Our Christmas production this year was on Verdi’s first ever opera “Ernani”. The story of a love triangle involving the King. Although it was never highlighted on any of the OBV marketing, I was delighted that our main conductor, director, costume and set designer were all female. Do you know how rare it is for just one of these roles to be filled by a woman? Let alone all of them at the same time! With that brilliant female leadership, again OBV leads the way in its commitment to diversity and equality.
However, that being said, this was an incredibly masculine production. Very grimy, militant and grey to look at. The female chorus are introduced with a maypole made of nooses. The male chorus had to climb into body bags whilst singing their number on stage. The creative choices would never have suggested anything about the festive time of year that we were performing in. It didn’t feel particularly Christmassy at all. I would love to go back to my first ever Christmas time opera 15 years ago… it was Die Fledermaus at the Royal Northern College of Music. The stage was a glittery, golden, flowing, double staircase and everyone was in bright colourful ball gowns with hoops inside. One day I would love to be a bit more “cruise ship” at the opera again.
Anyway, back to Ernani. I loved the music in this opera. It was playful and melodic, and you can hear Verdi’s style developing. Some of the female chorus music hints to what he will later write for the witches in Macbeth. And the 3rd act male chorus singing in unison is simply spine tinglingly good. Verdi really knew how to write a melody.
One very exciting moment in the process for me, right before the public dress rehearsal, I was asked to cover the soprano character “Giovanna”. Some of the principles had been coming down with sickness so they decided to get some covers for the roles that weren’t already double cast. Although, I never got to go on and perform the role, I was ready for it.
It looks like this won’t be the last time that I will be singing Verdi this season. Our tour of our production of Schumann’s Faust to Montpellier in the South of France has now changed to a concert of Verdi’s Requiem. Bring it on.
Jennifer Coleman - is a classical / opera singer, and vocal coach, performing across the UK and internationally.