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Danielle de Niese: how I spend the interval

Danielle de Niese, who sings the lead in our Festival 2019 production of Cendrillon, reveals what she does during the dinner interval of a performance at Glyndebourne.

As soon as the curtain comes down I head to my dressing room. This might sound strange but I often record my performances from my dressing room and then listen back to them in the interval… I think that it is very important to keep improving. I use the recordings throughout the run; I take notes and then have them at the side of the stage. ‘Never settle after the premiere’ that is part of my ethos.

At the start of the interval my dresser comes to get me out of my costume. We always change out of them at Glyndebourne. In any other opera house it would be OK, but it’s a dinner interval and food doesn’t mix well with wigs and costumes. Usually I will go to the Courtyard Café and join the queue of orchestra, chorus, dancers and singers. I try to only stop a little bit to talk and then take my meal back up to the dressing room and eat it quietly on my own. I would love to stay, but know I’d regret it if the second half didn’t go so well because I had stayed and talked and didn’t protect my voice.

Often my son will come to visit me. It is three years since I performed at Glyndebourne (in 2016’s Il barbiere di Siviglia) when he was still a baby. This year he will be four and I want him to embrace backstage life, as it is a life I love.

Quickly the first hour will have passed and then there is the half hour call. That is the end of the interval for us and the start of preparing for the second half of the performance. My dressers will come back and check if I am ready. My face has to be prepared to battle the heat and the sweat on stage. You could also have a different face, costume and wig for the second half, so there is a lot to do.

After letting my voice rest, I then re-vocalise. It is a luxury at Glyndebourne to be able to let your voice reboot and relax and have the break in the middle. I warm up by gently humming along to the music I am listening to in my headphones. The team at Glyndebourne are so used to me being in the zone with my music and constantly attached to my headphones, getting all tangled up and in the way. They will be pleased to know I have new wireless ones!

Throughout the run Sarah [Piper] and Sheila [Slaymaker], the heads of make-up and wigs pop in to check that everything is going well and that I am happy. They show such care and diligence. There is such a wonderful team of people who take care of me. There is a core group who are in the trenches with me – particularly my dresser, make-up artist and the wig staff. They are in the epicentre of my backstage life, they make everything so wonderful with their warmth and spirit – and stress free. It is a kind of ‘pas des quatre’ in the dressing room, a show of its own, and when it works I can go out on stage and fly.

The real cherry on the top is if Gus has about five seconds to pop in on his way back to his seat, say hello and wish me luck, and then I am back on stage!

Cendrillon (Cinderella) is on stage until 2 August 2019

Cendrillon photos by Richard Hubert Smith

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