Opera singer Danielle de Niese has opened up about suffering through a miscarriage hours before her acclaimed performance in La Bohème at the Royal Opera House.
The 41-year-old soprano, who is the chatelaine of Glyndebourne in East Sussex following her marriage to Gus Christie, told The Guardian how she sang through the pain of the ordeal during the show’s opening night, last Saturday.
Mother-of-two Danielle recalled how 18 hours before her performance – which was dubbed ‘standout’ and ‘big-hearted’ – she was in hospital in severe pain from a miscarriage.
It was later confirmed as an ectopic pregnancy – which is when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes, meaning it is unable to develop.
Danielle did not know she was pregnant and is still breastfeeding her seven-month-old daughter, Sheherazade Christie, who was born on November 13, 2020, after making a ‘dramatic entrance’ in the world in her mother’s amniotic sac.
Danielle de Niese in La Bohème at the Royal Opera House. The Opera singer has opened up about suffering through a miscarriage hours before her acclaimed performance
Danielle De Niese with her five-year-old son Bacchus and baby daughter Sheherazade
Neither the reviewers, audience nor most of her colleagues knew about Danielle’s miscarriage, which caused her to suffer from cramps for days afterwards – but the soprano said she was fortunate to have the Royal Opera House’s full support.
Danielle first experienced cramping last Friday, and visited her GP who confirmed she was pregnant.
‘Even though I thought I was having a miscarriage, when Gus and I heard that I was pregnant there was no time to come to grips with it,’ she said.
‘I was thinking: “I’ve had a miscarriage; this will probably come out in a few hours and I’ll then rest for the performance”.
She insisted that she wasn’t prioritising her show over her painful experience – yet she had a desire to see her premiere through.
The 41-year-old soprano, who is the chatelaine of Glyndebourne in East Sussex following her marriage to Gus Christie, pictured in 2019
Overnight the pain – which she said was so severe she couldn’t manage to hide it from her children – increased and Danielle and her husband went to hospital in Brighton, where she was given liquid morphine.
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes.
The fallopian tubes are the tubes connecting the ovaries to the womb.
If an egg gets stuck in them, it won’t develop into a baby and your health may be at risk if the pregnancy continues.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to save the pregnancy. It usually has to be removed using medicine or an operation.
In the UK, around 1 in every 80-90 pregnancies is ectopic. This is around 12,000 pregnancies a year.
The hospital was unable to scan the Opera singer at the time to determine whether it was an ectopic pregnancy so she returned home.
In the morning, after being in less pain, Danielle wondered if she could still perform and phoned the supportive Royal Opera House.
She was reassured that if she wanted to pull out of the performance, there were contingency plans in place.
But she also wasn’t encouraged not to go on, with the decision left entirely to Danielle.
‘I felt so loved in that moment because as a theatre person you want to perform. I suppose, if they had told me not to perform, I may have felt sidelined and even like I was being penalised for talking about it,’ she said.
Danielle, who was told she could pull out of the performance at any point, even during it, spoke to medics to ensure she wasn’t putting herself at additional risk.
‘Not looking for chaos’, the Opera singer gave her medical notes to her dresser but didn’t inform other performers because she didn’t want to put them off their performances.
Playing the part of Musetta, Danielle appears in acts two and three of the two-hour and 25-minute rendition of Puccini’s La Bohème.
Arriving backstage, her husband said her performance was ‘amazing’, while Danielle admitted it felt like an ‘out-of-body experience’.
During her top notes, she could feel a strain on her groin muscles, and rather than jumping off stage at the end, she was given a hand down.
Mother-of-two Danielle (pictured) recalled how 18 hours before her performance – which was dubbed as ‘standout’ and ‘big-hearted’ – she was in hospital in severe pain from a miscarriage
A scene from La Boheme by Puccini at the Royal Opera House, directed by Richard Jones
Her unknown pregnancy was confirmed as ectopic two days later, but unlike some women, she has not had to undergo any medical procedures.
The Opera singer chose to open up about her experience to raise awareness, explaining that women face the pain of miscarriages every day.
In January, the soprano revealed that her baby daughter Sheherazade made a ‘dramatic entrance’ in the world – in her amniotic sac.
‘It was a big, dramatic entrance. She came out intact in the amniotic sac,’ Danielle told Hello! magazine.
Being born ‘en caul’ means a portion of the amniotic sac or membrane remains intact during birth. It affects less than one-in-80,000 newborns and is harmless and can be removed by experts.
Danielle (pictured in 2019) did not know she was pregnant and is still breastfeeding her seven-month-old daughter, Sheherazade Christie, who was born on November 13, 2020
Sheherazade, who is named after the character from One Thousand And One Nights, is younger sister to five-year-old son Bacchus, while Danielle’s husband Gus, executive chairman of Glyndebourne, also has four sons from a previous marriage.
The singer’s parents, who are from Sri Lanka with Dutch and Scottish heritage, moved to Australia before she was born.
At the age of nine, Danielle won a children’s TV talent competition and when the family moved to America when she was 11, she hosted TV show LA Kids, for which she won an Emmy award.
She made her professional operatic debut aged 15, by 18 was on Broadway in Les Misérables and at 19 she made her first appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
She married husband Gus and at the church of St Bartholomew The Great in London in 2009.