Diva Damrau

The first opera I ever saw was Lucia di Lammermoor at the Metropolitan Opera (setting the bar high).  It was my junior or senior year at Muhlenberg College, and my voice teacher was slowly exposing me to classical music (I had entered college at the age of 18 with the dream of being on Broadway.  That all changed when I realized how operatic my voice was.  My Broadway dreams turned into an Opera obsession).  She suggested that we take a field trip with one other student to New York City to attend an opera at the Met.  Seeing that both students were sopranos, Christa (my voice teacher) chose Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.  I was still new to opera, and quite frankly, didn’t care which opera we saw.  I was just excited to go.

Since I had plenty of experience driving in New York City from growing up in New Jersey and going into the city on weekends with my friends (we didn’t even need fake IDs back then!  Sometimes I miss being 18…), I volunteered to drive my voice teacher and her other student into the city that Saturday.

The soprano who was singing the title role of Lucia was Diana Damrau.  Little did I know, she was to become one of my absolute favorite singers.  I still remember watching the opera – we were all the way up in family circle, but I could still see how she moved onstage in that large opera house, making very clear-cut acting choices, and her voice floated above our heads flawlessly

A few years later, after graduating from college, moving to the big bad city, and entering graduate school to receive my Master of Music degree, Jennie and I were able to snag standing room tickets to see Damrau in La Traviata.  History was made that night since Placido Domingo was singing the role of Germont.  The famous tenor was singing a baritone role with one of my favorite sopranos as Violetta.  I absolutely had to see it, standing room or not.  Our tickets were in the orchestra level, which, as standing room goes, isn’t too bad.  Damrau acted the part of the ill Violetta with furious commitment, and I remember how her movements seemed so natural and effortless, as if she weren’t even acting at all.  I remember seeing Damrau jump on top of the red couch and not missing a beat technically while singing.  I haven’t been able to jump on furniture and maintain any sort of pretty sound, that will have to be a singer goal of mine.  The production was an interesting one, and since I had sung Annina in La Traviata and knew the opera quite well, the interpretation of Dr. Grenvil, the use of the large clock, and seeing the character of Flora as a pants role was very intriguing and creative to me.  I think the best aria from La Traviata is “Addio, del passato” (I’m sure many will argue with me on this) which Violetta sings during the final act.  Hearing Damrau sing this gorgeous aria live was breathtaking.  It seemed as if the entire orchestra level was completely still while listening to her sing this aria.  Her legato lines, the amount of sadness in the notes, and her amazing technique lent themselves perfectly to the music.  The end of the aria floats up to an A5, and I remember listening as her pianissimo A5 gave me chills.  THAT is someone I need to be – I remember thinking, eyes wide – THAT is the level I want to get to.

The next opera I saw Ms. Damrau in was Manon, which was performed last season.  When I approached the will-call window to pick up my ticket, I got bumped from family circle to the orchestra – three rows from the front.  I had never been so close to the stage at the Met before, and I was determined to learn everything I could from this diva who I had grown to adore.  As always, she was flawless.  There were rumors going around that she was sick, but you couldn’t hear it in her voice.  Her transitions from her low notes into her higher register were seamless, her acting choices and movements onstage showed that she was committed to her character, and once again, she was entertaining to watch and fascinating to learn from.

This past Saturday, I was able to grab a last minute standing room ticket to Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, with Damrau as Leila.  This time, the standing room tickets were not in the orchestra, but in family circle, being the absolute furthest an audience member can get from the stage (I know, I need to invest in opera glasses).  Damrau, once again, delivered.  I need to also mention the tenor, Matthew Polenzani, who had one of the most beautiful tenor voices I have ever heard.  During his aria in Act I, he floated up to falsetto seamlessly.  I was quite impressed and hope I hear him again soon!  The second act where Damrau is in the office of the jealous Zurga, after having been caught with Nadir, was when Damrau gave me chills.  During the argument, her character finally stands up for herself, taking Zurga by surprise.  The force that Damrau used to deliver that line could be felt all the way to the top of family circle, where I was standing.  The passion that emanated from her was immense, and it was just more proof that her acting choices are solid and are followed through with 100%.  Also during the performance, she sang a pianissimo high note (I don’t have perfect pitch or the score at my disposal, so I do not know what the note was, although I am now realizing that this is a role I should add to my repertoire, and will purchase the score soon) which was stunning.  It was almost as if her character were whispering to herself, but the sound still carried clearly into the back of the house.  The Met is the largest opera house in the world, and for a singer’s voice to carry all the way to the back is a feat in itself, let alone having it ring so beautifully and audibly that way while pianissimo.

So, the point of this post is that if Diana Damrau is performing in a venue near you, GO SEE HER.  Not only is she a flawless singer and dedicated actor, during a curtain call you can see her adorable personality shine through as she hops offstage to grab the conductor and skips back on.  I’m proud to be the same fach as her … now I just need to get on her level.  What a fantastic Diva to look up to. =)


And a treat for you, Diana Damrau singing “Addio del passato.”  Just listen, it is good for your soul.


Farewell past, happy dreams of days gone by, the roses in my cheeks already are faded.                    

Even Alfredo’s love is lacking, to comfort and uphold my weary spirit.                          

Oh, comfort, sustain a tired soul, and may God pardon and make her his own!

Ah, all is finished.    

The joys, the sorrows will be soon over, the tomb confines all mortals!            

Neither tears or flowers will my grave have,  no cross with a name that covers my bones!                   

Oh, comfort, sustain a tired soul, and may God pardon and make her his own!

Ah, all is finished.

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