dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
A lover spurned turns the table
This autumn, soloist Natalya Romaniw tackles one of the greatest female roles in Russian opera – Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.
As a young girl, Tatyana falls head over heels for Onegin but is rejected in one of the opera's most famous scenes. Years later the couple meet again and Onegin realises his mistake – only for an older and wiser Tatyana to reject him in turn.
It's a role which Natalya relishes – and one she has played before, as last year she was Tatyana for Garsington Opera. Now she's enjoying reprising the role of Tatyana in the Welsh National Opera production which comes to Birmingham Hippodrome on November 3.
She says: "When you return to a role you draw on relationships between your character and the other characters – that's a lovely foundation to have when you walk into the rehearsal space in a different production with different singers and perhaps even a different concept of your own character. And things that I felt in the other production can be explored again through different interpretations. I can really relate to Tatyana, that idea of the first time you fall in love, being a young girl and interested in reading and what that brings to her and her relationship with her sister. I found it very easy to live and breathe the role."
Born in Swansea and of Ukrainian descent, Natalya speaks neither Ukrainian nor Russian and yet has a natural inclination towards those languages. "Strangely I do feel an affiliation with Russian music and the language but maybe it has something to do with my grandfather who would speak Ukrainian to me," she says. "We would play I Spy in Ukrainian and maybe that means the language feels like home to me. It resonates with me in a way that other languages I sing in don't. The music feels like it's in my blood and it really does move me – it's so poetic and lyrical."
That's not to say that Natalya doesn't see its difficulties. She says: "With Russian, I don't know its structure so I don't know what comes first or where the verb goes in a sentence and things like that whereas I do know with Italian and French and German. So when you are learning a role in Russian, because you don't have a general understanding of the language, it can be quite hard without a language coach. You need them to tell you and even then it can take a long time to figure out. But I think that it's important to know words like 'I' or 'you' – the main strong words in a sentence that you really need to paint and colour as an artist."
And even though she is returning to a role she has played before, Natalya admits there are some challenges with going back to Eugene Onegin.
She says: "I have been working on Tatyana again for this production because I've sung another Russian role since then and I've sung in Czech so although it was still there it was a bit rusty! I thought Tatyana was the role I knew back to front so I didn't expect that but it comes back to you."
WNO perform Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina, and Janáček House of the Dead alongside Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus at Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre on Oct 31-Nov 4. For more information, visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com