Thursday, September 4, 2008

The week from hell!!!!

Is this all really happening? Sometimes I blink, and I feel as if I've been time warped forward to a future time and place with no warning at all. It seems like just yesterday I was cracking open the score of this Mozartian masterpiece discovering for the first time for myself that, well, yes, actually, THIS IS A MASTERPIECE!!! For me, I can greatly admire a work from the outside, nod to its genius and applaud it loudly, but to climb into it, to wander the psychological corridors of its notes and syllables, and then to actually bring it to life? That's a different beast entirely.

I've been gently tiptoeing in Elvira's shoes for a while now, feeling not QUITE integrated into her thought process, struggling with the odd pitch here and there, and feeling a bit outside of the action, mainly because the rest of the cast members seem so adept at their roles and know these characters inside and out. It also dawned on that I had her up on a bit of a pedestal, as in "She belongs to Schwarzkopf. She belongs to Te Kanawa. She is a woman, and I do those 'happy girls' and 'angst ridden boys'!" Also, she's a bit like Carmen, in that everyone has a strong opinion about who she is - and I had yet to claim her for my own.

Well, as I was sitting in the sitzprobe rehearsal on Tuesday - (which is my favorite rehearsal of all, because it's the first time we meet the orchestra, and we aren't doing any movement at all - we simply stand and sing, and every ounce of focus rests on the MUSIC!!! After a long time working on the ACTING during previous rehearsals, it's pure heaven to simply SING again!) - I was swept away by the genius of Mozart, by my wonderful colleagues, and by the great Sir Charles Mackerras conducting the band, who play this music SO beautifully. And while this may sound a bit naive, it was simply by listening to the unbelievable rich and inventive orchestration going on live, underneath me that I started to "get" Elvira. I mean to really get her - not just approximate her antics, but to really start to feel the emotion that drives this lady. As is ALWAYS the case, Mozart paints the emotional content of his character's hearts in the palpitating or soaring or hollow orchestration. He revealed a beautiful woman to me, and one whose shoes should fit, actually, quite well!

Now, here is poetic justice: when I was training in Houston, during my first season, I covered the role of "Siebel" in Faust. I observed the professional cast day in and day out and marvelled at how great they were. The Faust was Ramon Vargas and the Mefistofole was Eric Halverson. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be opening the season of the Royal Opera House as a colleague to those two, I would have passed out on the spot! The morning of the sitzprobe, however, I was able to listen to Ramon carry the endless phrases of Don Ottavio with seemingly no effort, to hear Eric BOOM out the famous strains of "Don Giovaaaaaani" and send real shivers down my spine, to watch Simon Keenleyside craft a truly complex and suavely brutal Don, and simply be mesmerized by my latest discovery of how fabulous this opera is. I decided to shed my preconceptions of this role, make the most of this astonishing opportunity to sing this music, and to simply make it my own. What a difference a change of thinking can make.

I can still remember as if was yesterday - thanks to that time warp thing - watching the film, "Amadeus" for the very first time. It shocked and awed to say the least! Regardless of whether it was historically accurate or not, it accomplished in brilliant fashion the bringing to life of Mozart's music - and along with the use of the Requiem music, the depiction of the final scene of Don Giovanni haunted me for a long time afterwards. To finally take part in this opera, well, it is a true gift.

And a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write, to offer well-wishes, etc. I truly appreciate it, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

(Also there has been no time to take and/or process photographs for the time being - I'll catch up when I can!)

Photo c/o The Royal Opera House


Gi said...

And I'd so want to be there!

Papagena said...

You moved me once again. How beautiful, sincere and full of love your words are. I adore Mozart, and it's amazing to read about his music what someone who is inside his music writes. Thank you so much for sharing your feelings with us.

I feel lucky because, when I watch the performance in the movie theatre next Monday, I'll know a lot of special things that only you artists usually know...

I wish you all the best with this new challenge you're facing, and I'm sure you're going to have a wonderful night being Doña Elvira. Enjoy!

Besos :-)

Mei said...

After reading this post I have no doubt your Donna Elvira will be great...

The character has possessed you, it has become part of you...

I can't wait for the opening... I forsee a huge success...

Lydia said...

I still remember the first time I watched "Amadeus" and was totally enthralled by the Don Giovanni scenes and music, and thus became interested in opera and classical music. Don Giovanni holds a special place in my heart, and I hope to someday sing this masterpiece.

Best of luck singing Donna Elvira! =)

Drammy said...

Glad your hell-week has ended - and that Elvira is starting to click!

It's really quite -incredible- how you opera singers have to act and belt out those high notes at the same time.

Here's to you doing smashingly well @ your debut, where your personalized Elvira will indubitably rock! :]

Scazza said...

I'm dying to see Joyce on the big screen but according to the ROH it's only playing in the UK! Not worldwide. If anyone knows if it's showing in little ol NYC, please let me know!

Parsifal said...

The whole operatic planet is waiting for your Elvira, Joyce! In bocca!

marcillac said...

Fascinated by your perspective. I wish you the greatest success and hope you enjoy it as much as this post seems to indicate that you will.

Indeed, I hope that the pleasure you derive and success you have will lead you to come back to Elvira many times. The Don is easily one of my favorite 5 Operas and occasianlly rotates into the 2 spot. Elvira is my favorite character and although the role does not seem all that impossible and yet having seen more than 2 dozen live performances I've encountered precisely 1 fully satisfying Elvira (but was(is) she something). I really think you can fill the role fully and hope to be able to hear you in it many times.

The very very best luck.

P.S. I remember my Mom draging me kicking and screaming to see Amadeus and although I found it much more compelling than I would have thought and the impression stuck it in no way transformed me into an enthusiast for opera or classical music generally. At some point later it just clicked, never moreso than with Mozart.

Again, good luck.

marcillac said...

(Serious technical difficulties and I hope this isn't like my 5th attempt - I actually have to get back to work).

Fascinated as always to get your perspective. Thrilled that your feeling comfortable. I hope you derive as much pleasure and success from the role as your post seems to indicate you might.

Indeed, I hope that the pleasure and success are such that you come back to it frequently. The Don is one of my favorit operas (occasionally rotating into the No. 2 spot) and Elvira is my favorite character. Yet, in over 2dozen live performances I've encountered precisely one fully satisfying protrayal of her (she was, however, remarcable and I've been lucky enough to encounter her frequently). There's every reason to believe that you'll be a fantastic Elvira and I certainly hope to see you as her many times.

The very very best of luck.

P.S. I remember my Mom draging me kicking and screaming to see Amadeus and although I found it more compelling than I had anticpated and the impression stuck, the venture certainly didn't flip the switch. That came much later.

Once again, good luck and have fun.

Hariclea said...

Well, I do hope you are having a ball in London, with everything that is going on professionally :-) I know you will be brilliant and i wish you all the very best and will be there in person all the way to watch and hear ;-) Just moved to London, you will be my welcome back to music and the delights of the big city! I will brave the rain ;-)) to be at Wigmore tomorrow and because i couldn't be inside on the 8th i'll be in a cinema watching the live broadcast and then finally live on the 12th! I hope i will bring up the courage to come and say hello in person and thanks for the beautiful music you make!

Until then no stress, just enjoy and i hope you feel happy and cared for in London :-)))
See you tomorrow :-)

Kenderina said...

Donna Elvira will be a great success, Joyce , I have no doubt !! And also the whole performance will be, because all of you are wonderful singers and Sir George Mackerras is a great conductor ;)

Just relax , let your voice flows and Donna Elvira will be there ;)

Anonymous said...

No broadcast in France either :(
If you guys know about any audio link, please do let us know so that we too can enjoy listening to Joyce;s Donna Elvira. Thanks!

Other than that, 2hrs ago Anna Netrebko gave birth to a 7.9 pounds angel :)


bum_on_a_seat said...

This evening was one of those occasions when I felt even luckier than usual to live in London... and wow, did Don Giovanni really live up to its description as a "dramma giocoso" - so full of drama and humour, so perceptively and intelligently sung and acted by a classy cast under the stage direction of the brilliant Francesca Zambello (with wonderful designs and lighting) and under the musical direction of the miraculous 82-year-young Charles Mackerras.

Members of the "authentic performance" brigade should take time out from their well-meant endeavours to experience as truly authentic a performance as this: visceral, thrilling, ebbing and flowing with life (and, at the appropriate moment, with death!) as a performance could be... yet this was only the dress rehearsal... and one of the cast was new to her role AND has a Wigmore Hall recital tomorrow!

Anyone within easy reach of a cinema screening should try and catch the two-dimensional version of the first night on Monday; everyone else should check for returns at (further performances on 10, 12, 15 & 18 Sep, before change of cast/conductor), then try and work out how to get to London to catch the full-blown, surround-sound, multi-dimensional real thing!

bum_on_a_seat said...

Credit where credit is due, of course (see previous comment), but I forgot to say that - in an area where there isn't necessarily a "right" way and a "wrong" way - you definitely made Donna Elvira a more fully rounded, believable and complex character than is often encountered: not simply a mad woman, nor even one teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but one whose life seems to have settled into an obsessive yet seesaw-like limbo, so completely torn is she by conflicts both within and between her head, heart and soul! Hmmm, a little amateur psychology is probably a dangerous thing... and it's time for Donna Elvira to be left alone for a day or so while you investigate the worlds of Vivaldian heroines, Emily Dickinson and more at the Wigmore Hall!

Rachel Budde said...

Best of luck with your first Elvira! She's easily my favorite character in the opera, and one of the roles at the top of my "To Do" list. So excited for you, what a fantastic opportunity to explore someone so beautiful and complex.

armerjaquino said...

Nymphomaniac, but only for Giovanni. Neurotic stalker. Poor betrayed woman. Strong, angry avenging angel. Lovely part with that bitch of an aria way too late in the evening.

Elvira's probably the most interesting and exciting part any Mozart singer can measure herself up against. I can't wait to hear and see your version.

Oh, and by the way, don't worry about the promotion. There won't be a single Sun reader in the house- just those of us who bought early, and bought cheap...

Anonymous said...

Hey Yankeediva, knock'em dead tomorrow!


Hariclea said...

Just wanted to say thanks for an unforgettable evening and hav a fabulous night tomorrow!!!! The Don will be sorry he missed out on this Elvira :-)))

Mei said...

OMG! I can only say ¡Viva Burgos...!

Papagena said...

Just got home from the theatre, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! What a great, great night!!! You did such an INCREDIBLE performance!!!What a creation, you really made Elvira yours, and you were just FANTASTIC!!!
Too bad I had to watch through the cinema, but it was an incredible experience anyway!That was the most passionated, loving, moving and tender Elvira I've ever seen. And with such Beautiful singing!!! BRAVA!!!!

Hariclea said...

Hi Joyce!!! I didn't know which email to use, this is not necessarily for publication, but more for yourself :-) Just came back from the cinema and i hope you could hear me shouting at the screen BRAVA, BRAVISSIMA!!!! :-)

I have said everything i felt here (Wingmore included):

I know you are very busy, this is just in case you have time to read :-)
I am so very very proud and amazed and thrilled by your Elvira, she/you were stunning!

Still clapping,

pepita said...

Those little tricks that help you to get confident. Grabbing any non-sensed signs that make you think that, "yes, if this person can do this, why won't I be able to do that ?".

I really think that athletes should read your blog too as, as you stated it, there is real non-technical strategy in how to approach and handle many situations wherever you feel ready or not.

Thanks for those humble and beautiful lessons of philosophical-psychological mind-settings.

And most of all, enjoy your remaining Elviras !