Makes her Role Debut In SF Opera DON CARLO

Lyric Soprano  ANA MARIA MARTINEZ   Photo:Tom Specht

Exclusive interview  by Iride Aparicio

San Francisco, CA – We interviewed  Lyric Soprano ANA MARIA MARTINEZ in San Francisco, where in June, she will add to her  operatic repertoire the role of  Elisabetta de Valois in GIUSEPPE VERDI’s Masterful production of  DON CARLO of the San Francisco Opera.

CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL asks her why  she decided to sing the difficult role.

“It was Maestro (NICOLA) LUISOTTI’s (the S.F. Opera Conductor) idea to bring me in, to do the role. Elisabetta is a young princes from France, who is engaged to marry the Infante  Don Carlo, the son of Phillipe II,  King of Spain. When she first meets him, and he tells her that he loves her, it is the happiest moment for her, and (musically) in the Opera, we can “hear” her joy, reflected in the lightness of the music she sings.  But, within a very short  time, a Page from her court, comes to Elisabetta, to inform her that her father, the King from France, has given her in marriage to Phillipe II, Don Carlo’s father and the King of  Spain. From that moment on,  her life is over for her.

At first, she refuses to accept the proposal, but the people from Flanders, who had suffered for years, given the bad relation from Spain and France, who were in war at the time, beg her to  accept the King’s proposal to bring peace to the region. She says “yes”

Anna Maria Martinez as Elisabetta in Don Carlo
In the photo, Soprano Martinez in Costume, shows on her face her agony after accepting the proposal  Photo (c) Cory Webber/SF Opera

Because DON CARLO  was written by VERDI between l862 and l871 when the structure of his  called modern operas’ emphasis was less in the soloists arias and duets and more on the ensembles and crowd scenes, the singing of the score of  DON CARLO is difficult specially for the Lead singers when accompanied by the chorus, which as we know includes  four different voices ranges: soprano, alto, tenor and bass, with each one of the four groups singing a different melody than the other three. So to produce the perfect harmonization of  sound the score requires, that every singer must sings exactly on the beat, and in perfect pitch,  

“When I am singing DON CARLO's score,” I hear many other VERDI’s moments from another  VERDI;s works.” She tells us, “Melodies from the VERDI’s Requiem,from VERDI’s  Aida, I hear them everywhere in the texture, but just for a second, here and there,  and I think that the reason (why VERDI included melodic fractions from arias from his other Operas in this one) may be  that “DON CARLO” is the culmination of VERDI’s marvelous and extraordinary musical language. “

“The tessitura (the complete range of her aria) in Elisabetta, is also interesting because It is quite central in the voice, which indicates to me, (as singer) that these words (the lyrics) demand to be pronounced clearly,  because when a composer wants a soprano to sing in the center register of  her voice (meaning not very high and not very low) it means that  the composer  wants the singer to really and truly enunciate (pronounce) every single word in her text (lyrics of her aria) clearly, because the composer knows, that as soon as  the tone gets a little high, it will becomes  more important for the soprano to make a beautiful sound,  instead of  enunciating the words”

 Michael Fabiano as Don Carlo Soprano Martinez  by Cory Weaver-SF Opera
 Michael Fabiano as Don Carlo & Soprano Martinez  © Cory Weaver/SF Opera

For a singer, the role of Elisabetta is demanding. During her  short moments of joy with Don Carlo, she has (to sing) gorgeous phrases where she needs to go up high to the top of her voice, On the rest of her role, her notes are quite central, and quite low which indicates, musically, that there is no  joy in her life anymore. Just by listening to the music, the audience needs to understand that.

There is also a quartet, in which Elisabetta barges into the King’s room indicating (to the King) that somebody had stolen her jewelry box. The singing of the aria, at this moment for me, is difficult because my voice has to go soaring, to its highest notes, and then sing pianissimo (very soft quiet tone) VERDI may have written this aria as a sort of  prayer, because, in the context of the plot, the only reason for Elisabetta’s  life from that moment on, will be her sense of duty to the people of the country. She is now married to the Spanish King, so she cannot be with Don Carlo, the one she loves. The only way she can get strength is in prayer, indicated in the score by the very high notes that need to be sung very softly. It is a sublime VERDI’s touch. that at the moments when Elisabetta is praying, in her voice, the audience is hearing, VERDI's most beautiful tones.”

“All the roles of  VERDI’s heroines are demanding. VERDI requires exquisite precision (from their singers) and you must be able to vocalize well not only in the highest registers, but also in  the lower registers. In this work, I need to go into my chess voice  in order to produce the required  sound  which, musically may indicate Elisabetta's state of mind, her sadness and her desire to   to get out of her situation, which is her only wish” 

“ These “musical details” convince me that  in writing the music for the role, VERDI, was really expressing his emotional maturity, that came with age.  He wrote  most of the  arias for the soprano playing Elisabetta, in the range of  the lower part of the soprano's voice not only to express her sadness, but her rage, and  these pianissimos  in her high notes to express the  purity of her heart and  her inner strength, which is her only means to survive. So being able to interpret these emotion in inging is hard,  but it is a joy to be inside the texture of these monumental music. The feeling that you experience as a singer, singing DON CARLO is incredible.. It cannot be expressed in words."

The opera’s libretto written by JOSEPH MÉRY and CAMILLE du LOCLE, is based on the dramatic poem Don Carlos infant von Spanien written by German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller, (l797-l856). The Opera, in five acts, is set in the France and Spain during the years 1559-l568, when both countries were at war with each other and the Spanish Inquisition was at its height burning “The heretics” in public places.

When the audience sees DON CARLO, however, they ought to remember that Schiller’s  adolescence, under the rule of Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg,  had showed him, personally, the effects of  the abusive powers by the nobility on other people, which he used in many of his other plays. and in DON CARLO.  To make this point clear, at  the time of the  opera’s first revision in l883, in a letter, Verdi wrote to his publisher GIULIO RICORDI that the  libretto of his new work, based on Schiller's play, was dramatic, but that there was no truth in it, and that there was nothing historical about its its characters, except their names.

A Don Carlo Moving Moment VIDEO with Ana María Martínez singing ,produced by the San Francisco Opera can be accessed on You-Tube by clicking HERE.