Ana Maria Martinez may be one of the world's leading prima donnas, but that is on the stage. Off the boards she is admired by all who work with her, not just for her beautiful voice but for her wonderful demeanour. As she walked into the wings following her rightly earned standing ovation after both nights of singing Mimi in Puccini's La Bohème at the Emirates Palace auditorium on Thursday and Friday she could have been forgiven for behaving in an excited manner, full of her own importance. However, she gave the impression that she had just finished her shopping at the local supermarket.
"Do you think that went OK?" she smiled. "I enjoyed that. Singing always gives me a wonderful feeling inside, especially if I am performing in a country I have never visited before." Martinez was only able to spend a few days in Abu Dhabi, which, she admitted, was a disappointment. "It is such a shame," she said. "But we fly in shortly before the opera and then fly away again the morning after the last night. That's the way this life is I'm afraid."
Although saying that she always suffered from nerves before a performance - "I believe that having butterflies in your tummy keeps you on your toes" - the role of Mimi should hold no fear for Martinez, as she has played it for many of the world's leading opera companies for 14 years. That wasn't so, however, for other cast members. "Lots of the artists here in Abu Dhabi are doing La Bohème for the first time so, it is nice to be able to pass on some of my experience of the opera to them and, hopefully, help the show in a way other than just by singing in it," she said.
Her generosity with her time was fully appreciated by everyone connected with the opera and was proof that although she may be one of the world's most sought after prima donnas but she can still be "one of the gang". This was never more apparent than when she was drinking coffee outside her dressing room with other cast members who all sported badges showing they were performers. Martinez's badge said simply "crew". When asked if she was making extra money helping with the lighting she laughed and replied: "There were no more 'performer' badges left so I was given this. It's cute isn't it. I've never been a crew member before, I'm definitely going to tuck this away with my souvenirs."
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to opera singer Evangelina Colon, Martinez has won Grammys for her recordings as well as winning various world awards for brilliance. Married with a three-year-old son, Martinez said she would love to return to Abu Dhabi again to perform. "I love bringing opera to all parts of the world and it is wonderful to know that I have been part of the very first full opera to be performed here," she said. "I hope all who came enjoyed it and that it if was their first opera it left them with the feeling that they would like to come again."