On the Stage - Scene 3: Persistence, productivity and humble courage

What is interesting when you read the biography of big historical characters is that, together with what we know already about their iconic lives and professional achievements, by understanding also their lives paths, we also get in touch with those aspects that make them closer to us – normal human beings.
Sometimes we look at successful people as if they were from another human species, as if they breathe a different air than we do. They may indeed act differently from the average human beings on the planet, and may also breathe differently the air that is there available to everybody. But in general, to achieve their goals they had to fight, dedicate, and face as many issues as anyone have to deal with when in search of fulfilling a life or professional goal.

I was reading last week the biography from Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), Donizetti and his operas (1982),  written by the american researcher William Ashbrook (1922-2009). I have to say that I was very pleased to meet this very interesting man through his life story, and not only by his famous operas like Anna Bolena, Lucia di Lammermoor, L´Elisir d´Amour, Don Pasquale, Linda di Chamounix, La Fille du Regiment, etc, which is already a satisfying thing. 

He was born and lived during his entire youth in a house under ground level without windows, together with his parents and brothers, in Bergamo – Italy. In contrast to many  composers, he was not from his childhood considered to be a musical genius and couldn´t count, even when he was already a prestigious composer, with his father´s support. 

During his music education he had some issues that almost prevented him from becoming a musician. To study at the Lezioni Caritatevoli, a charity school,  he had to sing at the choir, and had singing lessons, together with piano and all theory music lessons. What the documents show is that actually Donizetti was considered to be a very bad singer, and that the teachers and the school´s direction didn´t believe it was possible improving and worth investing on his “defective voice”. 

The pressure from his family and the disbelief on his musical abilities by the school coordinators, led him to apply for theAccademia Carrara, in which he was approved, to study design and illustration, what also signs his drawing artistic abilities.

The turning point that made him keep on investing on the musical career, was due to the crucial, beautiful and inspiring support he had from his all time friend and music teacher Mayr (1763-1845). Johan Simon Mayr was a german composer and chapel master in Bergamo, and from the beginning he saw in Donizetti a promising and talented musician. Despite what other people at their time would say, he truly believed on his student abilities, he made all what was possible to help Donizetti to continue his music studyings, and also along the beginning of his professional career, giving him immeasurable support.

It would be possible to write an entire text only to digress about this rare relationship of union, respect and unconditional support between this two musicians.

Inspired by his teacher, who was also an opera composer and very productive man, Donizetti was a non-stop creator. In his short life, he composed more than seventy operas, from all styles, along with religious and concert master pieces. What made his name worldwide renowned was through his operas, but this recognition didn´t come obviously straightforward.

I know that for many other artists, from any other field, it is rarely an automatic thing to be recognized. Actually, that is every artists burden. But it is fascinating to see Donizetti´s perseverance and tireless seek to find his own compositional identity and style, and to create his own operatic language, proposing a closer connection between music and drama. Nonetheless, it was practically only after his thirtieth opera, by composing Anna Bolena (1830), that he would finally establish a more consolidated root in opera`s “crystal bubble”.

One have to bear in mind that his contemporary opera composers “friends” were anyone but Verdi, Rossini and Bellini, and one can also imagine that it might have been really necessary to create a crocodile skin to support all the pressure from public, critics and silly competitions. 

Through letters he would send Mayr, his father and other musician friends, Donizetti seemed to be the guy that only wanted to do his work, and to improve his art and not to waste time entering in toxic universe. Tough task.

It is somewhat funny to see how in the beginning of his career, he was for many times unlucky by producing a good work with the people he would have to count on. Not only his music would not be considered mature, but also sometimes he would have his work disregarded by the public and critics because of unprepared singers that would faint in the middle of the stage in nervous attack, or a singer that would die a week before an important premiere, or a librettist that would delay the rendering of a text, and so on. That means, it may be obvious to say that: but it´s not easy to anyone. It´s not only about dedicating to your job and self-development, but also a matter of having luck and being ready and flexible to cope with whatever situation that may come.   

About his work, another article could be written only to digress about Donizetti´s operas and his intriguing characters, filled with many feminine heroines submerged in psychological dramas, or elegant comedy making fun of  human relations, but it s not the case of this specific article.

The goal of this text was only to take a glimpse on things that we could also describe from any other artist or non artist lives: we are all on the same boat. So, whatever our function on this boat is, let´s do our work on the best way we can, and that the luck and force be with us!  

Brazilian soprano Nivea Freitas, with academic background in physics, left the area of science and completed her bachelor of classical singing in 2013 at the UFMG music school - Brazil, oriented by prof. Luciana Monteiro. By mid 2015 concluded a dissertation on musical performance research, also at the UFMG, which was partially developed in Paris in her exchange studies for a year at the theater department of the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris. During this period, she profited also to improve her performance practice at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, oriented by the french soprano Caroline Dumas, and Yves Sotin (Conservatoire Nationale Superieur de Musique de Paris).

Since October 2015 she is doing a professional master's degree in Germany at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg oriented by the tenor Mark Tucker.

She is a performer with a broad classical musical interest that goes from opera to contemporary music repertoire, concert and artsong, and presents herself actively in concerts and recitals in Brasil and Europe.

Author: Nivea Freitas
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