13 March 2021

“This show Traviata was dramaturgically designed, directed and choreographed for Anamarija Knego and Aljaž Farasin, with Kevin Greenlaw joining them during the creative process. The focus is on dramatic conflicts and the acting rhythms that erupt from them. Anamarija Knego has played all the roles of the often typified female characters (Cleopatra, Desdemona, Alice, Juliet), so now in Violetta she always finds complexity, dimension and strength, emotionality, passion and intelligence, i.e. a dramatic acting character, which emancipates her characters from restrictive social circumstances and especially relationships with male characters,” noted Marin Blažević, author of the concept, dramaturgy and direction of Rijeka’s Traviata.

When you ask Anamarija Knego, one of the principal singers of the opera who unstoppably wins from the stage with her voice and emotions in every role, how she feels as the inspiration for the show, she modestly avoids talking about it. She finds others’ stories far more fascinating. Self-deprecating and unobtrusive, yet cheerful and witty in jeans, a sweater, and a woolen cap she knitted herself, she seems so unremarkable that, guided by clichés, you would never associate her with the glamor of opera stages and the most dramatic soprano roles. Loud and superior when she needs to be, she has created amazing experiences for her audience, who compares her to the greatest. She openly and unreservedly mentioned her struggle with stage fright before each premiere: “Before each premiere, I imagine myself resigning and opening a pastry shop with natural products and deciding not to sing anymore. That’s right – I’m not ashamed of it. It is out of the question for me to still think about being an inspiration to anyone for anything; that burden is too much for me. I truly admire other singers who enjoy being on stage and for whom it’s no stress.”

For the role of Violetta in Verdi’s Traviata, she collaborated with Michele Pastorini, a young Italian choreographer and principal dancer of the Rijeka Ballet. On the idea of a choreographed opera role, she says, “I have always been fascinated by ballet. I really like the movement. We opera singers express emotions and states through song, and dancers do it all through movement. It’s so powerful! I envy them for having such expression in their bodies. I’ve always been interested in connecting the two, opera and ballet. How? Is it at all possible?”

She says she talked to Michele about these issues for two hours over coffee: “I told him that I would love to try. Whether I would succeed, I didn’t know. He said ‘Why not?!’ I lack that physical moment with a singer. That changes your attitude. I realized that I must not even sit on the stage as much as I do now, for example. Even when you want to look relaxed, you must not be relaxed.”

Knego answers enthusiastically and does not spare words of praise in describing their joint work on the character: “It was wonderful to work with Michele! He is so innovative and resourceful, and has the ability to come up with a solution in a second. The ideas were flying! He can speak with his body with ease. He came to every rehearsal, which is not usually the case with choreographers in the opera. And then when he had to isolate himself…” Here, Anamarija picks up her phone and shows a huge series of messages and 20-minute long instructional videos. “I was delighted with how much he likes to work. He tells and explains everything to me in detail and shows me what to do, how and why. It’s amazing! I learned so much from himm…”

The Principal Singer of the Theatre, Anamarija Knego, immediately went on to speak about the team she collaborated with for Traviata: “A team of people who really enjoy working gathered for this opera. The atmosphere was wonderful. Marin who is a workaholic squared, Mila for whom nothing is difficult, Aljaž, Kevin…all the way to the stage manager, Valter. It works from morning to night, so positively. Wonderful people. This is the project I’ve enjoyed the most, in every way, from the process of creation to music, costumes…”

She then went on to reveal a particularly emotional fact that adds even more power and meaning to her role and the whole opera, explaining what Violetta is like as an opera role and what her particular Violetta is like: “It is very difficult for me. Verdi said he would need three sopranos for that opera, one for each act. You have to adjust. It’s demanding, but it pays off. My Violetta is intimate. I connected the whole story with my late mother. The scene in the third act, in which I sit as if buried, arose from a very intimate, private situation. I remembered how my mother had faded in the last month, once she realized it was over. Such a strong person – gone. She just lay there and repeated ‘I’m not ready to die.’ That was the most shocking thing for me. She was a beautiful and strong and truly powerful woman, and suddenly she was fading. I remember her as I sing, and the role is dedicated to her. I’m sorry she can’t be here to watch. I had her great support. My mother was my only true and sincere friend. When I lost her, I lost an awful lot.”

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