Wednesday, October 1, 2008


A memoir from Kentucky Opera Studio Artist Juliana Moura and her experience on Sunday's performance of Otello.

I play the violin every Sunday on my church (Walnut Baptist) and on this Sunday I also sang the Lord’s Prayer. Just before the sermon began I left for my opera chorus call at the Kentucky Center. I needed to be there at 12:30 but I got in the parking lot earlier so I decided to relax a little before going in. While in the car I heard a cell phone vibrate. I knew my cell was with my husband that day and as I looked for the sound, the vibrating stopped. Some seconds later it started to vibrate again. Then I saw my husband’s jacket that he had forgotten in the car. When I checked the cell I saw 8 missed calls and a bunch of messages. At that moment I thought, “Somebody really wants to talk to me.” I checked the missed calls and saw Julie’s phone number, and David’s and Julie’s and… OH MY GOD, WHAT IS GOING ON?

When I opened the Kentucky Center Lobby’s door I saw Alise Oliver, Kentucky Opera’s artistic administrator, with this scary look on her face and saying, “Oh, Juliana is here, she is here…” suddenly Julie Maykowski (the education director), Alice, Julia (the assistant stage manager) and everybody was there just smiling and asking, “How are you today???” Then I asked, “What’s going on?” Nobody said anything; they just had those freaking smiles. Then I asked, “Where is Kelly?” They looked at each other THIS TIME with a nervous laughter they said, “David Levy is coming to talk to you!” I knowingly replied, “This is not happening, right?” Alice, the costume master, said with her smile, “Oh, yes it is…” I got that answer as a voice far, far away and from that moment on I started to set my mind aside: THIS IS NOT REAL AND I AM JUST HAVING A DREAM (NIGHTMARE).

David Levy came and with all his calm personality and voice said, “Hi Juliana how are you feeling today? Well, Kelly is sick and we need you to standby and sing from the pit in case anything goes wrong, how do you feel about that? You think you can do this?” And in the same calm voice he asked me, I said, “I think so!”

He showed me the place already prepared in the pit and took me to talk to our star, Kelly Kaduce. Julie took me to Todd Hall so I could run through some parts that I wanted to work on with the coach Naoko Suga . I asked to go through third act (God knows why!) and then we looked at the death scene in the fourth act because this was the only part we didn’t coach for this opera.

Before the opera began, Julie was in the dressing room forcing me to eat and I heard the announcement made by Lisa, the stage manager, on the speaker, “Attention please, Juliana Moura is not singing today with the chorus, she will be in stand-by for Mrs. Kaduce in the pit.” I just looked at Julie, covered my ears and said “I don’t want to here this, la, la, la, la, la…”. So I could still trick my mind and pretend that this was just a rehearsal.

During the performance, Kelly made it through acts one and two without incident. In the third act all the lights in the orchestra it went out, except for my light and Naoko’s. I stood up and just like the guys with the flashlights on the airport runway I held up the lights to help the orchestra see something in the middle of the blackout. I started screaming for Naoko to get somebody to do something about the lights and this went on for a while. Kelly Kaduce ended up singing one or two bars without music but then the lights came back. From that moment on I was sure that THIS WAS NOT REAL!!!

Well as soon as Kelly finished her duet in the third act I thought, “Thank God she will be able to do the whole show!” Suddenly Julie appeared at the pit and said “You are ON!!!”

I took my shoes off to try to relax and thought “This is just a rehearsal!!!”

And I sang!

After the third act they rushed me to stage right to do act four because the singers on stage couldn’t hear me. David Levy with all his calm showed me the place I was going to be and I took my shoes off again. As soon as the forth act started I realized I could not hear the orchestra. On that part of the stage I could tell that an orchestra was playing, but I could not hear the notes, so Naoko played my notes on the piano which was the greatest help I could have. I did not take my eyes off the score, except to look at the maestro and tried to be as straight as I could on my tempo as he advised me.

Thank goodness we worked on the fourth act. After my last word on stage, ADDIO! I felt just like that, I am dead, and good bye. It was amazing to see so many people back stage cheering for me and with big smiles saying so many good things. Honestly in my mind I have no clue how it sounded; I had NEVER sang with an orchestra before, or in a big theater like the Whitney and doing this gigantic role that my voice isn’t ready for yet.

I can still picture the moment when Kelly and I embraced in center stage. To hear all the applause was the most exciting moment of my life!!!

I am very happy to have been chosen to study this role with Kentucky Opera Studio Artists Program and to be prepared so I could face this once in a lifetime opportunity. I can say that I depended on God the entire time, and just kept saying in my head: THIS IS NOT HAPPENING… IT IS JUST A REHEARSAL!

posted by Juliana Moura


Anonymous said...

Bravo Juliana!

You pulled it off like the total pro that you are. It was a pleasure to get to hear you sing (I sat under the speaker in the hallway stage right listening the whole time). Though I have to admit it felt weird not running across the top of the ramp with you during the chorus entrance in act three and singing next to you as I had all through rehearsal, we were all proud of you nonetheless! Brava!

Anonymous said...

We were at the performance and you did an outstanding job. Brava!

OperaBeth said...

You were amazing, Juliana! I never would have known that you hadn't been preparing Act IV all along, you sang it so beautifully! Thank you for sharing what that day was like for you. You truly were a genuine trouper to step up and perform like that. Brava!

Kenny Surtani said...

Nice costumes.