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Cast Change: Role of Isabelle in Robert le diable to be sung by Patrizia Ciofi and Sofia Fomina

Jennifer Rowley to return in 2015 in the role of Musetta in La bohème.

By Royal Opera House

3 December 2012 at 12.01pm | 20 Comments

After much deliberation and consultation following the final rehearsals of Meyerbeer's Robert le diable, it has been agreed between The Royal Opera and soprano Jennifer Rowley that the role of Isabelle would not be the right part for her debut at Covent Garden.

The Royal Opera considers Jennifer Rowley an important voice of the future, and we are keen to build a continued relationship with her. However, voices do develop, and we have to recognize that this role is not ideally suited for her now more dramatic voice. Despite all efforts until the last minute by all parties to make it work as well as possible, it has been mutually agreed that Jennifer Rowley will not appear in Robert le diable and will postpone her Covent Garden debut. The Royal Opera is proud to announce that it has been agreed that she will return in 2015 in her celebrated role of Musetta in La bohème, and another important role is under discussion for the future.

The Royal Opera is extremely grateful to Patrizia Ciofi, who has taken over the part of Isabelle at extremely short notice and will sing the role for the first four performances (6, 9 mat, 12 and 15 December). The last two performances on 18 and 21 December will be sung by Sofia Fomina.

Italian soprano Patrizia Ciofi made her Royal Opera debut in 2002 as Gilda (Rigoletto), returning to the role in 2007 and 2010.  She also sang the role of Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) in 2008 for The Royal Opera and returned to sing the role of Marie (La Fille du régiment) for The Royal Opera in 2012.   She has previously sung the role of Isabelle in Puglia, and most recently sang the role in concert in Salerno conducted by Daniel Oren and with Bryan Hymel as Robert.

Russian soprano Sofia Fomina will make her Royal Opera debut in the role of Isabelle on 18 December.  She is currently part of the company of the Saarbrücken Opera House, where her roles have included Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Giulietta (I Capuleti e i Montecchi) and Blonde (Die Entführung aus dem Serail).

By Royal Opera House

3 December 2012 at 12.01pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged cast change, Patrizia Ciofi, Production, Sofia Fomina

This article has 20 comments

  1. John responded on 3 December 2012 at 2:41pm Reply

    I admire the Royal Opera House's clarity in saying this, but what on earth do they mean by her "now more dramatic voice"? She was barely six months ago! Has she turned into a dramatic soprano overnight? If this truly is the case (and not just a polite way to say she was dismissed) there needs to be a serious discussion about the competence of the casting directors who could not foresee her lack of suitability for the role.

  2. wyona mitchell responded on 3 December 2012 at 3:21pm Reply

    this is very sad news to me...I have heard Jennifer Rowley sing and am very sorry the people of London will not have that opportunity.

  3. Adam responded on 3 December 2012 at 5:48pm Reply

    Wow great ciofi!!! I love her. She in a so great singer!! Thanks a lot dear pat!

  4. Isabelle Dumaret responded on 3 December 2012 at 6:28pm Reply

    Again a last minute cast change... Diana Damrau, out. Jennifer Rowley, suddenly not the right voice for the role (a few months ago she was a star on the rise and just wonderful) and now Patricia Ciofi, which is at last a good news! I appreciate her very much. And what about Poplavskaya wo retired one day and came back a week after... ROH is in the matter of last minute change the worst opera; nowhere else does it happen as often as in London, and there is certainly much to say about the poor judgment of the cast director. When I receive the programm, I make reservation for an opera, mainly because of the cast, So many deceptions! Not fair for your patrons who, like me, live abroad and book a flight and a hotel and spend money for a performance so often not up to the expectations.

  5. Sgett responded on 3 December 2012 at 7:23pm Reply

    I hope all this annoying cast changing will not influence the planned future DVD release that is announced on the website. This fantastic opera needs more attention and more respect during preparation!

  6. Mike responded on 3 December 2012 at 9:43pm Reply

    I am shocked and very disappointed. This is a very big mistake. It is sad that people of London and around the world will not hear Miss Rowley in this roll this year at your house!!

  7. Donna responded on 4 December 2012 at 12:58am Reply

    I agree with your comments Isabelle. I too booked a trip around this opera specifically when Ms. Rowley was cast. I saw her perform in Savonlinna and she was amazing. I purchased the DVD of the La Boheme performance in Oslo where she performed the role of Musetta. Waiting to see her at ROH until 2015 is disappointing at best. I do hope that ROH finds another 'suitable role' for this incredible soprano sooner than that. She is one to watch!

  8. Natasha Ward responded on 4 December 2012 at 6:57am Reply

    Saw the dress rehearsal and Sonia Fomina was just wonderful. Striking, too, was the rapport between her and Marina Poplavskaya. Looking forward to seeing them together again in late December.

  9. Stefan responded on 4 December 2012 at 7:21am Reply

    I do not understand why ROH did not originally invited of Patrizia Ciofi for the role Isabelle. It is currently the only singer after all the world to sing this role perfectly (musicality, expression, pronunciation French). Why Diana Damrau, who is not in the repertoire of "Robert le Diable"? Why Miss Rowley?

  10. Kasper Holten responded on 4 December 2012 at 11:32am Reply

    Dear all,

    Thank you for your comments. We are sorry that the cast change causes disappointment. I can assure you the DVD recording is indeed going ahead, with Patrizia Ciofi.

    Patrizia Ciofi wasn't originally available to replace Diana Damrau, as she was not available for the rehearsal period, but we are extremely grateful to her for having jumped in with such short notice immediately after ending her last engagement in Avignon.

    We do of course take full responsibility for believing wholeheartedly in this casting six months ago, and I am sorry that the change now has caused disappointment and irritation.

    We still are very excited about Jennifer Rowley's voice, and we look very much forward to presenting Jennifer Rowley as Musetta - a role she has received much deserved acclaim for - and are discussing another significant role with her, as stated above.

    As for ROH having many last minute cast changes, I do agree that we have been particularly unlucky in the last year with too many cast changes, most of them due to illness or other circumstances beyond our control. We are very sorry for this, and I do assure you it is something that we never announce with a light heart. We will do all we can to prevent this and hopefully will have fewer cast changes in the future.

    I do hope you will still enjoy this rare piece, and I think you will enjoy both Patrizia Ciofi and Sofia Fomina in this role.

    Best wishes
    Kasper

  11. Last minute changes are in my experience never the doing of a particular opera house. Who would want to have to look for a different singer at such short notice, or does anyone think casting directors are adrenaline junkies? ;-)

    As to the ROH being a particular "offender" i suggest your look around and check the Met or the Staatsoper Wien ( subscribe to their cast change emails and you'll see what i mean). But we are dealing with humans, not machines, it happens.

    As to, "i book for a performance and travel to see x and the ROH disappoints me", i think you can spot the problem with the logic of the statement. Let's be adults about this and accept that we are taking a conscious risk in such travels. I am sure we all actually know that no opera house wants unhappy customers, but that changes of cast are simply unavoidable. If we travel for performances and spend our money to pursue our hobby or pursue a singer for that matter ;-) the risk is entirely ours.

    On that note, looking forward to finally seeing the production on stage and hearing the music! In bocca al lupo for Thursday everyone!

  12. Lauren responded on 4 December 2012 at 11:16pm Reply

    Sofia Fomina was absolutely beautiful last night at the rehearsal - I am very grateful to have ha the opportunity to see such a talent!

  13. Edmund Hobley responded on 5 December 2012 at 5:40pm Reply

    I too went to the General rehearsal the really enjoyed it. It has been very well staged. As it was a rehearsal it would normally be unfair to comment on the singing but Covent Garden have assembled an exceptional cast, all four principles came together as equal partners in this difficult piece. I especially liked Marina’s singing, Alice’s first aria and the unaccompanied trio in 3 act arguably the most difficult and beautiful part of the score was stunningly sung.

    I am pleased that you are going to record it and I would have been equally happy with Sonia Fomina on the DVD.

    As it’s very rarely done it’s a shame that you did not take the opportunity to do it complete. Having a cut version is better than not being able to hear it at all.

  14. Igor Romashkevich responded on 6 December 2012 at 9:48am Reply

    To the unconsolable fans of the replaced American soprano may I suggest that they go and listen to a performance featuring Sofia Fomina, who stood in for her in the 3 December dress rehearsal. I bet your appetite for fresh opera faces will be fully satisfied by her beautiful (not just pretty) looks, impressive acting skills and most importantly, her gorgeous voice, particularly strong in the high and middle ranges. I think you will forgive the casting department for their last-minute replacement and thank them for spotting a rising international star and introducing her to the London audience early in what I think should be a highly promissing career.
    Igor Romashkevich

  15. Helena responded on 6 December 2012 at 1:41pm Reply

    Just to wish the entire cast to either 'break their legs' or 'in boca al lupo', or 'ni puha ni pera'for tonight, to thank them for a super performance at the Dress on the 3rd and to add my voice to those who admired Marina Poplavskaya's singing and acting of total and unparalleled commitment and sincerity as well as Sofia Fomina's soaring bright voice and beautiful, fresh poise and presence. Congratulations to the ROH for discovering such bright new talent.
    As for the discussion of cast changes - how can anyone possibly object and blame colds and throat infections on management! Even those of us who don't sing are occasionally forced to cancel work and social engagements through illness... El homre supone, y el Dios dispone.

  16. Anna Minevich responded on 6 December 2012 at 5:53pm Reply

    My husband and I were fortunate to attend the Dress Rehearsal of RleD and enjoyed the show very much. A rarity and so dynamically and imaginatively staged and beautifully sung! As ever, a treat to hear Marina Poplavskaya and to enjoy her superb acting, and an added bonus of a young beautiful Isabelle, Sofia Fomina - a real fairy tale princess, a natural on stage and a fresh new voice. We wish the entire cast every success tonight and for the entire run and hope to see both Marina and Sofia return to the ROH soon to delight London audiences in other roles.

  17. Jules responded on 8 December 2012 at 1:13am Reply

    Was at the dress rehearsal and at the premiere and I reckon that Mr. Katona is the best casting director ever, since not only for choosing Patrizia Ciofi is a great idea to take on the part, but also for trusting such high talented and gifted young singer as Sofia Fomina is. She is really one of the talent of tomorrow, and in spite of my deep love for Patrizia Ciofi and her so touching and moving interpretation of yesterday night, Sofia Fomina did better than her.
    Marina Poplavskaya is amazing too, just like Bryan Hymel, Jean-François Borras and John Relyea. It is an amazing cast (I mean even second roles are very good).
    Please londoner opera fans, never say again that ROH is a disappointing place, even with cast changes a production remains tremendous there, elsewhere (like Paris) you would first be happy to have a proper cast !!

    • Jacques responded on 8 December 2012 at 2:30pm

      Marina Poplavskaya is amazing ?!! Fomina better than Patrizia Ciofi as Isabelle?!
      The original comment with which I totally disagree. Ciofi is the best in the cast. Miss Fomina sang so far only a sample and we just wait with comparisons to December 18, ok?

  18. Brava Sofia Fomina. A real find and star of the future

  19. Annie Gentil responded on 22 December 2012 at 1:23am Reply

    Just seen Robert Le Diable with Sofia Fomina and she was amazing - I am glad I did not change my ticket.

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