Finding the Opera Inside
An Interview with Davinia Rodríguez

Davinia Rodriguez © Giuliano Scalvini

Davinia Rodriguez © Giuliano Scalvini

Spanish soprano Davinia Rodríguez, from Gran Carania in the Canary Islands, is currently in Oman, singing Nedda in Pagliacci. It’s a rare production to have just the one opera, without its usual accompaniment of Cavalleria rusticana, but that means that the focus can be on the small opera with its explosive emotions. As a special treat in this production, Nedda’s child is played by Nedda’s child, because Ms. Rodríguez has brought her young daughter with her to Oman.

Ms. Rodríguez started singing at age 8, but if you hear her mother tell the story, she was singing as soon as she could stand, posed before a mirror with hairbrush in hand. She said that she’d always dreamed of singing and for her, singing opera is about life itself.

Her roles have varied from Mozart (Despina in Così fan tutte; the Queen of Night in Die Zauberflöte) to Matteo D’Amico’s setting of Camus’ Le malentendu, with a stop at Bernstein’s West Side Story, where she sang Maria. Her favourite composer, though, is Verdi, and roles have included Lucrezia Contarini in I Due Foscari, Maria Boccanegra in Simon Boccanegra, and Lady Macbeth in his Macbeth. For her, Verdi is a composer who writes for singers and she exults in the music.

Her role as Maria in West Side Story was in an operatic production at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Maria and Tony’s roles were sung by true opera singers, but other kinds of singers were needed for the big pieces such as Mambo. It was necessary to find the opera within the musical, the way already has been paved by the 1984 recording with Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras.

When we discussed the enormous number of roles she’s undertaken and the change in musical style that many of them entail, she emphasized that technical study of the style lay behind each new role. Once that was fixed, she could then look at the character and the demands of the role. Once the two elements, internal and external, are combined, she starts to feel the role inside.

Rodríguez already mentioned being able to bring her daughter to work – and also noted that her daughter was the cause of a change in her voice. When she became pregnant, she noticed that her voice not only became bigger but also changed timbre to become darker. This change remained after her daughter’s birth. In finding her natural voice, she’s also been rediscovering roles that she had done before.

A few years ago, she sang in one of Plácido Domingo’s zarzuela productions. His championing of this Spanish genre has brought many zarzuelas back into operatic attention. She sang it once in Miami, with Domingo as conductor, and then in Valencia, with Domingo on stage. She said it was a joy to work with Domingo and wishes that she had his energy. He takes extra care with every detail and the result is there to see.

This year, Ms. Rodríguez made her debut in Beijing singing Thaïs, and loves the role. She’d like to sing it more and as the opera is finding its way back to opera stages, she has great hopes for this.

Her current production in Oman has its premiere on 15 March and she says that working at the Royal Opera House in Oman has been a great pleasure, not only for the wonderful staff but also for the amazing opera house.

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