Thursday, April 1, 2010

Themes

So, let's chat, shall we? I suppose it's time for an update. But before I come clean, I have an enormous favor to ask: if you make it to the end of this posting, please heed my request at the end. That is all I ask! (Oh, and this will be a long post - so perhaps pour yourself a glass of wine?)

So here goes:

On Monday I went in for ankle surgery - technically I believe it was called a "Bromson Procedure". Apparently yours truly sings while under sedation, but more on that in a moment...

During the final orchestra rehearsal here in Chicago, an exuberant Cherubino went dashing off the stage into the dark shadows of the garden in the 4th act of "Le Nozze di Figaro" and he found half of the small exit step and missed half of the step. At full speed, my ol' trusty right ankle fell into that now familiar form and turned over on itself. Violently. The pain was, well, let's just say the orchestra was subjected to a string of vile expletives, and my first thought was "Great, I broke my leg again. This is RIDICULOUS!" My second thought, and mantra, went like this:

"Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Etc."

Stupid.

Honestly, it was a normal stage accident that could happen to anyone - it's just that it happened to me. Again.

Well, examination by a fabulous Doctor Boone Bracket brought forth the good news that my fibula was in perfect, stellar condition, having healed beautifully and staying completely intact. Brava, Fibula Mia! The bad news is that I tore my ligaments. Tore them right good, I did. Beautiful.

Well all the pieces of the puzzle have now come together: do read on, if you care to indulge in the elaborate history of a weak ligament. I swear to you what I'm about to share is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but - there were witnesses.

(Break in the action: the lovely Nicole Cabelle who sang a gorgeous Countess)

Back in 1999, I was singing my first ever Rosina for the Kentucky Opera, and I was walking to the theater on the way to my final matinee. Well, there is a big river that runs through downtown Louisville which can mean some big ol' winds often blow through town. On this Sunday afternoon a HUGE gust of wind decided to tag me "it" and blew me nearly off my feet for a full city block - the only thing that stopped me from flying face-first into a bus stop ahead was my falling over on myself. Yours truly sprained both of her ankles - yes, BOTH, at the same time - but the lucky right one took the brunt of the fall. Yep - it's a great image.

I'll never forget it: I was lying there, tears streaming down my face, unable to get up, and this man appeared laughing - he said, "Are you ok? My wife and I were watching you and we were just laughing at you flailing down the street, and then we realized you were really hurt." Ha. Ha. Well, he put me in his car and drove me to the theater, and I performed the show on crutches. How LITTLE did I know this would become and most unfortunate, annoying, theme throughout my career.

Well, as I've thought on it, I'm quite convinced that my injury was much more severe back then than I realized, and I most certainly needed surgery. But I had no insurance, thought "it's just a sprain", and had work to do - so I went on about my business, no physical therapy, no surgery, just waiting to be able to walk on it.

That injury, I'm certain, has been at the root of my subsequent "trips" ever since. There is of course the infamous London one ("NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD", she said in her TV infomercial voice), there was the sprain during the San Francisco Barber, in Paris during rehearsals, my little non-injury trip in NY for my Rose Theater Recital, etc. Ah yes - there have been numerous ones. But I easily dismissed it as being clumsy, or "accidents happen", etc, and in fact, I'm convinced I have been working with a most compromised ankle. Chronic, if you will.

So: surgery. I was obligated to have it thanks to this latest tear, but it probably should have happened years ago. The Doctor tells me that while the recovery will be long, it should bring me back to a strong, healthy, NORMAL ankle. "A what?", I asked. "What's a normal ankle????" AH! A NORMAL ANKLE!! Doesn't that just sound like heaven?

(The hilarious Keith Jameson as Basilio, who kept me laughing through it all)

So, considering the time it takes to have surgery, and plan recovery, etc, and considering how much I hate the idea of canceling, I had to weigh my options. My best scenario was to not cancel anything, which meant either postponing the surgery until my break in August (not wise, and quite risky), or squeeze it in after the run of Figaro in Chicago and hope for the best. This is what I have opted to do.

Shall I explain further? Naturally! (Maybe it's time for a second glass of wine?)

In speaking with the Doctor, he felt that he could construct a splint that could fit inside my costume boot so that I could try to perform Cherubino. I sat out the final dress in order to rest up (first one I've ever missed!) and the decision was to try the opening, see how I felt, and if I felt ok, to continue the run. If I felt that I was going to do any kind of further damage, I would withdraw and have the surgery right away. Enter the amazing costume staff of the Lyric Opera who stayed hours to find the right pair of boots for me that would house a big brace and still be stable. They are my heroes.

Well, I can't tell you how difficult the opening show was on that Sunday. In all honesty, it was harder than the London show when I actually broke my leg, for then I had no time to process anything, I just simply kept going forward. And then when the wheelchair entered the game, there was no question about being in pain - it was more a logistical struggle. But coming back onto the stage where I had just suffered the recent injury in such an active role? For some reason I was completely wracked with nerves. I sang one of the worst performances in my life (apologies to those who heard it!) - I mean, it was serviceable, and I don't think anyone needed to ask for their money back, but it was not a "signature" performance, to be sure. It was all the wrong kind of adrenalin: my pulse was racing, my voice was shaking, my breath was not at all under me, and all I could thing of was "don't step wrong!" Considering this was Cherubino, that was a tall task.

But once the first scene was over, I started feeling my legs under me, and I started settling a bit. But boy, was I happy to see that curtain come down! The relief was enormous. And I was also thrilled to see that my ankle hadn't swollen, I didn't feel any additional pain, and it seemed that this was something I could pull off. I saw the Doctor the next day, and we agreed that we could move forward with the run without incurring any damage. His scrawny, fabulous brace worked miracles!


As the run went on, slowly I felt better and better, and by the end I was forgetting that I had a brace on - well, nearly forgetting, and I felt totally back into Cherubino's shoes. Oh, that felt great.

But the surgery was looming, which meant a lot of questions would soon be answered. Happily, upon examination, the Doctor found that my ligaments were salvageable! (If they had not been, he would have had to have used a tendon to take the place of the ligaments...good times!) But he found a lot of scarring from the past injury(s), and the fresh tear. He assures me that my ankle is now tight, taut, and probably will be quite sore for sometime. BUT IT WILL BE STRONG! YES!!!

The beautiful part of all of this (there usually is a beautiful part, if you look hard enough, I've found) is that the Doctor I was blessed with is a huge opera lover. Huge. In fact, the first day he met me, he simply turned to me, looking into my scared eyes, and said, "Ya'll have no idea how powerful it is what you do." (He's from Texas.) He was serious, and he continued: "I'm convinced you save far more lives with your warblin' than I ever could with my scalpel." I knew immediately that I was in good hands.

Although I do have to say that being wheeled into the surgery room, all white and antiseptic and sterile and cold, and me shivering in my paper thin gown, to the strains of "D'Amor al dolce impero" was about THE most surreal moment of my life! He was playing my Colbran CD! I'll tell you - I could NOT wrap my head around that one - memories of being in sunny Rome singing my heart out, and here, scared to death on this cold metal bed hoping for the best! It was BEYOND bizarre.

But before I knew it, I was out cold, and then being brought back to reality. The entire staff then assured me that, indeed, I do "sing purty." "Excuse me?", I asked? Well, apparently I sing while under sedation and under the knife. Will wonders never cease? The Doc told me that was a first in his operating room experience. Go figure.

So what is next? I'm told I can be weight bearing in about 2-3 weeks, so I will arrive in Geneva next week to start rehearsals slowly, but with gusto, and I will most likely be performing the shows in a walking cast. A sleek, sexy, fabulously trendy walking cast. OK - one of those big, bulky, horrid things, but it will hopefully do the job! The good news is that Elena surely can't be as active as Cherubino, right? And the staff and administration of the Opera there in Geneva have been HUGELY supportive and will try and do everything to make it work beautifully.

I honestly have no idea how it will all go, except that I will do my best to not have it be an issue in any way possible. As much as possible. That's part of my job. Which is where my request comes in: Without wanting to be ungrateful in any way, because truly, you folks who read this blog are such ardent supporters of mine and mean so very much to me - without you listening and applauding, I would look quite stupid on an empty stage! You're a huge reason I do what I do. But I do wish to ask you to resist the temptation to write to me personally, asking me how I am, or to inundate me with questions after a show of how my leg is, etc. (Positive comments, however, are always welcome on the blog!!! I love those!) I know you will be concerned, and I know that some of you will want to share that concern, and I appreciate that. But the way my mind works, I prefer to look ahead and stay very positive. I tend to believe that where you put your energy, results will follow. If I put all my energy on thinking about my broken ankle, I will feel the pain a bit more, I'll feel a bit weaker, and I'll expend the energy I should be using to heal to think about my "poor ankle". That may sound a bit crazy, but it is the way I try to work and live.

So if you agree to help me on this, let's try not to keep going over it and asking all the time "how is your ankle?" I prefer to get healthy and then have you be able to concentrate on my performance and the show rather than on whether I'll still be standing at the end! If you could help me with that, I'd be most appreciative.

I will give updates here so you can follow how the recovery is going, but in the meantime, you can spend your time ordering the London Barber, and watching it over and over, instead of worrying about me! ;-) (How I would LOVE to be remembered for something related to my singing at the end of my career rather than being a klutz!)

I do want to give one apology, as I did have to cancel one thing to fit in this surgery, and that was the 75th Anniversary Gala at AVA. I was looking forward with immense joy to return to my roots and sing for the supportive public there, but sadly, flying a day after surgery wasn't an option. I'm hugely grateful to AVA for their understanding, and hope that I can have a raincheck!

Oh, and before I go - a HUGE shout out to the amazing cast of "Nozze" here in Chicago. So many people that saw it said it was one of the very best they had ever seen, and I can't tell you what an honor it was to be a part of this cast. We had a ball, and I will miss the show terribly! Bravi, tutti!


Signing off, with my beautiful plaster cast elevated above my head!
CHEERS (and thanks for your understanding!)

Ah. PS. The reason I waited until now to write about all of this, was that I didn't want anyone's focus during "Nozze" to be on my leg - there has been enough of that. But with rumors being what they are, and me showing up in Geneva in a cast, I thought it best to put things on the record!

36 comments:

AnnaO said...

Cara Joyce,
Thank you for sharing this story with all your usual honesty and optimism. I'm so glad to hear that your doctor is enjoying the Colbran CD too! I can assure you, as can everyone who reads this blog and listens to your music, that you will most certainly be remembered for your glorious singing, your amazing personality, and your dedication to your art. All the best for your upcoming performances!
Anna :)

ps: Looks like you had a great time with le Nozze, I wish I could have seen it!

Mei said...

I've read this having a big cup of tea in a sunny Amsterdam, can you believe that...?

I'm glad you can make your role debut at GTG... We'll talk about the weather there... xDD

Take care...!

PS: Singing under anesthesia... that's amazing...

Alixkovich said...

Okay then, let's not mention the words leg or ankle (damn! I just mentioned them! oh well...) and toï toï toï for La Donna del Lago, have fun, rehearse well and be ready for some standing ovations ;-)

Charlotte said...

Your international title as "Trouper of the Decade" is secure for all time - and this is the official "oh-oh" decade, don't forget. Thanks for "coming clean" - got thru only 1 cup of tea (it being a little early for wine here). I'm sorrier than ever I didn't make it to Chicago. Toi toi toi for a perfect recovery. See you in Paris

Mr. Classical Guy said...

Wouldn't that have made it an "OPERA-ating" room?

Squillo said...

Well, dang, girl. Some of us have luck, orthopedically speaking, and some of us, well... not have luck, to paraphrase Steve Martin.

I understand that an initial ankle sprain is actually often worse than a fracture because it weakens the ligaments and predisposes them to re-injury. Sounds like this is what happened to you. So sorry, but I think you made the wise decision to fix it now, and your fans will appreciate your letting them (us) know the reasons for any cancellations.

Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery, from a fellow orthopedically-challenged fan.

Rocio said...

Sei GRANDE, Signora Joyce!!! :) Thank you, thank you for your total dedication to our beloved craft!!!

My friend was invited to the AVA Gala and there were no extra "oboe-players-who-needed-a-female-date" to give me such luck. While I would have loved for her to see you on stage, I can't deny it would have made me a little jealous. Ok...a LOT jealous.

Keep us updated on 'Elena'!!

Raisa said...

Dear Joyce:
I could not agree more with Anna O. Anyone who heard you at least once, will always associate your name with an amazing voice, talent, beauty, true and unconditional devotion to music and an unbeatable spirit of a true artist.
Thank you!

Magda said...

Three cheers for Dr. Brackett (double-t) -- he's the best!! So glad he made it possible for you to be your wonderful self as Cherubino at Lyric -- you looked and sounded terrific! Thank you for sharing the saga -- onward and upward!! xo

colette said...

You will never cease to impress me, Joyce. I wish you standing ovations in Geneva and just can't wait to see you in Paris in La Donna del Lago. Meanwhile I 'll be watching the Barbiere "on wheels".
You are the Best!
Colette

Wolfgang said...

As much as I enjoyed your Rosina on wheels, I do hope that you will soon be Joyce on rollerskates again (like in the gorgeous picture from LA). Best wishes for a speedy recovery !!!

jeanne.dark said...

I'm not a professional-encouraging-comments-writer. But I would like to tell you that it's a great gift to have this ability to persevere those very vicious experiences!
I won't be able to persevere that.
Best wishes for the next time
Johanna

Ps: I'm sorry for my english it's just because I'm german.

Ann said...

I think its hilarious that you sing under sedation! That's brilliant.

Thank you for posting this story because it has inspired me to really re-look into my whole ankle situation. I had to do my job (albeit behind the scenes) in walking cast due to a then-four-year-old injury. And recently, it has been acting up again.

You have made me think twice about not doing something about it... I shall make an appt.

Here's to speedy healing and never worrying about that ankle again!

Georgios said...

Goodness me, Joyce!
Thanks for sharing with all of us.
Your request will be far too easy to respect, as most of us would rather hear about your progress during rehearsal in Geneva than just about the healing of your ankle!
Have a lovely relaxing time till it's time to be Elena. Your blog is almost as inspiring as your singing. Keep strong and keep sharing your amazing gift for communication.
We all love you and looking forward to your new roles this year, Elena, Adalgisa...oh my!
George

[Lilith] said...

Dearest Joyce,

Having sprained both of my ankles seven times each (once in a swimming pool. Because I'm just that great at injuring myself) and the ligaments on my knees broken in three different occasions, I think I know how you feel. I'm the clumsiest person I know xD

It's true that it's annoying when people ask you about your leg/ankle/injured body part at the time, so I won't, but do keep in mind that I care! :)

Sending all my love and healing vibes from sunny Ibiza!

Irene

PS: I wonder what were you singing while sedated...

smurashige said...

Thanks so much for recounting your story, so no more about your ***le. I thoroughly loved Nozze in Chicago! It is my favorite opera and has one of the most moving moments in all of opera--well at least I think so--the final scene where the Count asks for forgiveness and is granted such by the Countess. The whole opera seems built to lead to this moment. It's brilliant and never fails to bring me to tears. That oh so brief moment of music sums up the mixture of sublime beauty and humanity in Mozart's music. It was a wonderful performance, the whole thing, with a richly complex and beautifully sung (and acted) Cherubino! Thanks so much! Well, I've got to go order some Barber dvd's! Take care, sending you lots of postive energy!
Stanley

Wolfgang said...

Dear Joyce, loved your Rosina on wheels, but definiteley prefer Joyce on rollerskates !! So, get well soon and tell us about Geneva. Best wishes and Happy Easter !!

Opera Cake said...

What?! Super-diva moment 2010 ;)

Hope you'll try and not rush through the recovery process. By the time you come to Paris you'll be super-fit and well fitting the Elena's shoes [that's a tough one to sing, eh?]

Take care and cheers

gaulimauli said...

"Ruht wohl ihr heiligen Gebeine" and so on. Here's a somewhat irreverent translation of Bach's pervasive melody:" Rest well your precious legs and let's shed no further tears over it." So it shall be done according to your wishes.

marcillac said...

"...a second glass...", she says. More like a double magnum.

Seriously, you are the trooperest. The story of your travails is long but you're telling of it is so charming that I must confess to feeling very guilty that I do not feel as bad about them as I should. I do, however, very very sincerely with you the speediest and least painful recovery possible. Naturally I want it to be complete but since what you write here gives us every reason to believe that it will be I simply offer my sentiments regarding the process.

Forgive my extreme selfishness but I am glad both that you were able to proceed with the Cherubino and didn't tell anyone as it did, at least in my case allow me to concentrate on and enjoy you're very distinctive and magnificent presentation. You were audibly not at your best at the premiere but even so "servicable" is a somewhat extravagant euphemism as applied an indicates an entirely unwarranted modesty. That you sing under sedation is hilarious but I suspect that even in that state and while undergoing surgery your singing is both more beautiful and energetic that what one sometimes encounters on some of the world's most "celebrated" opera stages.

(Still, singing Cherubino - CHERUBINO!! - on a bad ankle - although those trouser roles can be rough - I once saw a perfectly lovely - well that doesn't come close to doing her justice - Leonore completely drenched and absolutely wiped out at the end of Fidelio).

A very happy Easter and the best of luck in Geneva. As it happens the powers that be have seen fit to place me in Paris this June - just in time for LDDL and I've secured tickets - if that is those powers see fit to give me a couple of evenings off. I really hope the performances will be as painless as possible for you. I'm certain they will be lovely and enormously enjoyable for those of us who might be lucky enough to witness them.

Glòria said...

We'll be as positive as you and think that this is only an anecdote more for you to explain us. As you told us at the Liceu, it was impossible to get tickets for La Donna del Lago in Paris, so we hope you will sing it in another place. I wish it were in Barcelona !!!! So, although we'll not see you in Paris, let us tell you "break a leg" in Paris, but, of course, be careful!!!!.

Josep i Gloria

Sibyl said...

Hoisting a huge mug of jasmine tea to toast the beauty and intelligence you so generously share. Cannot wait to see the Barbiere DVD (I shall request it for Mother's Day!).

Hannah* said...

You go, girl! I can't put into words how much of an inspiration you are- but just know that you are changing people's lives- especially mine :D

Gi said...

Dear Joyce, what a story! I wish I had a patient sing in my OR ;-) and here are my best wishes for your quick and complete recovery.

I'd hoped to be at the Paris Donna del Lago but before I knew it all your performances were sold out.

I'll make it to another Joyce opera, and in the meantime am sending for the Barbiere DVD.
Take care, and sing beautifully :-)

ManicMezzo said...

The Easter Bunny..okay, my mom ordered the Barber DVD for me for Easter! Yay! :)I already gushed about how much I adored Le Nozze in an email a few weeks ago, but really, I can't stop talking about it!!

Lizzie

Sarah said...

That wonderful doctor is so incredibly correct!! You are a teacher to ALL of us, seriously, and not "just" some very lucky high schoolers (as you had earlier intended to do).

And I sprained my ankle several years ago; got it treated but it's still remembering the sprain so you are right to get it treated now.

I was hoping to get to Paris by the time I turned a certain age (which was last year) and I was going to stretch it out to include this June, but airfare is just TOO MUCH right now. Now I see that your performances are sold out. So maybe it's karma and I will get to Paris some other time of the year AND see you and Sr. Florez live in the States sometime. There is ALWAYS some other opportunity coming up later, I have found. I will make my checkbook ready for it!

Haimes said...

Joyce,

You are truly an American hero and diva. We saw you in Barcelona with Juan Diego Florez in La Cenerentola and loved every minute. We love your Colbran CD as well as many others.

I think you should try a good single malt scotch to relax your soul and mind. Kudos to you for candid honesty, good sense of humor and incredible talent.

Gerald said...

Dear Joyce! You will definitly never stop to amaze us. I tought that the London 4th July would be the most amazing example of how uniquely dedicated to your art you are, but this is somehow even more amazing! Joyce, you are just AMAZING and this blog is not only inspiring for young singers, but also for people in general. One can only get inspired and learn from your overall positive philosophy and feel the deepest respect and admiration for the example you give us as a performer and a person. All the very best to you and see you in Paris to talk about the ciel bleu, the romantic quais de la Seine and de bon vin rouge... In the meantime enjoy every second of your first encounter with the charming Lady of the (leman) lake! A tout bientôt!

gaulimauli said...

Good day to you,Joyce! I'm Cathleen and I too have read your latest missive. You sure lead an interesting life.I was horrified to learn of your second mishap, the world's stages seem to have indeed cento trappole for you to fall into.What is wrong with these people? They are able to charge $200 a ticket but are unable to provide a safe environment for the artists to perform in. This is nuts! I sure hope you know where to send the bills once they start trickling in. Any road-you are still a young woman and with proper care this too shall pass.PLUS...you've got energy, brains and a boatload of talent, not to mention a handsome husband with his own future ahead of him. Not too shabby in my book.All best wishes, Cath.

Jamie Henderson said...

Dear Joyce
As someone who was at THAT London Barbiere, and also at your Edinburgh Festival concert where the lights kept going out (!!) I have to admit to being relieved to read your latest blog and realise that I was not somehow jinxing your performances, as I was starting to suspect!
Looking forward to hearing you again in Edinburgh, and also in Cendrillon at the ROH (the title role, right? Not Prince Charming..Gramophone magazine quotes you as saying you're singing Prince Charming somewhere..)
Best wishes,
Jamie

Alixkovich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Joyce, Your enthusiasm is infectuous! I was at the AVA Gala performance. I'm sure you've heard by now how wonderful it was, but we all missed your "warblin'" ! Glad to hear you continue to sing even while under anesthesia. The show must go on no matter what! :)

~Susan

Irishrover said...

Back from my wanderings, I can finally comment! I just can't believe you sang under sedation, hilarious! And this doctor couldn't be more right, when I say you're an source of inspiration for all of us... ;)

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying la Donna tremendously and you're having a ball with Elena!

Take care!

alice-anne said...

My husband and I saw you in Chicago a few weeks ago when we were visiting. Fabulous performance! You are an inspiration to all of us aspiring singers!

Ronald said...

Dear Ms DiDonato: I've only now had the chance to see and hear you on your Barbiere DVD and am just knocked out by your bristling intelligence and athletic performance. You are Rosina!Brava, brava!

Riccardo said...

Dear Joyce I'd like to also write you how much I loved your Elena last night: never heard this Colbran part so terrificly sung and performed before.
According to me Loy's staging is a true genial work exalting every note by Rossini. It was absolutely great! This is how a modern staging should be done.
And thank you for posting Beverly Sills...I love her so much!
See you I hope in Paris.
All the best to you!

Riccardo