Ermonela Jaho: You have to keep going and sooner or later someone will believe in you and you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In demand across the world, Ermonela Jaho is particularly recognised for her portrayals of Violetta (La traviata), Madama Butterfly, Suor Angelica (Il trittico), Adriana Lecouvreur and a lot more were she leaves her indelible mark on everything she sings. She won the 2021 International Classical Music Awards for Vocal Music 2021 with her solo album “Anima Rara”. Now resident in New York, Ermonela Jaho was born in Albania and first began to take singing lessons when she was just six. At 14, she was taken to the Tirana Opera House for the first time where she heard La Traviata and decided to become an opera singer. At 19 she moved to Rome to continue her studies at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Over the next years, she won many singing competitions in Italy opening the doors to her singing career. Ermonela Jaho’s vivid interpretations and her exceptional identification with the roles she performs are highlighted in all her reviews. Over the last year, standing ovations have followed her from London, Paris, New York, Munich, Berlin, Madrid and everywhere else in between, with The Economist describing her as “Fiery angel… the world’s most acclaimed soprano”, Financial Times “she throws heart and soul into her singing. Don’t even try to resist!”, The Independent as “the best Madama Butterfly London has seen in years” and Australia’s Daily Telegraph describing her as “an unstoppable phenomenon”. Ermonela Jaho is a member of the Academy of Sciences of Albania and she supports many causes. She is the ambassador of the YWCA of Albania. In the 2021-22 season, Jaho reprises the roles of Cio Cio San at Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville, Adriana Lecouvreur at Vienna Staatsoper, Mimi at Teatro Real in Madrid, Adriana at Opera de Oviedo, record Liu with Sony in Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Rome, Cio Cio San in Staatsoper Hamburg, Thaïs in Theatre des Champs Elysees Paris, Liu At the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Cio Cio San at Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, and Nedda in Pagliacci at the Royal Opera House in London, etc.

Dear Ermonela, its such an honor for us to have you on the cover of our 2-year anniversary issue! Thank you very much for accepting our invitation! Our conversation finds you in Hamburg for Puccinis Madama Butterfly, am I right? Hows the production going?

Yes, I’m in Hamburg. Tomorrow is the last performance of Madama Butterfly, my 178th time performing this role. I’m counting them, because for me, this is a personal victory. I worked both with myself and technically, as an artist. I knocked down certain walls and proved wrong the mentality that tends to define the voices, saying “you can’t sing this role”. Instead, I think I have found the right key to reach certain goals.

Did they tell you that about Madama Butterfly?

About Butterfly, La Traviata, Manon Lescaut… but I also understand it, because when you decide for certain difficult roles, you have to be very conscious. I have always studied and I study a lot: I try to do a work of personal research, both vocally and artistically speaking. Who says that a role that has ruined the voice of other singers must also ruin yours? You have to be aware when you make certain choices. Our work never ends: even if one evening you get a standing ovation, the next one you have to do better than before and surpass yourself. This is my opinion after a 28-year career.

3.So many young singers see you as an example. Aside from your voice, you are something else. That’s intriguing. What was your voice technically-wise at the beginning of your career? What are the achievement that you are most proud of from this point of view?

There are certain voices that you just hear for 30 seconds and you are “wow”, because of the timbre or their power. I haven’t had that luck, so, as time has passed by, I’ve realized that I need to tell a story to the public. That’s why auditions rarely worked for me, because it was hard for me to express myself in 4-5 minutes. When I sang my first bel canto and coloratura roles, I realized that in order to make a difference, I need to give the audience all the emotions that are written in the score and implicit in the music, that is the nourishment and the language of our souls. In opera, human feelings are emphasized and universal. Behind the production of a sound there is a bridge between the heart of the artist and the audience and an immense technical work, of which one must be aware. I realized that I had to tell a dramatic and sentimental story… in my opinion, the way to bring out and channel these feelings is to do technical work that never ends. This is especially true if we consider the dramatic (from an emotional point of view rather than a vocal one) repertoire that we deal with. We have to stay human. We are not perfect: imperfection and vulnerability is what distinguishes an artist that must express this without compromising its vocal technique. If after a performance you are tired and can’t sing anymore, this means that something is not working. I vocalize and do physical exercises every day because as time goes by, the muscles don’t work as well as they used to do when we are young. Our whole body is a physical instrument that helps us to correctly perform different roles.

Read the entire interview here, in the 3th/2022 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.


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