31 July 2014 at 4.20pm | 1 Comment
It's a performance that has passed into Covent Garden legend: In July 2009, American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato slipped during the opening night performance of The Royal Opera's Il barbiere di Siviglia, breaking her leg. Not only did she finish her performance as Rosina that evening, but also went on to perform in every scheduled performance of the run, singing from a wheelchair.
'The minute I went down I knew something quite tremendous had happened. I assumed it was a sprain, but I knew I couldn't put much weight on it,' she reflects. 'I crawled off the stage and got some ice on it immediately. The Royal Opera House staff came to my rescue and I hobbled through the rest of the show with the aid of a crutch, but more importantly with the aid of my wonderful cast, who gave me a chair when I needed it, held my arm when I needed it. They were champions in helping me get through the show.'
'The curtain came down and I plopped down in a chair, got some ice in my foot and happily someone gave me a glass of champagne which helped take the edge off for a moment! Then I was whisked away to the emergency room where the doctor informed me that I had broken my fibula. I was surprised but then it was my turn to shock the doctor, when I told him I had stood on it for three hours for the remainder of the show. That apparently is the opposite of what you're supposed to do!'
Joyce was then presented with a number of options for the remaining performances of the run, including being replaced by another Rosina. Such was her desire to perform for her audience, that she opted to sing from a wheelchair - quite a challenge in a production that involves a large cast and a set that tilts back and forth and features a scene when Rosina destroying the entire set!
The creative team decided to adapt the production to accommodate Joyce's chair, which she soon found she was surprisingly comfortable with. She also found the challenges of adapting the staging opened up the character of Rosina even more: 'It flowed pretty well - singers came down to the edge of the stage to converse with me, and I found a way to give character to the chair. What we ended up with was something extraordinary.'
Il barbiere di Siviglia returns to the Royal Opera House with Serena Malfi as Rosina from 19 September-5 October 2014. Tickets are still available.