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Thursday
Jul262012

The Perils of being a Preggo Performer

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.

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Reader Comments (10)

I hope you're enjoying Innsbruck and glad that everyone is treating you well. How do you like our Landestheater?

And, natürlich, congratulations!

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcellina

Congratulations! Always love reading your blog. You seem like you'll be a great mom.

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTabitha

This news made me very excited for you and your family. Congratulations all around, especially to you for your fortitude as a preggo diva. Thanks for sharing your experiences as you see how all these "challenges" interact. We are cheering for you!

Next comes the (even more daunting?) task of being a parent-performer!

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon M.

This is wonderful news on every count -- mazel tov! And I know other singers will be grateful to you for sharing your observations at this stage of your pregnancy.

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam V. Madison

Congratulations Jennifer! And thanks for sharing such a great story, this is one of those things they never mention when you're getting your degree & preparing for your career path. ;) Any chance your Stellidaura will be recorded in any fashion? Always love hearing undiscovered gems. Toi toi!

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTess

Everyone I know is getting pregnant, including my two fav opera singers! Is something in the water? Congrats! :)

July 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbarina

Aww! Congratulations! You look so cute! Please keep writing, I just found out I'm pregnant and would love to read about your pregnancy! I'm in the exhaustive nausea phase right now but can't wait to start feeling the kicks. Have you felt yours move yet? I can't imagine what it'll feel like. :)

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJewels

Congratulations Jenny ! :-)
See in you in Berlin and Paris in May 2013 (back in your Lacroix tight pants ) !
Love from France

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterisa

There had to be a very good reason why the posts had been missing. Congratulations, congratulations and more congratulations on these beautiful news!
As for the music taste of baby, I have only a very small sample size to offer. I was the first child and my parents, obviously being very excited, sang and played music (classical music more thanks to my dad) a lot to me when I was still in my mother's belly. And I grew up loving music since very young age. Unfortunately with my little brother the excitement was somewhat smaller (or was I too demanding as a toddler?), no singing for him and he had no musical hearing whatsoever. So keep on singing!

August 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIlze

Dear Jenny,

I saw Stellidaura last Sunday, and it was a great performance by the entire cast (you could tell from the applause). I had no idea of you being pregnant (I did not regularly follow your blog), but it does not matter. As Anna Netrebko, Nuria Rial, Sonia Prina, Silvia Vajente, Magdalena Kozena and many more have demonstrated, being an Opera singer does not require you to refraining from getting pregnant. I once attended a concert where three out of four main role singers were pregnant.

Anyway - congratulations, lots of! I wish you a reminder of the pregnancy as easy as possible, and a smooth delivery; and us, your fans, I wish a return on stage as soon as reasonably possible. Loking forward to hearing and seeing you again!

NB: I assume right now you don't do the kind of exercises you did on stage as Nerone in Berlin?!?

August 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterralph_munich

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