|Amelia Farrugia in The Merry Widow|
Fresh from New York’s Met, where she covered Anna Netrebko in Manon, Amelia Farrugia shares her thoughts on singing Hanna in OA’s Melbourne run of The Merry Widow.
You are reprising the role of Hanna in The Merry Widow in Melbourne this autumn, after a long Sydney run last winter. What have you learned about the role during the Sydney run, and what will you do differently in Melbourne?
I may change the accent for Melbourne, in consultation with the artistic team. In Sydney it was a “northern British farm-girl” which was very hard to perfect.
Which parts of the show did audiences like best?
The audience always laughs and claps along when the septet of men, lead by DavidHobson, sing ‘Cherchez la femme’. It is staged so well and really gets the audience involved. Personally, I love seeing the men line up and dance together! Valencienne’s can-can with the ladies of the night is very entertaining and saucy too. My dad said of it, “I didn’t know this show would be quite so naughty!”
|David Hobson and Amelia|
Farrugia in The Merry Widow
In which ways did you and David Hobson fine tune your performance together?
We did lots of dialogue runs and waltz practice. I didn’t realise waltzing was so difficult – even with ten years’ ballet training, I still found it immensely challenging.
You sang a great many performances of the role in Sydney. How does one keep it fresh every night?
Staying true to every moment…not thinking about what’s coming next.
Tell us more about covering Manon for Anna Netrebko in New York. That must have been very exciting?
It was hugely exciting to be working at the Met for the first time, and also to be working in the USA for the first time. Miss Netrebko arrived two weeks after me, which meant that I had to fill in for her, working with the A-cast. It was a tremendous opportunity to go through the motions myself, so that in the event that I did get onstage, I would feel more confident, ready and connected to the other cast members. The costume fitting was wonderful… those gowns! They were incredible, French down to the last seam, and by some miracle they fitted like a glove. During the rehearsal period, Anna Netrebko invited me to her home for a small cast gathering; I found it extraordinary that she was capable of such grace and generosity in this hectic time. She even cooked the Russian treats herself! Once the show opened, there was plenty of time to explore the city with [my husband] Paul and [our son] Ben. I adore New York and this job gave me the perfect excuse to lap it all up.
|Amelia Farrugia as Eurydice in|
Orpheus in the Underworld
Do you think you’ll approach your own interpretation of Manon differently in future?
If you are truthful to the score, hopefully the essence of the character will always be expressed. But having said that, you can perceive a role in many different ways. Once you are acquainted with a particular director’s unique vision, you take that interpretation into your own hands and make it work for you. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to have worked with Stuart Maunder on the role, both in Melbourne in 2004 and in Sydney in 2010. It was also magnificent to work with the dynamic young French conductor, Maestro Emmanuel Plasson. Thanks to these collaborations I know the work inside out, which was a huge advantage in the rehearsal room at the Met.
How do you think your Met experience will impact on your singing career?
This enormous opportunity forced me to rise to the occasion and give my absolute best. I am more aware now of how to keep myself in peak vocal form. I also found the other artists and fellow colleagues extremely inspiring and I had some life-changing sessions with Renata Scotto, regarded as the world’s greatest exponent of Violetta in La traviata, on singing that role.
|Amelia Farrugia in The Merry Widow|
In the New York winter, how did you manage to keep your fitness levels up, as with all that dancing, The Merry Widow is physically a very demanding role?
In a singing/dancing/acting role like The Merry Widow, you need to be able to move around without getting out of breath. This takes a lot of dedicated practice and show fitness. Thankfully, there was a fitness centre in my building, and I did lots of walks around Central Park as the weather warmed up.
How do your husband and son manage without you when you’re away from home?
I am blessed with a husband who runs his own business (Paul Chesher of 4D International), who is able to schedule his working day around drop-offs and pick-ups. Ben is ten years old now, so he is catching the bus to school, which means my day-to-day taxi duties have eased up. We have a lot of great restaurants and delicatessens where we live, so Paul can pick up pre-cooked meals when he doesn’t feel like cooking. When I’m away we Skype every day, so we can stay connected. Thank God for the internet.
Which roles would you still like to perform?