Thursday, June 19, 2003

Opera's season of the ladies

Four summer productions feature strong feminine voices

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

It's all about the ladies in Cincinnati Opera's summer festival, which opens tonight. We asked each of the four leading ladies - Eva Urbanova, Catherine Malfitano, Hasmik Papian, Lauren Flanigan - in the four productions to tell us about themselves, and the roles they will play.




How I see my character: Turandot is an ice princess. Anna I is gutsy; Anna II is idealistic; the Woman is fragile and feminine; Medusa is mythic, bigger than life. The real happiness of life - to be loved by someone you love - comes to Violetta when it is too late. Therefore, I pity her (and) … I admire her. I see Norma as the embodiment of true love.
What makes her a strong woman? She has a strict upbringing. Medusa is strong because she is willing to make the ultimate sacrifices. Her ability to preserve her personal pride - from the beginning until the very end. She takes the ideals of fidelity to the extreme. … To Norma, death is the only answer to a life without love.
My biggest moment in the opera: Act 2 When Medusa invites her salvation and allows her maternal self to overcome the disaster of her life. Act 2. In general, each time I step on stage. For me, it is still a miracle to do this profession every night. "Casta diva."
Home is: Prague New York City Where my family is. (Armenia) New York City
What inspires me: If it's not here (points to heart), I can't sing it. Endless creativity. To see packed houses in so many places in the world where I sing. I draw a tremendous amount of inspiration from the characters that I portray.
My biggest temptation: Diet Coke and French champagne. To live out the lives of my characters. To buy really good looking fashion. I love a new challenge.
Why I am/am not a diva: Today I am a prima donna, tomorrow no. It's like the weather: one day sunny, the next day rain. I'm a diva, because diva backwards is avid, and I am an avid pursuer of once-in-a lifetime experiences. I am a diva because all the parts I sing are 'diva' parts…. I try to stay in touch with reality - without giving up my self-confidence. I aspire to emulate the traditions of the great artists - the intense work ethic, the dedication to the craft, and the attention to detail.
Things I always carry in my bag: Perfume, lipstick, a special European gum, … and my talisman, a picture of St. Patrick. My own roasted green and vanilla spice teas, and a picture of my daughter. An alarm clock, makeup remover and Chanel No. 5. I don't carry a bag.
How I stay in shape: Yoga and pilates. I don't like fitness. Aerobics and a lot of weight lifting. I can press 500 pounds on the leg press. I never forget that I am a singer (which is not very easy sometimes). My best workouts take place when I'm on stage. Strength and stamina go hand-in-hand with vocal and dramatic ability.
To prepare myself on performance day, I always: Rest, and study my role. I am Turandot all day long. Put myself in performance mode. Stay in bed as long as possible; eat chicken for lunch six hours before the performance starts. Focus on inhabiting the character.
My most unforgettable opera experience: Jenufa, a Nic Muni production, that I just sang in Toronto. In 1992, while making the film of Tosca in Rome, the Vatican had to give me permission to kiss Placido Domingo in Act I. Singing Norma in front of 9,500 people in the ancient Roman amphitheatre of Orange under the silver moon of France. When I was covering for Aprile Millo as Giselda in the Met's I Lombardi, the day before the performance, I was called in to sing the role. … The director drew out my staging on napkins at a restaurant.

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