Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Soprano Ermonela Jaho Lives Her Dream and Possibly Shills for Bill Gates

The Aria Serious crew first became aware of Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho in 2008 when our soprano for Maria Stuarda became ill during tech week.

Our Artistic Director was familiar with Jaho, having seen her perform Maria Stuarda some time earlier while in Europe. Knowing we needed to start lining up a replacement immediately (not many people sing the role of Maria Stuarda) Ian called her agent in New York to see if she was available and in the country. The agent said "why don't you ask her yourself; she's sitting right here next to me." She was on a plane a few hours later.

Ermonela arrived in time for the final dress rehearsal on Thursday night. She did one walk through of the opera and then sang the opening night performance on Saturday to popular and critical acclaim. Since then she's been singing at all the major houses - the Met, Covent Garden and beyond.

Ermonela comes back to sing Liu in the season opener Turandot. She was able to take a few minutes from her busy schedule to answer the 10 or so questions we always ask in our occasional series of "1o Or So Questions With..."

San Diego Opera (SDO): When we last met you had flown in for the opening night of Maria Stuarda in 2008. Since then you’ve had some important Company and role debuts and your career has really taken off. Would you like to share a few of your exciting engagements since we last saw you?

Ermonela Jaho (EJ): It has been a very exciting time. I would name Violetta in “La Traviata” in Covent Garden, Met, Berlin and Lyon, “Anna Bolena” in Paris and Lyon, “Butterfly” in Philadelphia, “Manon LescautMarseille, Margarite “Faust” Helsinki etc…..

SDO: You sing the role of Liu with us. Can you tell me a bit about the character? How do you feel about her?

EJ: For me she is the personification of how true love should be; ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for what she believes in. Her character touches us with its purity and maturity and makes us think, maybe we have “developed” love a little too much from its origin in modern times.

SDO: Your favorite moment in Turandot? No. You can’t say “curtain call.”

EJ: You took my best answer away. I would say two, her first aria “Signore ascolta” where Puccini makes us feel the purity of the character and “Tu che di gel sei cinta” where no one can remain unstirred by the depth of her love.

SDO: Your dream role that you’ve yet to sing?

EJ: I am afraid it became a reality last year in Philadelphia. “Butterfly” has been a dream of mine since starting to take the first music lessons. It turned out to be exactly what I expected it to be.

SDO: Tell us about your introduction to opera? What was your path to get where you are today?

EJ: My first introduction to opera was “La Traviata”. I went to see it with my brother and after being moved so much by its music I decided to become an opera singer. The path to get there though turned out to be a little more than I expected. If I had the choice today to choose my career again I would definitely think more than twice about becoming an opera singer again but, in the end somehow I know there will really be no choice.

Fill in the blank section: “If I was not an opera singer I would be a Child Social Worker

SDO: What’s your favorite part of being an international opera singer?

EJ: The opportunity to remind people of their humanity through my singing.

SDO: Least favorite?

EJ: Being far from the people I truly love and love me.

SDO: Some people say there is more to life than opera. I know, we think they’re crazy too. But we’ll humor them: do you have any hobbies?

EJ: My favorite hobbies are sports and meditation.

SDO: Do you have a book next to your bed? What is it?

EJ: For the moment “La dame aux camélias” of Dumas (fils)

SDO: Name three bands or musicians on your iPod that aren’t opera related.

EJ: Sorry for the Bill Gate’s kind of response but I don’t have an iPod. I play my music from my Blackberry phone. I do not have a lot of other music other then opera but definitely a few songs from Freddie Mercury.

SDO: Where in the world are you right now and what are you singing?

EJ: I am presently in Köln; tomorrow is the last performance of “Butterfly” and after that in London singing Violetta in “La Traviata” in Covent Garden.

Turandot kicks off our 2011 season in January, 2011.

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