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Running Through

Last night we had our first complete run-through of “La Donna del Lago” here in Geneva.


Again, I love the serendipity of debuting this stunning role in a city famous for it’s gorgeous lake! By all accounts, everyone was happy with the first attempt at getting from A to Zed last night, but it was a real indication for me of how tough the night will be from a performance standpoint.

In this particular staging, Elena is on stage the entire time (save for the beginning of Rodrigo’s aria near the end of the 1st act.) Aside from that brief exception, I’m on. It means that getting to the finale of the piece, which just happens to be the big aria, “Tanti affetti”, comes after nearly 3 hours of intense concentration, constant physical tension, a fair bit of singing, and a single, brief drink of water. Last night was the real litmus test to see if I can make it, and coming at the end of a long week of rehearsals, I was relieved to still be standing at the end!

Seeing as that it’s a new production, I can’t give away too much, but I’ll be very curious to see how it will be received. Christof, the stage director, has been very convincing in his vision of this piece, and I’ve always said I’m willing to try anything as long as I can understand the “why” of the character’s choices. In this case, Elena is a bit of a recluse without too many social skills and escapes into a world of fantasy and flight, all the meanwhile having to live within the reality of her war-torn village. I found the journey last night terribly fascinating, but it’s a huge challenge to pull off: if I lack any clarity as a performer, I fear it won’t work at all.

It’s also a character that is quite far from me (personally, I tend to thrive in most social situations!), and the awkwardness that I’m being asked to play presents the problem of not disappearing entirely as a personality, as well as finding the internal strength to sing out her emotional phrases. I’m loving the challenge and hope that I’m able to create a convincing, tender character who surprisingly blossoms into her own, making “Tanti affetti” a necessary expression of her journey – not just a fireworks display (although I do anticipate that there will be a few vocal sparks during the night!!!).

I shared with a dear friend of mine a bit of dismay in being “simply dressed” – which, of course totally fits with the character, and seems perfectly right, but you know, as an opera singer playing a girl, we always want the pretty dress. His supportive reply was this absolutely priceless and BRILLIANT clip from a TV special with Beverly Sills and Carol Burnett. It’s a must for a beautiful Sunday laugh:

And as is always the case with youtube, once you start it’s nearly impossible to stop, so there is also this, which brings back beautiful memories for me of “Resurrection” at HGO a few years back:

Seriously. Does it GET any better than this?

The laughs were most welcome after a long, exhausting week, but I’m officially ecstatic about the opening coming up soon. I must say, I feel that this role is a real gift to me at this moment; I am relishing each musical phrase, and it seems the exact right moment to be adding her to my repertoire. I get to spend a decent amount of time with her in the next few years and it’s a RELIEF to say that really love her!

It’s also wonderful to be debuting this role in such a wonderful, familiar house. I’ve done 4 big role debuts here in Geneva (Elisabetta, Sesto, Ariodante, and now Elena), over the span of 6 years, and each time it has been a wonderfully safe place to take risks and explore a new repertoire for me. For someone who lives nearly her entire life on the road, it’s nice to find those places and people that make you feel at home!

9 Comments

  1. Emma said…

    Oh, wow.!
    Small world.
    I Just discovered those videos of Sills and Burnett this week too.

    They're great, and so are you, so I hope you enjoy performing the rest of "La Donna del Lago"
    Cheers!

  2. Klassikfan said…

    Hi, I am already looking forward to the 2nd performance on 7 May, for which I have got at ticket. The journey to Geneva is a bit longish, but I am sure it is worth every mile. ;-)) Best wishes to Joyce!

  3. gaulimauli said…

    Elena! Not to worry! They had the jitters, too during the premiere in 1819(?). The audience, startled by the novelty and complexity, sat on its hands, It was left to Colbran herself to pull it out, "singing with agility the final rondo", which I take to mean Tanti affeti, something you do exceedingly well yourself, maybe even better than the celebrated Isabella.As for the stamina required,I'm sure the director knows that you have to conserve your strength and will provide a bench or two for you to repose on when the other singers are strutting their own stuff. People come to hear you sing and to enjoy Rossini's music, everything else is just garnish. And don't let them dress you like Aschenputtel-wrong opera! It'll all be sorted out before the curtain rises and the adrenalene starts to flow.Our thoughts and best wishes will be with you on opening night.

  4. Rocio said…

    Wonderful update, thank you :) Thank you also for posting the Carol Burnett/ Beverly Sills videos. The video "3 of 7" is the medley they did together. It's so brilliant!!!

  5. Erin said…

    This sounds terribly exciting. I'm so glad you are thoroughly enjoying the creation of this role and the new production. Toi Toi Toi.
    Love the clip of Sills and Burnett as well.

  6. John Kenneth Adams said…

    Dear Joyce, This will be a great success, as you have been building towards this for years. If the broadcast of the "Tanti affetti" from Madrid made time stand still, this might just clear all the volcano cloud that kept me grounded in London for most of the past week. I took the time to establish a Scholarship for Singing at the Royal Academy. You give cows, llamas, et alia (most appreciated by fans)…I give scholarships! How do you stand up to all the travel these days..it is often a nightmare. Success Forever…and Ever! !! John Adams

  7. Irishrover said…

    My, this production sounds more and more interesting, I'm glad I'll be there to discover it! And by the 14th of May, you'll have time to get into Elena's shoes ;)

    Btw, for those who might be interested, radio broadcast on May 12, on RSR-Espace 2, 20pm, not to be missed!

    Take care!

  8. Mei said…

    Loking forward to this new production…

    See you next week…

    Take care!

  9. Mike said…

    Saw the performance tonight – flight was over 5 hours late so had to go from airport directly to the performance. What fabulous music and what a fabulous cast, not to mention the Yankee Diva at her best. Was sorry to see YD JDD still wearing a well camouflaged boot. Is that a remnant of the Covent Garden break?

    The evening's Malcom got so into his aria that he broke the glass he was holding and proceeded to bleed onstage. Luckily, he was able to stop the bleeding with a hankie he was hiding under his kilt. Never a dull moment!

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We need you to remind us what empathy is by taking us deep into the hearts of those who are, God forbid, different than us – so that we can recapture the hope of not only living in peace with each other, but THRIVING together in a vibrant way where each of us grows in wonder and joy.

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