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!