I've said it before and will no doubt say it again: Edna Garabedian is a remarkable woman. Fresno's beloved diva — she became the artistic force behind California Opera after a decades-long international singing career — took a bad fall down a flight of stairs June 17 at the dress rehearsal of the production of "Les Miserables" she was directing in Visalia. She hit her head on the concrete floor 15 feet below, broke her elbow and injured her knee.
It could have been a dismal turn of events for Garabedian. But a week after the accident she is upbeat, even chipper. "I am so grateful," she says. "I could have been killed. I feel very blessed."
The tumble took place backstage at the College of the Sequoias theater, where the "Les Miz" production — an offering from Visalia's League of Christian Actors — was a few hours from dress rehearsal. Garabedian had arrived minutes before to the theater, her hands full, and she opened the wrong door and fell.
"Everything happened so quickly," she says. "The next thing I knew, I was in the hospital."
Although COS had been experiencing intermittent power outages that week because of faulty wiring connections, it was not a factor in the accident, college officials say.
Now comes the heroic part of the tale.
After being treated at the local emergency room, Garabedian opted to return to that night's dress rehearsal to help put the finishing touches on the mammoth production. No matter the painkillers prescribed, that couldn't have been pleasant.
The next day, she had surgery on her elbow, which took her out of commission for the short duration of the show's run. (There were seven performances over a five-day period.)
Ever the singer, she was most concerned going into surgery about her voice. She asked the anesthesiologist to be extra careful putting the tube down her throat. He responded by telling her he knew who she was — and he asked her to sing a few notes. Her last memory before going under was singing an arpeggio.
The verdict is still out on whether she'll need surgery for her knee, but Garabedian was resting comfortably. She says the accident will have no impact on her annual California Opera summer festival, now in its 14th year.
The performance and education event will kick off July 21 and run through Aug. 11. Included on the lineup are a fully staged production of "The Barber of Seville" and semi-staged productions of "Rigoletto" and "The Mikado," plus popular annual events such as the Meet the Artists showcase.
Because of the popularity of the Visalia "Les Miz" production, Garabedian plans another version — using some of the same cast members — at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis, where the festival puts on its fully staged productions. Performances will take place the weekend of Aug. 9.
It seems that Garabedian is determined to be in the audience for her own "Les Miz" after all. A flight of stairs can't keep her down.
I'm excited about my new e-book, "The Company We Keep," the first offering of its kind from The Bee.
Published on the 40th anniversary of Good Company Players, the 20,000-word book offers nine chapters tracing GCP's 40 years through the central character of Dan Pessano.
From an extended history of the company's early days to the successes of some of its brightest stars, the book looks at the challenges of keeping a theater company afloat and asks: What's next?
You can download the book for $2.99 at the Kindle, iBook and Vook bookstores.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6373, firstname.lastname@example.org and @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.