“Je veux vivre” is Juliette’s first aria that she sings in Act I at the Capulet’s ball. She is rejoicing in her freedom and declaring that she wants to live forever in the dream of youth and happiness. Right before this, the nurse asks Juliette what she thinks of marrying Paris, and this is basically Juliette’s response that she has zero interest in marriage, love, or heartbreak. Very shortly after Juliette’s reveling in freedom of her youth, she meets Romeo and her life is changed forever.
I’ve been singing this aria for a while now, about four years. I’ve performed it in recitals and concerts, but never in the context of the show. After learning just a little more about Juliette, I’m realizing that I had a really different understanding of the aria, that really didn’t connect with what is happening in the opera. After so many years practicing and performing this aria, it’s kind of become its own animal and has a life of its own. I still adore singing it, but because it’s so etched in my mind, it almost feels stale… or somewhat uninspired?
This recording is my “Before” performance. I wanted to show a snapshot of where I am now with the piece. I know the aria well, and have an idea of characterization, but I’m looking forward to really digging into Juliette’s character and creating the role with more intention and connection to the context of the opera. As of now, it’s pretty raw and imperfect which is a great place to start!
Towards the end of this project (maybe in July/August?), I will re-record this aria for the “After” version. My hope is that my research and development of Juliette’s character will inspire my portrayal and reinvigorate this aria with some life!
Top goal/focus: Record Juliette’s first aria, “Je veux vivre” as a snapshot of where I am with the aria now, before the process of really building her character in depth and in the context of the show.
Challenges: The aria feels almost unfocused and imprecise now, because I’ve performed it so many times without considering what’s really going on in the show. Accepting the fact that it is imperfect and unfinished is a challenge for the perfectionist that lives within me.
Future topics to explore/Characterization of Juliet:
- Definitely explore the translation and meaning a lot more… redefine what this aria means as I learn more about Juliette.
- Why does she repeat herself so many times? Is each repetition the same or how does it change and why?
- Form: ABA? There is a slow middle section, but she comes back to “Je veux vivre” again with more ornaments and melismatic passages. Maybe this could be a musical characterization by Gounod, showing her silly, young, and maybe teasing personality?
- What are the “Ahs” ? Why does she say this so much? What do they mean? What is the subtext here?!
- Repetitive nature of the melody and text– I think this shows her naiveté, child-like nature and complete freedom from worry.
- Juliette is 13! What does a 13 year old feel and think? How does a young adolescent carry herself physically? What mannerisms may she have?