The life and times of an actress who played "Carlotta"......
by Valda Aviks

I have always loved to sing. When I was a child I sang in the church choir, and I also had a guitar and sang folk songs (everyone did in those days!) I was the class clown, and loved to "perform", though I never managed to make it into the drama club or the "good" choir at high school (I only got into the one that anyone could get into!) I thought even if I could never aspire to a career in the theatre, I could teach theatre, so when I went on to Kansas University (Lawrence, Kansas) I majored in Education, with a Minor in Theater. (N.B. Since I have lived in London for 11 years, the spelling of "Theater" as in American English looks wrong to me, so I'll carry on spelling it "Theatre"). After K.U., I went to Canada, where I have lots of relatives (my parents are from Latvia, and there's a big Latvian community in Toronto). To my total amazement, I was cast in the original Toronto production of GODSPELL, with the likes of Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Eugene Levy,Andrea Martin, and Jayne Eastwood, so all thoughts of teaching went out the window! After Toronto, I did GODSPELL in New York, where I started studying singing in earnest. After some years of very little work, I went to Vienna to do a show called SONG OF BROADWAY at Vienna's English Theatre, where I met my husband, Martin Lawton, who was then the stage manager there. At Theater an der Wien in Vienna, I did CATS for 4 years (!) playing "Gumbie Cat" and "Griddlebone". Then we moved to London, where I did CATS for another year (in English! Yay!), and then LES MIS.

I had auditioned for PHANTOM several times--including for the original production (I had been on holiday in Paris, and flew to London for the afternoon to sing. Naturally, I didn't get it, because it's "Rosemary Ashe" whose name is on the original poster--not "Valda Aviks"!) But I finally got my chance at Carlotta at the Raimundtheater in Vienna (Priti Coles was the first "Carlotta" in Vienna, but I was the last!). Imagine a German-speaking Carlotta with an Italian accent. Hmmmm. Needless to say, I adored playing the role. Every Carlotta knows that she is actually the star of the piece, and that the Christine/Phantom/Raoul story is just a sideline. It's this conviction that enables us to carry on against great odds. The most stressful thing about the role (for me) was waking up every morning and checking to see what shape my voice was in. Obviously, I always wanted to be at my best, and those high E's and F's are not child's play. So if the voice was a bit glommed up (excuse the technical term) I had to spend the day coddling it so I could be ready to amaze and delight the public in the evening.

Next, I played Carlotta for a year in England at the Manchester Opera House, and then, at last, London--the golden cradle of the Divine Diva. Ah, the joy of treading the boards at Her Majesty's Theatre! Everything since has seemed a bit of an anticlimax. To console me, however, I have the friendship of my dresser, Lois Elliott-Bickmore (who is a great photographer and all round nice gal) and--I know this will amaze you, knowing how proud and yet insecure we Carlottas are--the companionship of another Carlotta, Jasna Ivir (though I know she will understand that you must rather vote for me than for her in the contest, musn't you!?)

To show that I am not too proud, I consented to carry on my career, and in the years A.C. ("after Carlotta"), I played "Widow Corney" in OLIVER! at the Palladium, "Mrs. Potts" in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at the Dominion and now I am back in Vienna, assaying a character part---the comic yet compelling "Rebecca" in TANZ DER VAMPIRE, which is based on Roman Polanski's film, THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS.

I still sing, and, every now and then, in a quiet moment, I catch a glimpse in the corner of my eye of a great elephant, turning majestically to reveal--- a drunken stagehand! And again I am there at the Opera in Paris, holding THAT head, pouring forth that mighty cadenza, cheating death in an agonizing moment of terror---Ah, it was then I was truly alive!!!

Valda Aviks whose parents are Latvian, was born in Germany and grew up in the United States. She has a B.A. degree in English and Education from the University of Kansas. Theatre: Valda first played Carlotta(in the German language Das Phantom Der Oper) in Vienna at the Raimund Theater and went on to create the role for the Manchester production of The Phantom of the Opera. She first appeared in Londonís West End as Gumbie/Griddlebone in Cats at Theater an der Wien( and also played with that company on tour in Moscow and at East Berlinís Komische Oper). She played in the ensemble and was assistant director for Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre. Previous theatre work includes Godspell (at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto, Promenade Theatre, New Yorkand on tour in the midi- western and Eastern U.S.); Song of Broadway, Viennaís English Theatre (where she met her husband Actor/Stage Manager Martin Lawton); Bernstrinís Mass, Deutschlandhalle, West Berlin; Cook in King Rollo, Space Crusader, Watermill Theatre, Newbury; as half the cabaret duo The Dueling Divas in My Funny Valentine at the Canal Cafť Theatre, London; Noel Cowardís Peace In Our Time at the Kingís Head where she directed Ibsenís Ghosts at the Theatre museum, Covent Garden.

Television: Emigranten, ORF (Austria); Der Weg Zu Cats, ORF; Marge in Words of Love (BBC
Screen 2); Friends of Gilda (CBC, Canaca).
Film: Melissa Rickman in Clive Barkerís Night Breed
Recordings: Original Cast album, Cats, Vienna: Save the Children Christmas Carols

From Valda..

Greetings from a former Carlotta. I played the "Daunting Diva" in Vienna (1992-93), Manchester, England (1993-94) and London (1995-96). I'm currently in Vienna to take over the role of "Rebecca" in TANZ DER VAMPIRE (how's that for a chan ge of pace?). I see I haven't got any votes in the "Favorite Carlotta" competition, so I'll just vote for myself (it's what Carlotta would do, but she wouldn't tell the world like I just did!) It's the most wonderful role to play--and a great sing. But hardly anyone in the audience appreciates Carlotta's hard work. They all want to applaud for that upstart Christine and her boyfriends. Yecchhh.

Valda can also be heard as a Lovely Lady on the Tenth Anniversary Cast recording of Les Miserables.

Valda from the playbill.