Albanian world-renowned soprano Ermonela Jaho is currently in Australia performing the title role in Opera Australia’s new production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Anna Bolena directed by Davide Livermore. Her performances, without exception, have been met by resounding reviews by audiences and critics alike. Another triumph.
“Technically and dramaturgically speaking, it’s a war for a soprano,” she says about singing Anna Bolena. “We all worked together to make it a success and, from the audience reaction, it worked”.
Ermonela Jaho, who The Economist described as “the most acclaimed soprano in the world”, has been captivated by the direction, cast and set design of the current production that will be performed at the Joan Sutherland Theatre until 26 July.
"Singing is the language of our soul" (EJ, 2017).
In a 2017 interview to SBS Italian, Ermonela Jaho talked about her life, her difficult artistic beginnings in communist Albania and in Italy, and about her dream of becoming an opera singer.
In Albania, when Ermonela was young, operas were translated and performed only in the Albanian language. In those days under Enver Hoxha's communist regime, speaking a foreign language "could send you to prison". Despite this Ermonela's father, a general in the Albanian army, secretly taught her English, while her mother, who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, was her inspiration.
She fell in love with La Traviata at the age of 14 when, with her brother, she went to see a performance of Verdi’s opera sung in Albanian in the capital Tirana.
“It was love at first sight and, at the end of the performance, I told my brother: "Before I die I want to sing Violetta at least once in my life”.
That happened quickly and, so far, she has sung Verdi’s masterpiece over 250 times. The most memorable occasion was at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 2008 when she was called in at the shortest of notices to replace an unwell Anna Netrebko. A night she loves talking about and that launched her into the firmament of opera stars.
An icon herself, Ermonela Jaho now sings regularly at the ROH Covent Garden with some of the most famous operatic names of past and present generations.
“If the dream is great, also the suffering must be great” (EJ, 2017).
Ermonela Jaho talks openly about her difficult experience in Italy as an Albanian migrant.
"In Italy I also suffered hunger", she says with some resentment.
Ermonela went to Mantua after winning a Katia Ricciarelli's opera competition in Tirana. After completing her studies with the great Italian soprano, she moved to Rome.
"It was a very difficult time", she recalls.
It all became easier when she was finally accepted as a student at the prestigious Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome.
Ermonela Jaho is currently deeply involved in charity work, although she does not like to talk about it.
"I'm not comfortable talking about this because those who do it, must do it from the heart and not to promote themselves", she says quoting Mother Theresa.
In March she was nominated YWCA Ambassador for Pink Ribbon and, behind the scenes, she is also very active in raising funds for mental health issues.
For more information on the current season of Opera Australia’s Anna Bolena Click here.