fifteen years ago, I fell in love with my best friend. His name was Adam, and he was the biggest and strongest man that I’ve ever known. He had a thick New York accent and hands as big as baseball mitts. Before we had met, he was an amateur boxer, a football star and a bodybuilder. We dated for a few years. We were married on July 26, 2008. We had plans to start a family, buy our first home, and Adam received a really great job. He became part of one of the local union laborers, where he worked in the convention centers and hotels setting up the various trade shows and events that would come here to Orlando. This job was really wonderful. It allowed him to use his strength and things that he had been doing all of his life. However, the years of sports and exercise started to take a toll on his body. Then, in 2010, he was involved in a forklift accident and he was referred to a doctor from his local union boss.

That doctor started writing prescription after prescription. At first, he felt like a new man: his pains were hidden, and newfound energy allowed him to get back to work and those long, labored hours. But the more he worked, the more pain he started to have. Later that year, his doctor’s office had closed, and we then turned to other means to get the drugs he so desperately needed. He started getting pills from co-workers who suffered from the same kinds of pains and getting his fix any way he could. This was the first glimpse that the man I married and the life we wanted was slipping away. He had become deeply addicted. I was 26 years old and a newlywed, and I had made a vow to be there for my husband through sickness and in health, for better and for worse. On two separate occasions, we tried to get him clean at home. These were some of the longest days of my life. I cleaned his vomit. I wiped his sweat and I listened to his cries of agony as the drugs left his system. But after days of this, he couldn’t take it anymore, and he resorted back to the drugs.

During this time, I never felt more alone. I didn’t know where to go, where we could go or who I could talk to. The media portrayed opioid addicts as junkies, druggies and just overall trash, but that wasn’t us. Somewhere along the way, in 2011, Adam tried heroin for the first time. That was when his addiction truly consumed our lives. On New Year’s Eve of 2011 at 11:55 PM, as I was in another room, I heard a loud crash and I came running into the living room to find Adam on the floor. He was shaking violently and gasping for air. He was barely able to get the words out that he needed help. I called 911 just as the ball was dropping on the television. As I was crying and screaming for help to the operator, Adam lifted his hand and placed it on my face as the words dribbled out his mouth, “I think I’m going. I love you. I’m sorry.” As I screamed and pleaded for the operator for help, she told me that I needed to calm down or she would have to disconnect the phone call. Luckily, the EMTs arrived and they got him to the hospital in time. I will never forget the looks of judgment. I’ll never forget the feeling of shame. As I was handed forms to fill out and asked for insurance and payment, I was never offered any resources, a pamphlet or even a tissue as I sobbed with embarrassment in the waiting room.

They saved his life that night, but he was discharged the next morning. When we arrived home, he walked into the kitchen, pulled out a small bag of heroin from where it had been hidden and snorted it right in front of me. That was when I knew that, though he hadn’t died that night, I had truly lost my husband. It was a long and ugly fight, and one we couldn’t win together. On July 10th of 2017, Adam lost his battle with addiction. For a period of time, opioids took everything from me. They robbed me of years with the man that I loved, my dreams of a family, but most of all, caused me years and years of pain.

All of this — it didn’t need to happen. All we really needed was the help. In 2017, there were 70,067 deaths, and we were just one of them. Now, in 2020, we are facing the biggest increase in overdoses our country has ever seen. In July of 2020 in the state of Florida alone, there were 60,000 overdoses. That is a 51% increase from July of 2019. The opioid crisis is now combined with the biggest mental health crisis our world has ever seen. I just like to think that — maybe for the first time in our lifetime — we are all experiencing a collective pain. I think that we’ve all experienced some sort of pain or despair over these last few months. The ability to understand what it’s like to hurt, feel despair and face tragedy and death; I believe that that’s a way that we can start to try to feel that we can connect with one another. The time to act and reach out and share your story is now because we all have some kind of pain within us. We all have something that has broken our hearts. It’s what we do with that pain that matters.

I say we can help one another. We can lend our voices and we can share our talents. We can share our resources and, above all, we can share our love. Opera is about using the human voice as the instrument. I feel so very fortunate to have been able to create a world and a theater community that truly believes in this. In some ways, we’ve created the soundtrack for it.

I like to tell you that I’ve taken my broken heart and I’ve turned it into art. I would like to show you an excerpt from our show Requiem, and this particular song is a song that is very meaningful to me. This is dedicated to Adam, and this will be in our upcoming show Requiem. I want you to enjoy this, and I will speak afterwards.

(Woman singing Iris by Goo Goo Dolls)

I’d give up forever to touch you

‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow

You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be

And I don’t want to go home right now

All I can taste is this moment

And all I can breathe is your life

And sooner or later it’s over

I just don’t wanna miss you tonight

And I don’t want the world to see me

‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand

When everything’s made to be broken

I just want you to know who I am

And you can’t fight the tears that ain’t coming

Or the moment of truth in your lies

When everything feels like the movies

Yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive

And I don’t want the world to see me

‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand

When everything’s made to be broken

I just want you to know who I am

And I don’t want the world to see me

‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand

When everything’s made to be broken

I just want you to know who I am

And I don’t want the world to see me

‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand

When everything’s meant to be broken

I just want you to know who I am

I just want you to know who I am

I just want you to know who I am

I just want you to know who I am

(Singing ends)

Amazing. That’s one of our singers; her name is Sarah Isola. She’s actually 17 years old. Opera del Sol has a sister company. It’s called Central Florida Vocal Arts, where we focus on music education for children. Sarah has been one of our students for about four years now. She plays a younger version of the main character in Requiem. What I think has been so beautiful about putting this project together is just hearing those singers and dancers that we work with that we had no idea had experienced addiction themselves. One of my singers, her father has been on opioids for a back injury for many years. Then, for someone like Sarah, it was such a beautiful moment to see her tackle this role with such empathy and really allow herself… what I loved when she was singing that is that she was also acting, and you could feel it. I think that we’ve all really been touched by this experience, by trying to put this together and figure out how we can tell a story in such a way that was captivating and powerful. Because really, at the end of the day, I know that wasn’t opera. But within the show, we like to mix different genres to tell these stories.

I think that was what has been one of the most beautiful things about this entire process. For me, the song meant so much, and then to be able to rehearse it and to write it and to rearrange it, to have that moment collectively as an organization has been a very therapeutic and amazing experience for me. I’m very, very fortunate that I was able to kind of channel a lot of what I had felt. You know, the guilt. I had felt so much guilt for a very long time. Should I have done more? Could I have stayed longer? Could we have tried one more time? To have so many mixed feelings and to be able to collaborate with writers and musicians and dancers and to create something… I really believe that when we are able to be together again, and when we can perform this in one long segment, this story will be really, really impactful. I’m very excited for the next five weeks. We’ve taken five of the 10 songs that are inside this show and then decided, “Let’s present this to you.” So each week, we’re going to tell you what it meant to us. What it was like to arrange that. What it was like in the storytelling and how opioids and addiction have affected our lives.

So, I wanted to also let you guys know. I think I had mentioned it. Anybody who lives in Central Florida or, actually, anybody anywhere knows that the entertainment industry and the theater community, we’re all kind of on a break right now. So with this extra time, I have been approached by Project Opioid to become their partnerships director. At Project Opioid, we’re a coalition of leaders within the community here in Florida who… none of us can tolerate the thousands of lives being lost every year to opioid overdoses. We exist to mobilize your community’s business, faith and philanthropic leaders under one banner to find clear and effective solutions that will stop the overdose crisis. This is the organization that I had met everybody through and I presented at.

I will also kind of just be talking to some of the things that I have learned over the last few months with them. It’s been an incredible opportunity to use music. That’s been such a big part of my life over the last 15 years, and now feel that it’s a way to produce even more community work. In this role, especially now with Project Opioid, I do a lot of radio as well. I’ve received a lot of emails from listeners and how, by approaching it in such a manner, it really helps to release that stigma and to create that conversation and to create that safe place. People can feel like they can tell you what they’ve been through or what their friends or their loved ones have been through. I’m very excited to continue with this five-part series. This is how I met Allison, because she’s one of our partners at Project Opioid.

Next week, I am going to bring on two of my favorite people in the entire world. The top left, this is Opera del Sol’s artistic director, Nishaa Johnson. Then on the bottom, that is our CEO, Theresa Smith-Levin. Theresa is a mother of two small children, two under two, and Nishaa is seven months pregnant at the moment. Nishaa will also be singing next week. And I am excited to kind of talk to you about the process from their positions within the organization, but also what that meant to them as young mothers with small children, as well as bringing them into this world after knowing and experiencing everything that we have, putting together this project.


Well, you guys, this was really amazing. I’m probably going to cry when I get off here because all of this was amazing. I truly appreciate your time and your comments and sharing your stories with me today. I’m really excited to kind of go on this journey with you, and we’ll be together four more times. I’m excited for you to see the rest of our team, hear more of the show that we put together and the music that we put together and to continue to have an open dialogue like this. Like I said, I’m excited to bring on two young mothers who, not only are they young mothers, but they also were such a part of the creative process. We can have a really great conversation next week.

Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.