For almost two decades London’s Royal Opera House has not set foot in Japan. Now it is back in Yokohama and Tokyo, showing, among others, Verdi’s La Traviata.
Ermonela Jaho’s heroine Violetta is Mediterranean, and somehow ‘universal’, as well;
“Behind the character of a courtisane, Violetta’s personality is that of a woman in love, and love with a capital L; and she’s a woman ready to make a sacrifice – with a capital S.”
For Antonio Pappano, who’s the ROH’s Music Director, Violetta’s choice provides some food for thought: “This idea of sacrifice is not very fashionable today, we’re not used to making sacrifices, especially young people, who want everything, now.”
A tour in Japan also offers an orchestra the opportunity to experience a totally different type of audience. Peter Manning is the ROH concertmaster. This is his eighth time in the land of the rising sun;
“It’s a total experience going to the opera, you go into the door, and you go into another world. If that other world is made better by the idea that there’s this fantastic energy in the hall… well, the energy here in Japan allows this to happen.
It’s a very exciting public, they’re extraordinarily quiet… Musicians like the idea that there’s some sort of space which is called silence, I like that… it’s a wonderful thing, special to Japan, I think.”
Maestro Pappano mentions another type of silence: “The most beautiful thing is that silence… to see a singer who’s thinking, and listening to their colleague…then it all becomes theatre for real. I’m not interested in seeing singers singing a tempo, perfectly in tune, standing in the middle of the stage like a fool – that is of no interest whatsover to me.”
As a child, Ermonela Jaho dreamt of becoming Maria Callas. Today she experiences opera as a therapy. She’s a generous, almost fearless, artist: “It’s a little difficult for me to manage my voice during the performance because I totally throw myself into the singing. Why restrain oneself? it’s a magic moment, I love it! It may be that I’ll last less, but at least I’ll have lived out the magic to the end!”