The Makropulos Affair: Preparing for the role of Emilia

14 October 2022

This Season Welsh National Opera presents a brand-new production of Janáček’s lesser-known comic thriller, The Makropulos Affair. We spoke to Ángeles Blancas Gulin, who is performing the role of diva Emilia Marty, about how she prepared for the role.

‘The first time I came across this opera was around ten years ago when a very close friend of mine, who is a great baritone, told me about it and recommended I study it as it was a perfect role for me. So, I bought the music score and started studying it, just for pleasure.

Surprisingly, three months later Teatro La Fenice in Venice offered me the role of Emilia Marty for a production with Robert Carsen one year later. I realised that everything around Elina Makropulos is full of magic. It was the first time I heard Janáček’s music, and I completely fell in love with it. In him there’s a synergy between musical intelligence and passion. The tough part about it is the language. In TheMakropulos Affair, Janáček adapts the music to Chapek’s original text very well. The first two acts are like a speech – it’s not the average vocal, operatic, way of singing. Only in the final aria in the third act does Janáček unfold an unrivalled lyricism and beauty, full of spiritual energy. After I accepted the role for La Fenice, I spent the next six months studying, translating, and working on pronunciation. Making the Czech language mine; a language which also has a magical and telluric background.

The years have passed and now that I´m a bit older, Elina has unveiled many more secrets to me: on a musical level and on an interpretative level. Here at WNO, working with Olivia Fuchs, I have found the opportunity to completely develop the role and express myself on all levels. Here I have taken part in the project from the beginning, whereas the other two times I played this role it was a revival of a previous production and I therefore had to repeat the original sopranos’ movements.

Woman in red dress pulls a man's tie seductively, in front of a giant clock

Here I’ve found a great Maestro: Tomáš Hanus (WNO Music Director), who not only knows this opera inside out, but has been a great guide and advisor throughout the whole process. And what about my colleagues? Without them the story wouldn’t work. Without them there wouldn’t be a The Makropulos Affair. Without them Emilia Marty could not reveal her great secret. It has been a tough job, but they’re all great singers, great professionals with enormous interpretative skills, which has allowed a great level of understanding among us all, creating a live and organic show every night.

Every night on the stage, in front of the public, is different, because in the end, this profession – singing – is like a great mandala: creating forms and colours that will be destroyed and disappear at the end of the night. That´s how art remains alive inside your heart. Long live Elina Makropulos.’

See Ángeles as Emilia in our production of The Makropulos Affair until 2 December, with dates in Llandudno, Plymouth, Birmingham, Southampton and Oxford.