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Sound Bites: Julianna Di Giacomo

by F. PAUL DRISCOLL

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<font size=2>Photographed by Dario Acosta in New York</font><BR>Makeup and hair by Affan Malik<BR>© Dario Acosta 2009
opera news
© Dario Acosta 2009
Julianna Di Giacomo calls her La Scala debut last spring, in I Due Foscari, "overwhelming, obviously, but not for the reasons I expected. I could not believe how quiet the audience was. I thought they hated me at first, but it was because they were truly listening. In the States, everyone applauds after everything. In Italy, after many things, even when it's Leo Nucci singing - and he's a rock star at La Scala - they will be silent. I just had to stay in the moment and get through it, and not waste time wondering what the audience was thinking. It was great discipline."

Di Giacomo learned discipline as a child athlete in Santa Monica, California, where she spent most of her time on the tennis courts. "That's what I wanted to do when I grew up, actually. Tennis. My whole family is very sports-oriented - my dad is a football coach, my brother is an athlete, my mom plays tennis every day. It was a little strange for them to turn out an opera-singer daughter." When she was sixteen, Di Giacomo's opera-loving tennis coach took her to her first opera; by the time she entered UCLA, she had decided that she wanted to sing professionally. Stints followed at San Francisco Opera's Merola Program and as Donna Anna in the company's Western Opera Theater tour of Don Giovanni. "My technique was just not good enough then to handle her music. It's beautiful, but she basically just sits and sits and sits on Fs all night long. Later on, when I sang my first Donna Elvira at New York City Opera, I felt much more at home - she stays in the mid-range a lot and pops up to the top. I felt much more grounded as Elvira."

That Elvira - a performance as remarkable for its unshakable emotional maturity and authority as for its clean, crisp musicianship and silvery, luminous tone - was one of several key events in an annus mirabilis that established Di Giacomo as a soprano to watch. It began in July 2007, with her bracingly fresh Leonora in Il Trovatore at Caramoor. September brought her NYCO Elvira, followed by her Met debut, as Clotilde in Norma, in November, and Lucrezia Contarini in I Due Foscari at Carnegie Hall with Opera Orchestra of New York in December. This season, she'll sing Donna Elvira in Palm Beach Opera's new Giovanni in February and take part in Palermo's Verdi Requiem in May.

Does she still play tennis? "Not a lot. I played a little bit when I was just at home in California, and I'm terrible now. It was hilarious. It is just like singing - if you take too much time off, you have to dust off the cobwebs and start from scratch!"

F. PAUL DRISCOLL

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