Concept, Staging, and Interpretation:
When the director, Matt Haney, asked me what my thoughts were about Juliette’s first aria, I told him that I had this somewhat odd idea that Juliette was predestined or predisposed to suicide. I think this was a different answer than he was expecting, but I was so glad that he really chose to work in that direction. In rehearsals, we had already talked a bit about how Juliette is under societal pressures, family influences, and the expectation that she follow exactly what everyone commands of her.
The concept of Matt’s staging was that Juliette was a “rock star” and everyone at the party, both Capulet and Montague, wanted to touch her, speak to her, and just have any kind of contact with her. Of course this is overwhelming for Juliette, but she has to entertain her guests and their wishes, so she presents this aria.
However, Juliette is strong willed and she ends up going against everyone’s wishes and chooses her own fate. Juliette is also quite smart and mature for her age — so in this aria, although she doesn’t want to entertain and please her guests, she does so to please her father. All the while really expressing a deeper and darker subtext. Rather than simply “I want to live!”, a youthful, exuberant exclamation, Juliette is really saying “I want to live… free of your demands, expectations, rules and pressure!”
Three things I did well:
- I look relaxed and comfortable on stage. I think this is a positive trait, but also I’m almost too relaxed; my reactions and movements are somewhat subdued. My gestures and expressions could be bigger and more specific and emphasized.
- Opening cadenza — This opening is SO simple, yet so difficult. I feel like I did well with it! The first time in rehearsal, I definitely choked and couldn’t make it through in one breath and started to panic. As rehearsals progressed, I got more comfortable and confident and was able to make it happen.
- “Loin de l’hiver”/slow section and chromatic bits after — Usually this part of the aria feels unstable, and I start to get off track vocally and the emotional expression gets lost as well. This was actually probably my favorite part to both sing and hear. It really felt like a moment in the aria that felt settled and secure; almost a moment of rest — which fits with the text of that sections so perfectly!
Three things to improve:
- I would like more movement/tempo variation within the different sections. We had rehearsed this, but it just didn’t quite come together in the performances. The same critique would also have to apply to dynamics. It’s interesting because it felt pretty contrasting during the live performance, but after listening back it could definitely use even more. Everything generally feels a little… safe? Protected?
- Physical movement– My movements looked too rehearsed and smooth, which in turn can seem unnatural. I think I could feel more comfortable in my body and take up more space; my gestures and body language could have more intention.
- More specific to Juliette — I have to remember that she is young! And I must consider how a budding teenager would feel and physically carry herself. Matt did want her to have a beauty queen or even Virgin Mary feel – very graceful and holy, which I think I portrayed well, but I could’ve brought in more moments, gestures, or expressions to show the little bits of her childish personality that would come through.
- Not raising my arms on almost EVERY single high note (ha!) and I could probably milk them more! Again it feels a little safe, protected and even held back in moments.
Self-critique is difficult, but I think it’s important to step back and look at your work to make observations, reflections and notice the ways that your performance/work can be improved (and what you did well!).
I was having fun with some editing tools and watched the video once without sound. It was kind of bizarre, but it actually was cool to see my acting, movement, and performance without the music. There is so much for me to pull apart about the music and my singing/voice that it was kind nice to separate that aspect and just observe my acting. Without sound, I could still see the emotion and intention in my actions. I still think that I could definitely make my gestures more specific and bigger, but without sound I noticed the smaller motions and facial expressions too. I am definitely going to use this approach of watching without sound when recording in the future.
I also took a glance back at my “Je veux vivre” BEFORE recording from earlier in this process. It was really eye opening to see the differences, changes, and growth between the two recordings. It helps that the AFTER video was staged and in context of the show. The AFTER definitely has better pacing and contrast between sections, as well as a much better intention and meaning behind each section and the coloratura moments.
It’s nice to step back and look at my work. Although I know I can still improve in so many areas, it’s encouraging and motivating to see that I did make progress throughout my time preparing, rehearsing, and performing this role.