Opera Rara and Ermonela Jaho
Donizetti Song Project

Named Artist of the Year at the 2023 International Classical Music Awards and Best Female Singer of the Year at the 2024 Oper! Awards, Ermonela Jaho is internationally recognised as one of the greatest operatic artists of our day. By imbuing her signature roles with an extraordinary intensity of emotions, Jaho always reveals her innermost humanity. As she once explained, “to make others cry, you have to cry yourself first; only a naked soul can do this.”

Ermonela Jaho Sings Puccini’s Il Tritico, Suor Angelica “Senza mamma”

Personal Connections

Ermonela Jaho's debut at the Wigmore Hall

Ermonela Jaho’s debut at the Wigmore Hall © Russell Duncan

We caught up with Ermonela in Munich, as she was getting ready to sing in one of her signature roles in “Suor Angelica.” This role holds a deeply personal connection for Jaho, and it “holds a special place in my heart.” When she was offered to sing this part in Covent Garden for the first time in her life, “I had just encountered two big losses, as my parents had passed away.”

As Jaho prepared for the role, she immediately felt connected to the character, but a deeper significance forcefully emerged on stage. When the Pricipesa tells Suor Angelica about the death of her son, Jaho, for the first time, started to cry for her parents. “I was not the young Suor Angelica crying for her late son,” she explained, “but the little Ermonela crying for my lost parents.” Being on stage is magic and unique, “and every time I sing this role, I go back to that place of anguish and loss.”

Ermonela Jaho Sings Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur, “Ecco: Respire Appena”

Opera Rara

Ermonela Jaho

© Palau de Les Arts / Miguel LORENZO

Ermonela Jaho, who started her career as a bel canto authority, became aware of Opera Rara’s mission of presenting unknown operas some years ago. They first collaborated on a 2014 studio recording of Leoncavallo’s Zazà, a verismo score of substantial length and challenges.

However, as Ermonela explained, “everything was so easy because it was a family. They made me feel at home, and we discovered this masterpiece together.” And she added, “when you make music with people who love you and appreciate you and who also love what they are doing, it becomes an ideal situation. This is what theatre and opera should be, as music is the language of the soul.”

Throughout the process, Ermonela “felt like a daughter caressed and part of a loving family.” According to Jaho, Opera Rara has a genuine desire to bring this forgotten music to the public, and in these collaborations, “you become a better human being and a better artist.” As an Artistic Ambassador, Jaho wants to share in this special mission and bring these forgotten masterpieces to audiences around the world. Jaho went on to record Puccini’s Le Willis and her debut recital album “Anima Rara” with Opera Rara, and she is currently involved in the vast “Donizetti Song Project.” This ambitious undertaking will culminate in her recording of 46 Romanzas by Donizetti in May 2024 and include a substantial number of songs that are entirely new.

Ermonela Jaho Rehearses Leoncavallo’s Zazà, “Mama usciva di casa”

Donizetti Song Project

Ermonela Jaho during the recording project with Opera Rara "Ermonela Jaho: Anima Rara"

Ermonela Jaho during the recording project with Opera Rara “Ermonela Jaho: Anima Rara”

The Donizetti Song Project was launched as a multi-year initiative at Wigmore Hall in September 2023 under the guidance of conductor and pianist Carlo Rizzi and musicology consultant Roger Parker. It is an ambitious project, to be sure, as it seeks to record, perform, and publish the entire corpus of solo songs by Donizetti, roughly 200 compositions. Ermonela Jaho has been in love with Donizetti as long as she can remember, and “the sadness of his prolific life is mirrored in his beautiful melodies.”

Together with Carlo Rizzi, Jaho is overjoyed to unlock these unknown jewels by closely studying the melodies and the texts. It is always amazing to Jaho “just how easily and naturally Donizetti crafted melodies by paying keen attention to the text. He expresses so much with dynamics, and repeated works gather new meaning by adding chromaticism.” To Jaho, Donizetti’s “Romanzas, just like his operas, express the entire range of human emotions and feelings.”

Ermonela Jaho Sings Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, “Al dolce guidami”

The Wigmore Hall Recital

Ermonela Jaho as Madame Butterfly

Ermonela Jaho as Madame Butterfly

In the 23 May 2024 programme at Wigmore Hall, Ermonela Jaho and Carlo Rizzi, with assistance from Marco Rizzi on the violin, present an eclectic selection of works by Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, Gounod, and Pauline Viardot. Six of the featured Donizetti Romanzas are modern-day premieres, and have not been heard since the 19th century. In some way, Jaho feels “almost like a student for being allowed to explore and to study these unknown delicate gems.”

The recital essentially takes us back into the salon culture of the first half of the 19th century. It returns us to the intimacy and diversity of that epoch, and we get the opportunity to probe into the background and the context of this exciting period. For Jaho, “knowing the past shapes the present, and it also sculpts the future.” Exchanging musical thoughts and ideas with Maestro Rizzi in delightful duets and dialogues, Jaho hopes to reveal “these intimate moments of life to the public.”

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Ermonela Jaho Sings Verdi’s La Traviata, “Dite alla giovine”

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