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Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Atlanta Opera brings on opera's bloodiest bride

BRIDEZILLA: A reveler at the Little Five Points Halloween Parade shows her enthusiasm for the up-coming Atlanta Opera production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” by dressing up as the title character. World-renowned soprano Georgia Jarman will don a similar costume when she sings the role of Lucia at the Cobb Energy Center starting November 12.
  • Joeff Davis
  • BRIDEZILLA: A reveler at the Little Five Points Halloween Parade shows her enthusiasm for the up-coming Atlanta Opera production of "Lucia di Lammermoor" by dressing up as the title character. Soprano Georgia Jarman will don a similar costume when she sings the role of Lucia at the Cobb Energy Center starting November 12.
A haunted castle. A bitter feud. An innocent girl driven mad. A wedding dress covered in blood.

No, this isn't the backstory to Netherworld. It's actually what's going on right now in the rehearsal rooms of the Atlanta Opera. As Halloween approaches, the AO is busy preparing for up-coming performances of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, opening Saturday, November 12. We caught up with Houston-based soprano Georgia Jarman who will play Lucia to chat about the slightly creepy task of taking on the role of opera's maddest and most murderous bride.

Soprano Georgia Jarman
  • Soprano Georgia Jarman
How do you prepare for a role like Lucia?
This is my first time performing this role, and there is so much to do! There's so much to learn, so much research. With a new role I start by translating it and writing all the translations word for word in the score, making sure there are no words I don't know. Then I work on the actual music. It's a long process. Bel canto is an interesting type of opera because it can be done in so many different ways. It's really about the specific artist and what they can offer. That's why I enjoy it so much. I love finding ways to make my own voice speak through this type of opera.

Lucia has one of the most famous mad scenes in all of opera.
It's an interesting scene. I think it's brilliantly written. It's really long, but when you're performing or watching it, it doesn't actually feel long because it's so engaging. There's so much you can do. It's sort of a blank canvas in a certain way for adding in things that will be great for your individual voice and more dramatic for you as an artist. There's this really interesting instrument that they use in the mad scene that Donizetti originally wrote as the accompaniment for the soprano which is called the glass harmonica. It sounds like creepy circus music. Often when you see that mad scene, the duet is just between soprano and flute, but it was actually written for the glass harmonica, and we'll have one for the Atlanta production.

Have you seen your bloody wedding dress yet?
It looks great.

An image from the Atlanta Opera production of Lucia di Lammermoor.
  • An image from the Atlanta Opera production of "Lucia di Lammermoor."
It seems like there is a lot of scary stuff in Lucia.
In the opening scene Lucia talks specifically about a ghost she sees, and she describes it in detail: the bloodless hand beckoning to her. It definitely has a creepy factor.

Have you ever played any other mad, murderous heroines?
No, I don't think I've gotten to kill anyone else yet. In Romeo and Juliet, I stab myself. I play the consumptive heroine a lot who's gradually fading. But I enjoy singing Musetta in La Bohème because I get to be perky and fun for the whole opera, and then I don't die. It feels like “Wow! I got a paycheck, and I didn't have to die.”

A lot of opera singers are very superstitious. Do you have any lucky rituals you perform before a show?
No, I don't. I know that some singers do. I like to eat a turkey sandwich before the show.

Do you ever find you bring some of the intensity of opera roles home with you? I mean, it must be hard to rehearse a role like Lucia and then be all, “Honey, I'm home!”
It is a challenge. I was singing The Tales of Hoffman in Poland, and the director wanted the character of Antonia to be really mentally unstable. I walked with an insane limp and looked like a lunatic. I think that started to affect my body. I had a hard time removing that from other roles that I sang. It seeped into my stage presence and probably into my personal life too!


The Atlanta Opera presents Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center from November 12-20. For tickets or more information, visit the Atlanta Opera.

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