Everyone knows that when you get pregnant, you need to take your vitamins, get lots of sleep, and take care not to overexert yourself. But what if your job requires you to fly to another country, acclimate to a different time zone and a totally different environment, eat completely different foods, and run around wielding a sword, or fall to the ground, swooning, all while wearing a corset? Well - then you just do it.
I found out in March that I was pregnant. It was thrilling news - but of course, required a good deal of planning. Would this or that company care if I was pregnant? How soon after giving birth could I safely go back to work? Who would travel with me and the baby to my engagements? But first - what would it be like to run around the stage with another being inside of me???
I was very lucky that my first major opera engagement into the pregnancy was here in Innsbruck for a couple of reasons. First, the festival was extremely supportive and accommodating about any adjustments that would need to be made (mostly in the costuming, although possibly in the staging - there was no way to know ahead of time). And I was also lucky that the role I was singing was a female role. Since I spend a great deal of my career singing trouser roles, I was very fortunate that I wasn't required to jump around the stage and roll around on the ground wearing short pants while pregnant. Playing a woman meant that it would be easier to hide the pregnancy in the costume, and that the role would likely be less demanding physically - or so I thought.
Then I began to discover the role of Stellidaura in Francisco Provenzale's underperformed gem La Stellidaura Vendicante, and realized that this was no ordinary female role. Instead of pining away for her lover or dying of consumption, Stellidaura takes matters into her own hands - literally - and grabs the first sword she can find in an attempt to avenge her wounded lover. And she doesn't stop there - in the third act, she dresses up as a man and attempts to murder her rival, is put in jail and sentenced to death, and takes a poison and is presumed dead. All while singing 10 arias and 2 duets. So much for sitting around in a loose dress and clutching my breast.
Luckily, all that time spent playing boys has prepared me for pretty much anything physically. As a performer, I like to feel that I am completely free of physical limitations, and I even usually request that directors put me in strange positions like lying on the floor or draping myself over the set while I'm singing my arias. Of course, carrying this little guy around in my belly means I have to be a bit more careful, and I can't fling myself around with my usual abandon, but I've been very pleased to discover that it hasn't hindered my movement too much at all. I can still burst out of the door brandishing a sword and swing it around, and my little bundle of joy on the inside doesn't seem to mind at all. The only thing I can't do is lay on my stomach - and if you can't imagine an opera singer laying on her stomach while singing, you'll just have to trust me when I tell you it seems to happen to me. Frequently. But thankfully, not this time.
I'm also very lucky that this production happened to fall in the stage of the pregnancy that it did. I am currently in my second trimester, which is the best part of the pregnancy. I have passed the nausea and horrible fatigue from the first 14 weeks (and since I had several concerts and recitals during that time, and almost passed out once in a rehearsal from nausea, I can tell you that singing a demanding operatic role during that time would have been something of a challenge), but haven't yet reached the swollen ankles and difficulty getting around phase. And although my belly has grown, and I have noticed a few concerned glances from the costumer at it's ever expanding size, it is still luckily small enough that we can cover it with costumes and no one will know that I'm carrying a passenger for all the performances. Except of course, for all of you.
And how does this opera baby feel about all this singing I'm doing? So far, he doesn't seem to mind. And my voice feels better than ever. He might even be helping me with my diaphragmatic support! And I have to say, I think this little baby is quite lucky to get the chance to hear this sublime score day after day in his formative days. Not that many people in the world have even had the opportunity to hear Stellidaura, as it has inexplicably been ignored from the repertoire, and my son will practically have it memorized when he finally makes his appearance in December. I have a feeling that the beautiful lullaby-like aria at the end of the second Act is something I will be able to sing to him in his cradle, and his memory of the music will soothe him and remind him of his time "on the inside."
Or maybe it will turn out that he only likes Heavy Metal. But as this music will be surrounding him from his earliest formative days, I like to imagine that he won't be able to keep himself from having a soft spot for baroque music from Italy, just like his mother.