NEW YORK (AP) — Keep your eyes on Diana Damrau, if you can, as she darts about the stage as the innocent and impetuous teenage heroine in the opening scene of Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette."
"She is like a bird you can't catch, going here and going there," the German soprano said in an interview last week at the Metropolitan Opera. "Everything is magic and new and beautiful, and she's fresh and sparkling, inside and outside."
"Through all this and the costumes and makeup you don't see that I'm an old mom," Damrau, who is 45 and the mother of two young sons, added with a hearty laugh. "It's wonderful to step into this skin and do all this."
Audiences will get to judge how well she manages this transformation on Saturday when the Bartlett Sher production, new this season, is broadcast live in HD to movie theaters around the world.
As for all that running she does in that first scene, Damrau said: "It's hard work, but it's fun work. At the moment, unfortunately, I have no time for sports, so my sports are onstage, that's my workout."
By the opera's tragic end, of course, Juliette has matured. "From a young, inexperienced girl, she becomes a loving wife," Damrau said. "She stays loyal to her husband and they die together at the end, one of the most beautiful things you can do."
A CHEMICAL ATTRACTION
Critics and audiences alike have been wowed by the powerful onstage chemistry Damrau enjoys with her co-star, tenor Vittorio Grigolo.
"We have the same approach to our roles, to our singing, to listen and to give and react on each other and be brave," Damrau said. "It's always a little bit different but it's always right and true in the moment. When I look into his eyes, it's really Romeo."
This is the third time they've performed together, following Massenet's "Manon" at the Met and Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" in Milan.
"At the beginning I was a little bit scared," she said, "because his voice is so incredible and enormous and so big and round and beautiful, and I come from the coloratura side and my voice could seem too silvery and light in comparison with him. But singing together, I think it really matches."
A TALE OF TWO ARIAS
Juliette's opening aria — "Je veux vivre," often known as the Waltz aria — almost didn't get written. The original Juliette, soprano Marie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho, persuaded Gounod to add it for the 1867 premiere in Paris to show off her coloratura skills up to high D. "I think it's very important to have this aria," Damrau said, because it conveys her character's personality so well.
Later, as Juliette contemplates drinking a potion that will simulate death and allow her to escape a forced marriage, she sings the so-called Poison Aria. Damrau calls that number "a special thing, because it requires a lot of dramatic movement for the voice." But these demands place it beyond the comfort zone of many lyric sopranos, and it was routinely cut from Met performances until Catherine Malfitano included it in 1986.
WHERE TO SEE IT
The HD broadcast of "Romeo et Juliette," conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, will be shown starting at 12:55 p.m. EST on Saturday. A list of theaters can be found at the Met's website: metopera.org/hd.
In the U.S., it will be repeated on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 6:30 p.m. local time.