Three days before the first night of Covent Garden’s new production of Meyerbeer’s little-known Robert le diable, coloratura soprano Jennifer Rowley, who was to have made her Royal Opera House debut as Isabelle, has been withdrawn from the role.
In a highly unusual move, the opera house issued a statement this lunchtime in which they said: ‘After much deliberation and consultation following the final rehearsals, it has been agreed between Royal Opera and soprano that the role of Isabelle would not be the right part for her debut at Covent Garden.
‘The Royal Opera considers Jennifer Rowley an important voice of the future and we are keen to build a continued relationship with her. However, voices do develop and we have to recognise that this role is not ideally suited for her now more dramatic voice.’
The statement said that, ‘despite all efforts until the last minute by all parties to make it work as well as possible’, it had been mutually agreed that Rowley would not appear and that her Covent Garden debut would be postponed.
At the same time, Covent Garden said that the Royal Opera was ‘proud to announce’ that it had been agreed that Rowley would return in 2015 ‘in her celebrated role of Musetta in La bohème’. The statement said that another important role was under discussion for the future.
It was only in June that Covent Garden announced Rowley was to make her house debut in the production as a replacement for Diana Damrau, who had withdrawn because she was pregnant.
The role of Isabelle will now be shared between Italian soprano Patrizia Ciofi, who will sing for the first four performances, and the Russian Sofia Fomina, who will sing the remaining two.
According to her own website, Rowley ‘burst onto the international scene as a last minute replacement in the title role of Donizetti's Maria di Rohan at the 2010 Caramoor Music Festival, a performance she gave with just one day's notice and one rehearsal’.
This spring, she made her Carnegie Hall debut in Verdi’s Requiem.