It’s been a wild and crazy month or so! Shortly after my last blog post, as I was just settling in and enjoying a few well-deserved weeks at home in CT, I got called last minute to replace the Queen of the Night at the Aix-en-Provence festival, a world-renowned summer opera locale in the south of France! We hopped on a plane a week later (after a quick job in Rochester, NY which I’ll write about sometime) and before I had time to blink, I was throwing myself into the last few rehearsals of an amazing new production of Mozart’s Magic Flute by Simon McBurney.
This was my 11th production of Magic Flute, and I thought I had explored this opera and the role of Queen of the Night very thoroughly, but I was wrong! Drenched in darkness and stark modernity, this production took a very deep and human look at these well known characters, and the Queen of the Night was almost unrecognizable from how she is usually portrayed. Here she was no magical glittering fairy-princess, nor was she the black and silver goddess-witch of night that resembles the sharp dagger she vows will kill her enemy… This Queen of the Night is an angry, frustrated, decaying old woman. Crippled by her own hatred and revenge, she is forced to use a cane to hold herself upright, and by the second act aria, she is confined to a wheelchair. In the finale of the opera, she is abandoned and collapses alone, powerless and dying before the audience’s eyes. And then true enlightenment is witnessed, as Sarastro helps her to her feet and she is healed by his forgiveness.
The fourth performance was filmed by Arte TV and was broadcasted live all over Europe. Here is the YouTube clip of my second aria (this is arguably one of the most famous opera arias of all time, and even you non-opera-goers will recognize it after a minute or so!) (And yes, that old women is REALLY me… I promise!)
Embodying this character was both an amazing gift as well as an exhausting challenge to me as a singer and as an actress. Now that several weeks have gone by, I can be honest and say that there were moments that I completely lost myself on that dark stage and literally struggled with the frustrating emotions of being hated, ugly, old and decaying, and unable to use my legs. The overwhelming unhappiness of this character found ways of penetrating my everyday life, and my dreams at night. I had to remind myself daily that in fact I was still at the beginning of my life, with much to look forward to, and that I have chosen to surround myself with people I love and who love me, and that bitterness, rage and vengeance are not in my daily vocabulary of emotions.
A couple backstage shots to amuse you: BEFORE AND AFTER!
And a close-up of my aging make-up complete with prosthetic facial pieces!
I also had to wear a bodysuit under my costume – the first time my youthful curves were NOT appreciated!
Working on this production was an immense challenge for me both mentally and physically, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience it, surrounded by such talented colleagues on and off the stage.
I’ll end on a more cheery note, and share a bit of great news!! Remember that beautiful production of Handel’s Orlando I did in Tasmania, Australia at the Hobart Baroque Festival a few months ago? I have been nominated for “Best Female Performer in an Opera” at The Helpmann Awards! These are Australia’s version of the Tony Awards, for those who are unfamiliar! What a fabulous honor to be nominated for my first award for a role I so dearly loved singing, with colleagues I will treasure forever, in a place that will forever enchant me!