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Interviews

Jurgita Adamonytė [Photo courtesy of Askonas Holt]
07 Jun 2010

Jurgita Adamonytė: An Interview

‘Focussed and pure of tone’, ‘beautifully steady’, ‘pure clarity and note perfection’ — just some of the accolades bestowed on the Lithuanian mezzo soprano Jurgita Adamonytė for her recent performances of Mozart.

Jurgita Adamonytė: An Interview

Above: Jurgita Adamonytė [Photo courtesy of Askonas Holt]

 

A treat is in store, then, for the audience at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where Adamonytė sings the role of the over-excitable page, Cherubino, in a revival of David McVicars’ production of The Marriage of Figaro.

Adamonytė has recently played Cherubino in the Salzburg Festival production which toured Japan. But, McVicar’s vision of Figaro is a subtly dark one: transferred from Revolutionary France to the 1830s, McVicar places less emphasis on the comic confusions, seeking instead to convey what the director himself has called the ‘heartfelt’ emotions of the opera. I asked Adamonytė if it was difficult to erase the memory of a former recent interpretation when stepping into a new, very different production?

“Yes, it can be, because one always forms some impressions of the character. But it has not been so difficult here because the director gives the singers a lot of freedom. Of course, we work out the blocking and so on, but then it is left to the singer to interpret.”

So, how does she see Cherubino? Is he a gauche ingénue or a more knowing, mischievous trouble-maker?

“Oh, he’s just a young boy — a young boy who is in love with everyone!” So, we should expect lots of rampant adolescent hormones? Adamonytė laughs, and one can see that she will bring a natural, fresh, light-heartedness to the role. She relishes her aria, ‘Voi che sapete’, which she sees as expressive of the essence of Cherubino’s experience.

Adamonytė clearly feels a natural affinity for Mozart. She made her debut with Zerlina in 2002 at the Lithuanian National Opera, and more recently received much praise for her Idamante in concert performances of Idomeneo in Amsterdam, Lisbon and London. Stepping in at short notice to replace the indisposed Christine Rice, Adamonytė produced what one critic described as the ‘most conventionally Mozartean singing … she gave every evidence of thorough and intelligent study of the role, all her expressive choices seemingly the perfect ones’.

“Mozart just feels so right, it is so natural for my voice.”

She does not come from a family of singers or musicians. Weekends as a teenager spent singing in a folk choir in her native Lithuania led to private singing lessons and subsequently to study at the Lithuanian Academy of Music. In 2004, she moved to London, and during her time at the Royal Academy won the Opera Rara Bel Canto Prize, the Isabel Jay Prize and the Ludmilla Andrew Russian Song Prize. She completed her studies at the Cardiff International Academy of Voice in 2008.

“I met Dennis O'Neill in 2006 in a master-class at the RAM and I loved working with him. When I found out he was opening a new school — CIAV (Cardiff International Academy of Voice) — I asked him to take me. It meant leaving RAM one year earlier, but I knew I had met MY teacher and I am happy I made this decision as it has changed my singing and my life.”

What influence has O’Neill had on the way she has developed as a singer?

“Technique. Absolutely, the importance of technique. And, how necessary it is to communicate the meaning through the voice. That is the thing that is most difficult, because the voice must convey the drama and the emotion.”

The need to communicate with an audience is clearly important to Adamonytė. She has recently performed and recorded, Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater, to great acclaim, and I asked her if she enjoyed singing Jenkins’ music, which is sometimes criticised for being rather mundane and predictable. She rejected such censures of the ‘cross-over’ idiom, emphasising the pure beauty of Jenkins’ melody, and the way that the music appealed to the audience and touched them.

More ‘cutting edge’ repertoire has also featured in Adamonytė’s recent experiences: she created the role of Scipio in D. Glanert’s La Caligula which received its world premiere at Frankfurt Opera Theatre in 2006. Does she enjoy singing new music?

“Yes, because one can actually influence the music. Working with the composer, one can suggest things and change things!”

So, what does the immediate future have in store? Despite being encouraged to explore Rossini — “I am always being told I should sing La Cenerentola and Rosina — Adamonytė is resisting the early-nineteenth-century Italian repertoire. Even though ‘home’ is now a quiet Italian village, “I don’t have a natural feeling for that music; it doesn’t feel right for me.” She has a refreshingly relaxed approach to her career. The recent birth of her baby — which, she observes, seems to have added a few notes to her top register! — has meant fewer auditions of late, although there are still some exciting challenges ahead.

Following a Dorabella in America, she will return to London. Indeed, Adamonytė is becoming quite a regular at Covent Garden … following a small role in Die Tote Stadt (2009) and a flouncy, ‘suitably flashy’ Blanche in The Gambler earlier this season, she returns in September 2010 to take the role of Dorabella in Jonathan Miller’s oft-revived Così fan tutte. Is it difficult to step into operatic shoes which are already well-worn?

“It can be difficult, but there is always something fresh about the interpretation. The director may make small changes. I saw this production when it was performed earlier this year, and I think it is going to be challenging for me, not really difficult as such. The singer has to do everything. The setting is very bare — just one large room, and the walls are quite stark. And, I know that I will have my ’mobile phone, my lap-top, my Starbucks coffee … so, there is a lot of responsibility on the singer. But, I am very excited to be singing with a wonderful cast of singers.”

Adamonytė comes across as modest, unassuming, and genuinely excited by the opportunities which are coming her way. She professes to feel incredibly privileged and lucky to have had such a relatively rapid rise, but one senses that, armed both with great natural talent and much common sense, she has made the most of her luck and opportunities.

The Marriage of Figaro opened on Monday 31st May, and continues for nine further performances until 3rd July.

Claire Seymour

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