Glyndebourne’s leading lady ditches opera festival for the West End
Danielle de Niese is to star in a West End revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love after pulling out of this year’s Glyndebourne Festival.
She will play Giulietta, opposite Michael Ball as George, in a production at the Lyric Theatre.
De Niese had been due to appear at Glyndebourne this summer in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites, which had been three years in the planning.
But she was forced to make a choice when offered the role in the revival as Giulietta, a sculptress whom De Niese describes as “fabulous, larger-than-life, sexy and confident”.
Breaking the news that she was leaving the opera production was made “definitely harder” by the fact that her husband, Gus Christie, is Glyndebourne’s executive chairman.
“But my husband has been a star,” de Niese said. “He understands how rare it is - I don’t know that there are any other people singing in opera who are also having a career in the West End. So it’s very unusual and wonderful to be asked, and my husband has been incredibly supportive of that even though he’s very sad that I’m not going to be doing Carmelites.”
Rehearsals for Aspects of Love begin on Monday and the show opens on May 12 for a limited season. The show is produced by Nica Burns.
Ball played the role of Alex in the original 1989 production and went on to have a hit with Love Changes Everything, the show’s most famous song.
In the revival he will play the older character, George, and the show has been adapted so that Love Changes Everything becomes George’s song.
“How could you not let Michael do it? Everyone’s going to want to hear him sing that,” de Niese said.
The original production ran in the West End for three years.
The various entanglements in the plot include a love triangle between Giuletta, George and another woman, Rose.
A lesbian romance between Giuletta and Rose was hinted at in earlier productions but will be more emphatic in the new show.
“I think it will be explored more, because it’s allowed to be now,” de Niese said. “Gender, people’s sexual preferences, people’s romantic preferences - we have a lot more acceptance and love for that, I think, than in the past. As a society we’ve become much more open to things, and I love that.
“And I love that about Giulietta: she’s somebody who can explore bisexuality and not have to fall into any tropes. She’s not any of those tropes that we might associate with a cougar, or a threesome person. She’s so much more interesting.
“The way that these relationships are written about is so timely. Love has always been complicated but things in this story are a lot more fluid than a typical romantic musical. You don’t just have one hero and one heroine, and obstacles keeping them apart.
“It’s taking the stereotypical love story and turning it on its head
“It feels like a very contemporary story, which is amazing when you consider that it wasn’t written today.”
The show has also been updated to change the age of Jenny, a character who was underage in the original production. De Niese explained: “The creative team have aged her up to become 18, which resolves any potential issue that might arise from the fact you have a younger character developing a crush on an older person.”
De Niese hopes to appear in more West End productions in the future. She appeared in Les Miserables on Broadway at 18 before making her opera debut a year later at the Met in New York.
“I’m not an opera singer taking a stab at something else. This is also what I started with so it’s a big full circle for me, to come home to musical theatre and be welcomed with open arms,” she said.