GRAMMY-AWARD WINNING SOPRANO
San Francisco, CA – We interviewed Lyric Soprano ANA MARIA MARTINEZ in San Francisco, where in June, she will add to her operatic repertoire the role of Elisabetta de Valois in GIUSEPPE VERDI’s Masterful production of DON CARLO of the San Francisco Opera.
CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL asks her why she decided to sing the difficult role.
“It was Maestro (NICOLA) LUISOTTI’s (the S.F. Opera Conductor) idea to bring me in, to do the role. Elisabetta is a young princes from France, who is engaged to marry the Infante Don Carlo, the son of Phillipe II, King of Spain. When she first meets him, and he tells her that he loves her, it is the happiest moment for her, and (musically) in the Opera, we can “hear” her joy, reflected in the lightness of the music she sings. But, within a very short time, a Page from her court, comes to Elisabetta, to inform her that her father, the King from France, has given her in marriage to Phillipe II, Don Carlo’s father and the King of Spain. From that moment on, her life is over for her.
At first, she refuses to accept the proposal, but the people from Flanders, who had suffered for years, given the bad relation from Spain and France, who were in war at the time, beg her to accept the King’s proposal to bring peace to the region. She says “yes”
“When I am singing DON CARLO's score,” I hear many other VERDI’s moments from another VERDI;s works.” She tells us, “Melodies from the VERDI’s Requiem,from VERDI’s Aida, I hear them everywhere in the texture, but just for a second, here and there, and I think that the reason (why VERDI included melodic fractions from arias from his other Operas in this one) may be that “DON CARLO” is the culmination of VERDI’s marvelous and extraordinary musical language. “
“The tessitura (the complete range of her aria) in Elisabetta, is also interesting because It is quite central in the voice, which indicates to me, (as singer) that these words (the lyrics) demand to be pronounced clearly, because when a composer wants a soprano to sing in the center register of her voice (meaning not very high and not very low) it means that the composer wants the singer to really and truly enunciate (pronounce) every single word in her text (lyrics of her aria) clearly, because the composer knows, that as soon as the tone gets a little high, it will becomes more important for the soprano to make a beautiful sound, instead of enunciating the words”
For a singer, the role of Elisabetta is demanding. During her short moments of joy with Don Carlo, she has (to sing) gorgeous phrases where she needs to go up high to the top of her voice, On the rest of her role, her notes are quite central, and quite low which indicates, musically, that there is no joy in her life anymore. Just by listening to the music, the audience needs to understand that.
There is also a quartet, in which Elisabetta barges into the King’s room indicating (to the King) that somebody had stolen her jewelry box. The singing of the aria, at this moment for me, is difficult because my voice has to go soaring, to its highest notes, and then sing pianissimo (very soft quiet tone) VERDI may have written this aria as a sort of prayer, because, in the context of the plot, the only reason for Elisabetta’s life from that moment on, will be her sense of duty to the people of the country. She is now married to the Spanish King, so she cannot be with Don Carlo, the one she loves. The only way she can get strength is in prayer, indicated in the score by the very high notes that need to be sung very softly. It is a sublime VERDI’s touch. that at the moments when Elisabetta is praying, in her voice, the audience is hearing, VERDI's most beautiful tones.”
“All the roles of VERDI’s heroines are demanding. VERDI requires exquisite precision (from their singers) and you must be able to vocalize well not only in the highest registers, but also in the lower registers. In this work, I need to go into my chess voice in order to produce the required sound which, musically may indicate Elisabetta's state of mind, her sadness and her desire to to get out of her situation, which is her only wish”
“ These “musical details” convince me that in writing the music for the role, VERDI, was really expressing his emotional maturity, that came with age. He wrote most of the arias for the soprano playing Elisabetta, in the range of the lower part of the soprano's voice not only to express her sadness, but her rage, and these pianissimos in her high notes to express the purity of her heart and her inner strength, which is her only means to survive. So being able to interpret these emotion in inging is hard, but it is a joy to be inside the texture of these monumental music. The feeling that you experience as a singer, singing DON CARLO is incredible.. It cannot be expressed in words."
The opera’s libretto written by JOSEPH MÉRY and CAMILLE du LOCLE, is based on the dramatic poem Don Carlos infant von Spanien written by German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller, (l797-l856). The Opera, in five acts, is set in the France and Spain during the years 1559-l568, when both countries were at war with each other and the Spanish Inquisition was at its height burning “The heretics” in public places.
When the audience sees DON CARLO, however, they ought to remember that Schiller’s adolescence, under the rule of Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg, had showed him, personally, the effects of the abusive powers by the nobility on other people, which he used in many of his other plays. and in DON CARLO. To make this point clear, at the time of the opera’s first revision in l883, in a letter, Verdi wrote to his publisher GIULIO RICORDI that the libretto of his new work, based on Schiller's play, was dramatic, but that there was no truth in it, and that there was nothing historical about its its characters, except their names.
A Don Carlo Moving Moment VIDEO with Ana María Martínez singing ,produced by the San Francisco Opera can be accessed on You-Tube by clicking HERE.