Opera Warhorses

An appreciation and analysis of the 'Standard Repertory' of opera

Opera Warhorses random header image

Review: Crocetto, Berrugi, Dehn, Mulligan Star in Well-sung, Intelligently-Acted “La Boheme” – San Francisco Opera, November 15, 2014

November 16th, 2014

The night after the first San Francisco Opera performance of its co-production of “La Boheme” with Houston Grand Opera and Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company [see Review: Michael Fabiano, Alexia Voulgaridou are Vocally Splendid in John Caird’s Cleverly Conceived “La Boheme” – San Francisco Opera, November 14, 2014], the opera was presented again with a cast in which the four principal roles – Mimi, Rodolfo, Musetta and Marcello – were changed.

The alternate cast includes three artists familiar to San Francisco Opera audiences, Leah Crocetto as Mimi, Ellie Dehn as Musetta and Brian Mulligan as Marcello. Making his San Francisco Opera debut was lyric tenor Giorgio Berrugi. Over the next three weeks, the two sets of principal artists will alternate for the opera’s 13-performance run.

[Below: Mimi (Leah Crocetto, center, in bed) is dying, comforted by Musetta (Ellie Dehn, left), Rodolfo (Giorgio Berrugi, center, above) and Marcello (Brian Mulligan); edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF2 MIMIS DEATHBED (425)

Leah Crocetto’s Mimi

Leah Crocetto, a former Adler fellow, possesses a voice with the beauty to caress Puccini’s timeless melodies and the requisite power needed to hold one’s own with the big Puccini orchestral sound.

This is Crocetto’s second principal Puccini role assayed at the Puccini-friendly War Memorial Opera House [see Luisotti Leads Superb “Turandot” Cast In David Hockney’s Treasured Production – San Francisco Opera, September 9, 2011],

Crocetto also is an accomplished Verdian [San Francisco, Naples Jointly Celebrate Verdi Bicentennial With “Manzoni Requiem” – San Francisco Opera, October 25, 2013] and has met the challenge of the intricate florid vocal composition of a Rossini opera seria [Stormy Weather, But Strong Performances from Pisaroni, Crocetto, Bardon, Sledge in Rossini’s “Maometto II” – Santa Fe Opera, August 2, 2012.]

[Below: Leah Crocetto as Mimi; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF2 CROCETTO ACT 3 (425)

Giorgio Beruggi’s Rodolfo

Italian tenor Giorgio Beruggi was a compassionate Rodolfo, making a fine impression with an expressive lyric tenor voice and sensitive, empathetic acting.

His personal backstory is noteworthy. He was an award winning clarinetist in a Rome-based orchestra, when seven years ago, he committed to studying voice.

Within a few years, he became a regular lead tenor at the Dresden Semperoper, where, in 2011 he performed the role of Tamino in Mozart’s “Die Zauberfloete” in a performance conducted by Nicola Luisotti, who is music director of both the San Francisco Opera and the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples.

In early October 2014, Giuseppe Finzi, prior to his return to San Francisco to conduct Rossini’s “Cenerentola” and Puccini’s “La Boheme”, conducted Beruggi in Naples as Nemorino in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore”. In May 2015, Beruggi is scheduled to return to Naples as the “other Rodolfo”, the lead tenor in Verdi’s “Luisa Miller”.

The confidence of the Luisotti-Finzi team in this rising star appears fully justified.

[Below: Giorgio Beruggi as Rodolfo; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF2 BERRUGI (400)

 Ellie Dehn’s Musetta

As Musetta, soprano Ellie Dehn at San Francisco Opera, has with distinction performed a trio of prestigious lead soprano roles in the three Mozart operas with Da Ponte libretti [see A Beautifully Sung, Engaging “Cosi fan Tutte” at San Francisco Opera – June 9, 2013 and Meachem, Vinco, Lead Cast of Imaginatively Staged “Don Giovanni” – San Francisco Opera, October 23, 2011 and Copley Directs, Luisotti Conducts, Sparkling “Nozze” Ensemble – San Francisco Opera, October 3, 2010.]

Dehn, who has been lauded for her portrayals of Mimi, was all one hopes for as Musetta, singing her great Cafe Momus aria brilliantly, alternating fun and fury in the opera’s second and third scenes (acts in Puccini’s score)  and sympathetic in the somber scene of Mimi’s death.

[Below Musetta (Ellie Dehn, right), in a time of grief, talks seriously with her sometimes lover, Marcello (Brian Mulligan, left); edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF2 MULLIGAN DEHN FINALE (400)

Brian Mulligan’s Marcello

In yet another strong performance, the always-dependable baritone Brian Mulligan was a convincing Marcello, bringing the warm sound needed for the impoverished painter, whose moods alternate between the carefree and the conflicted. [See Rising Stars: An Interview with Brian Mulligan.]

The great third scene duet with Crocetto’s Mimi was memorable, as were the comic patter with his Bohemian roomies and the battles with his beloved Musetta.

[Below: the four Bohemian roommates try out their repertory of dance steps, from left to right Schaunard (Hadleigh Adams), Rodolfo (Giorgio Berrugi), Colline (Christian Van Horn) and Marcello (Brian Mulligan); edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF2 QUADRILLE (425)

Hadleigh Adams’ Schaunard

Each of the 13 regular San Francisco Opera performances of “Boheme” (there are two budget-priced performances for families) share the same cast for the comprimario roles, each of which was superbly played.

New Zealand baritone and current Adler Fellow Hadleigh Adams is Schaunard. Beyond a secure vocal technique is evidence of a clear sense of the spirit and humor of the part, and the physicality to create a portrait of an intensely likable sidekick.

[Below: the neighborhood surrounding the Cafe Momus where the Bohemians share a table at the left; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF2 CAFE MOMUS (425)

Christian Van Horn’s Colline

Christian Van Horn has emerged as the go-to basso for the San Francisco Opera in the last year or so, creating the roles of the Four Villains in San Francisco Opera’s mounting of their co-production of Offenbach’s masterpiece [see Matthew Polenzani Triumphs in Pelly’s Take on “Tales of Hoffmann” – San Francisco Opera, June 5, 2013.]

Earlier this season he has sung the roles of Oroveso [Review: Sondra Radvanovsky’s Stunning Season Opening “Norma” – San Francisco Opera, September 5, 2014], Count Ribbing [Review: A Stylishly Sung and Intelligently Staged “Masked Ball” at San Francisco Opera – October 4, 2014] and Alidoro [“Cenerentola” Review: San Francisco Opera’s Splendidly Sung, Sumptuously Staged Cinderella Story – November 9, 2014].

[Below: Musetta IEllie Dehn, left) and Marcello (center, second from left) continue their arguments as Mimi (Leah Crocetto, right) and Rodolfo (Giorgio Berrugi, second from right) are reconciled; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF2 COUPLES ACT 3 (425)

John Caird’s Production and David Farley’s Production and Costume Designs

The John Caird staging is a loving reading of the opera, faithful in its details to the spirit of the piece, but capable of continuous surprise.

I have previously praised John Caird’s inventive productions [see Brandon Jovanovich Triumphant in Historic “Don Carlos” Production – Houston Grand Opera, April 13, 2012 and A New “Tosca” for Houston Grand Opera – January 30, 2010.]

[Below: the garret apartment of the Bohemians; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF2 DEATHBED WIDESHOT (425)

In this production, Caird teamed with Broadway set and costume designer David Farley. One of the many felicitous results of this collaboration is the spectacular scene changes, first from the Bohemians garret to the Cafe Momus. In this change, as Mimi and Rodolfo leave the stage singing a love duet in unison, all of Marcello’s paintings that adorn the wall ascend as the set breaks away and all the set’s elements turn.

Magically, and without a pause, the Cafe Momus neighborhood is before us. Puccini’s entire first and second acts are completed in 55 minutes.

After the Cafe Momus scene, there is an intermission, and then Puccini’s third act begins in a Parisian neighborhood if an official custom house.

This provides an opportunity for Mimi and Rodolfo to reconcile temporarily their differences and to leave the stage singing a love duet in unison, when all the features of the custom house neighborhood break apart and either ascend or turn, the result being the recreation of the Bohemians’ garret. The entire third and acts, balancing the first two acts, are also completed in 55 minutes.

But the technical brilliance of the scene changes is only one of many charming features of the production.

Puccini’s stage directions are faithfully observed, but enhancements of Puccini’s inventions are always evident.

One example may inspire close attention to everything that’s happening. When Marcello arrives at the Cafe, he brings a small stand for displaying a painting. That provides an opportunity for a conniving Musetta to annoy Marcello. Sbe crosses the stage, picks the painting up to embellish a point.

Then Musetta’s exasperated consort Alcindoro (amusingly played by Dale Travis) storms over and takes hold of the painting. That enrages Marcello who blows off any germs that Alcindoro left on it, and packs it away.

Other Cast and Crew

Also in the hustle and bustle of the Cafe Momus scene, the children’s chorus was charmingly sung and acted, Ethan Chen a soloist as A Boy. Chester Pidduck was Parpignol, Colby Roberts a Prune Vendor. Bojan Knezevic was a Custom-House sergeant and Torlef Borsting his officer.

Giuseppe Finzi conducted with obvious affection for Puccini’s great work. Ian Robertson is Chorus Master.

Recommendation

I recommend the production enthusiastically, noting that both of the alternating casts have abundant strengths.

Tags: 2005-2014: William's Reviews

Review: Michael Fabiano, Alexia Voulgaridou are Vocally Splendid in John Caird’s Cleverly Conceived “La Boheme” – San Francisco Opera, November 14, 2014

November 15th, 2014

Puccini’s “La Boheme” is a perennial candidate for the title of world’s most popular opera.  There are a couple of other contenders, bur none so peopled with likeable characters so in love with life, and so affected when one of them, Mimi, succumbs to a fatal illness..

The San Francisco Opera has a long record of performing this opera well and of casting world class singers in the major roles, particularly of the lovers Rodolfo and Mimi. To take three famous examples, each of the artists who were collectively known as The Three Tenors made their San Francisco Opera debuts as Rodolfo early in their careers – Luciano Pavarotti at age 32, Placido Domingo at age 28 and Jose Carreras at age 27.

[Below: Michael Fabiano as the would-be playright Rodolfo; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera ]

BOHEME SF FABIANO MANUSCRIPT (400)

Another tenor phenomenon, Michael Fabiano, was the Rodolfo for the San Francisco opening night of John Caird’s co-production (with the Houston and Toronto opera companies).

One of the brightest of the rising young American opera stars [Rising Stars: An Interview with Michael Fabiano], earlier this year, Fabiano became the first artist to be named  “artist of the year” in the same year by both the Richard Tucker and Beverly Sills Foundations.

[Below: Rodolfo (Michael Fabiano, left) gazes adoringly at Mimi (Alexia Voulgaridou, right) who has unexpectedly appeared at his doorway; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF RODOLFO INFATUATED MIMI (400)

Fabiano has just turned 30, but Rodolfo is not his debut role with the San Francisco Opera.  Like Carreras, he debuted here at age 27, although as Gennaro in Donizetti’s “Lucrezia Borgia” [See Fleming, Fabiano, Frizza Fuel San Francisco Opera’s Flaming, Fulfilling First “Lucrezia Borgia” – September 23, 2011.]

In a role that is considered at the border of the lyric tenor voice, which can be so effective in the passionate roles of Donizetti and early Verdi, and the weightier spinto voice, associated with the heavier tenor roles of much of later Verdi, Puccini and the verismo composers, Fabiano demonstrated masterful control in Rodolfo’s lyrical love passages, and evidence of power in reserve for when he ready to take on bigger tenor roles in the future.

[Below: Rodolfo (Michael Fabiano, front left) and Marcello (Alexey Markov, front right) discuss whether to burn a paper manuscript or oil paintings to help warm the room; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF RODOLFO MARCELLO'S ART (425)

(I suggest that is is relevant to a discussion of the youthful Fabiano, that during Pavarotti’s mid- and late 30s, Pavarotti performed at the San Francisco Opera in seven seasons in lyric roles – in operas by Donizetti and Verdi as well as “Boheme”, Then, at age 40, Pavarotti moved unambiguously into the spinto category in subsequent seasons here.

My comments relate to the choice of roles at the War Memorial Opera House, but, if one infers a prediction of future superstardom, I will not discourage it.)

Alexia Voulgaridou’s Mimi

Fabiano’s Mimi was the bright-voiced Greek soprano, Alexia Voulgaridou, in her San Francisco Opera debut.

Voulgaridou  brought expressiveness to the role, affecting in her duets with Fabiano, arresting in the lushly melodic duet with the Marcello of Alexey Markov.

Nadine Sierra’s Musetta 

Nadine Sierra, who, as a San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow appeared in roles in the 2011 season, returns in the principal role of Musetta, whose second scene ballad, usually called Musetta’s Waltz, is the most famous part of the opera.

I had reported on an extraordinary performance vy Nadine Sierra at the 2013 Glimmerglass Festival [See Superlative: Anthony Roth Costanzo, Nadine Sierra, Ensemble Dancers Superb in Jessica Lang’s Visualization of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater – Glimmerglass Festival, July 20, 2013.]

Playing a quite different part that has both comic vitality in the Cafe Momus scene and poignant intensity at the death of Mimi in the opera’s finale, Sierra quickly established herself as an audience favorite.

[Below: Nadine Sierra is Musetta; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

BOHEME SF MUSETTA GLARING (400)

Sierra’s Musetta’s fiery relationship with Alexey Markov’s Marcello was nicely staged.

Alexey Markov’s Marcello

One assesses Marcello’s character not through introspective arias but through his duet with Mimi and his lively interchanges with Rodolfo and the Bohemians and with Musetta.

Here Markov’s artistry and Caird’s staging made for an effective presentation of this lead baritone role.

John Caird’s production and other cast and crew

Since I will be reviewing both casts, I will spend more time in the second review on the production itself, the sets of David Farley, the conducting of Giuseppe Finzi, and the other cast members, which include Christian Van Horn (Colline), Hadleigh Evans (Schaunard) and Dale Travis (Benoit and Alcindoro).

However, an amazing element of the production is the inventive scene changes between the first and second scenes (desginated acts in the opera) before the single intermission and the third and fourth sccnes (acts three and four) afterwards.

Recommendation

I recommend the John Caird production of “La Boheme” enthusiastically, as I do this cast.

(See also my review of the alternate cast at Review: Crocetto, Berrugi, Dehn, Mulligan Star in Well-sung, Intelligently-Acted “La Boheme” – San Francisco Opera, November 15, 2014.)

Tags: 2005-2014: William's Reviews

Rising Stars – An Interview with Alek Shrader

November 12th, 2014

The following interview took place on the “ranch” of the Santa Fe Opera, whose facilitation of this interview is deeply appreciated:

 

[Below: Tenor Alek Shrader; edited image of a publicity photograph for IMG Artists.]

ALEC SHRADER HEADSHOT (400)

Wm: What do you consider your home town?

AS: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and lived as a small child in Lubbock, Texas and Stillwater, Oklahoma, but  Alva, Oklahoma is where I grew up.

Wm: I routinely ask those I interview what were their earliest memories of music and of opera. But both your parents were opera singers, so your memories must be very early indeed.

AS: I really cannot remember when I first heard opera, because my mother was pregnant with me while performing.

I have many vague memories of opera when we were still in Cleveland. I would often go with them to the theater. I don’t know what shows they were, but I remember that I spent time at rehearsals under my mother’s makeup table.

Wm: Then how did you become an Oklahoman?

AS: When I was eight, we moved from Cleveland. After a spell in Lubbock, my father held a faculty position at Oklahoma State University and worked with the Tulsa Opera as its chorus master. He then became head of the music department at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva.

Wm: When did you decide to become an opera singer?

AS: The opera bug didn’t bite me for quite a while. My first decision was to become anything other than an opera singer. Since I had two opera-singing parents, I wanted to make my own way in life. However, I knew that music would still be part of it.

[Below: Alek Shrader as Count Almaviva with Isabel Leonard as Rosina in the 2014 Lyric Opera of Chicago production of Rossini's "Barber of Seville"; edited image, based on a Dan Rest photograph for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.]

SHRADER LEONARD BARBER2 cDan_Rest (400)

Wm: How did your interest in non-operatic music manifest itself?

AS: I formed a rock band.

Wm: Rock bands seem to be an early stage of the career path of quite a few opera careers. When did you decide to leave your rock career behind?

AS: We really had a great time, and for a while the plan was to be a high school music teacher by day/small-town rock star by night. So I became a music education major at Northwestern Oklahoma State, taking voice lessons from my mother who was teaching there.

She was really supportive, motivated me and inadvertently got me thinking about pursuing performance.

Wm: When did your voice come to the attention to the music world outside of your family?

AS: In my third of year of college, I sang a master class with Richard Miller. He was very enthusiastic and encouraged me to shift my focus to performance and come audition at the Oberlin Conservatory.

I was truly flattered, but I had one year left to get my music education degree, so I delayed. After graduating the following year, I auditioned for Oberlin and got in. I worked with Miller until he retired, and Salvatore Champagne after that. That was the start of a whirlwind.

Wm: What was the whirlwind?

AS:  My experience as a performer has often felt like a wild, nonstop whirlwind of events.  Things happen one after the other.  So much has happened at once that I entered the New York Metropolitan Opera’s competition. So much has happened at once that I sometimes don’t understand how I got here. But I’m grateful, and loving the ride, however.

Wm: How would you describe the current “ride”?

AS: Scary. It’s always terrifying. My voice is changing. That’s something that a tenor is warned will happen, but it still gives me a lot to consider.

Wm: Into what kind of repertory do you think your changing voice will take you?

AS: I expect to remain within the bel canto repertory, but I’ll be leaving the lighter, higher roles to pursue the lyric tenor roles of Donizetti and the French repertory.

Wm: Your schedule includes Donizetti roles at the Santa Fe Opera in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Your 2014 role, Ernesto in “Don Pasquale” lies high in the tenor range. Quite a few lyric tenors avoid it.

AS: I’m comfortable singing Ernesto, even though it is a high role.

[Below: Alek Shrader as Ernesto and Shelley Jackson as Norina in the 2014 Santa Fe Opera production of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale"; edited image, based on a Ken Howard photograph, courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera.]

DON PASQUALE SNTA FE SHRADER JACKSON (425)

Wm: You are scheduled to open Santa Fe’s 2015 season in the role of Tonio in Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment”. Many people first heard of you when you appeared in Susan Froemke’s film “The Audition” about the Met competition, singing Tonio’s Ah, mes amis.

Now, I’ve interviewed a coloratura soprano who sings Marie who expressed some annoyance at the tenors who get so much publicity for that aria with its nine high C’s, while ignoring what a difficult role Marie actually is. Would you like to defend the tenor class against her comment?

AS: I’ve learned it’s always best to give the soprano as much publicity as she needs. She does have a point. As far as high C’s go, Donizetti placed them in octaves – that’s a very friendly approach to high notes, much easier than the leap of a fourth, for example.

It also bypasses the passagio completely so all you have to worry about is getting a clean, onset, correct consonant/vowel agreement, breath support just right, proper resonance, make sure your face doesn’t look weird, singing in tune, wait that seems to be more than I though.

In all honesty, it is not quite as difficult as it seems, or as it could be. That’s no secret.

That said, Tonio is not a walk in the park.. The role  has many challenges beyond that famous aria, including its high tessitura and its requirement for vocal flexibility. The aria is not the role, but it creates its own pressure. The expectation is that you’ll sing it brilliantly, and expectations are the most difficult thing a singer has to contend with.

Wm: I’ve interviewed both Michael Fabiano and Ryan McKinny about the film. You were made out to be the star of the show. What were your thoughts on the film?

 AS: I believe that the editing was very kind to me, but the film was not scripted. We did say those things.

Wm: She seemed to be putting you and Fabiano against each other.

AS: Michael and I shared a dressing room and had a very pleasant relationship. It is true that in some ways we are opposites. He is very focused and wants to do the work. I would look for ways to play and have fun. But there was never any animosity between us.

That competition was so stressful and so important to my career. I’m really grateful for the whole experience and the fact that I have video evidence.

Wm: You won the Met competition. What happened next?

AS: I was accepted into the Juilliard Opera Center and I sang in a summer apprenticeship at the Merola Program of the San Francisco Opera.

[Below: Alek Shrader as Ernesto and Danielle De Niese as Norina in the 2013 Glyndebourne Festival production of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale"; edited image, based on a Tristram Kenton photograph for the Glyndebourne Festival.]

Alek Shrader (Ernesto) and Danielle de Niese (Norina)

Wm: This was your first experience with the San Francisco Opera. How did it go?

AS: I had a great time there. I liked San Francisco and everyone at Merola, particularly a certain mezzo-soprano.

I performed with her that summer in Rossini’s “Cenerentola”. That was where I got to know Daniela Mack.

Wm: When did you and Daniela become an “item”?

AS: We had a summer romance. We had been secretly attracted to each other, but kept it in check during rehearsals. The director thought he was doing a great job because our chemistry was so believable.

When the summer was over, I asked if she would come back to New York City with me. Then the San Francisco Opera offered both of us its Adler Fellowships.

That knocked everything else off the table. Suddenly, I had the best of both worlds –  a professional job with the woman who would become my wife.

I was still expected to complete at least one year at Juilliard, where I had been chosen for the title role in Rossini’s “Le Comte Ory” and the part of George Gibbs in the world premiere of Ned Rorem’s opera “Our Town”. Following that, I had summer engagements at the Opera Theater of St. Louis and the Music Academy of the West.

I called Sheri Greenawald, the director of the Merola Opera Program, and explained that I really wanted to accept the Adler, but I had to fulfill the obligations. She miraculously gave me permission to show up for my Adler Fellowship eight months late. There are so many kindnesses that have been done for me, but that was a big one.

AS: On the second day of the academic year, I told the Juilliard faculty that I would complete the year I had signed up for, but did not plan to continue there afterwards.

Wm: And Juilliard gave its blessing to your change in plans?

AS: They were very understanding. They had the whole year to adjust to my decision, and I think we ended on good terms. I’ve had good relationships with stage director Stephen Wadsworth since my time there.

[Below: Alek Shrader next to the posters announcing his starring role in Rossini's "Le Comte Ory"; edited image of a photograph from tumblr.com.]

SHRADER COMTE ORY POSTER (400)

Wm: Describe your Adler fellowship.

AS: I was an Adler Fellow during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. I studied voice with Cesar Ulloa. Daniela and I had small roles in Korngold’s “Die Tote Stadt” and I sang some of the performances of Nemorino in Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore”.

I also sang the role of an elderly gentleman in Mozart’s “Idomeneo”. It was the only time I’ve worn a white wig. Daniela was the cover for the much larger role of Idamante in that opera. As it turned out, the mezzo-soprano she was covering had to withdraw from the last several performances, and Daniela went on.

Wm: I was at the performance where Daniela took over, and, as far as I know, was the only reviewer of her debut performance in a leading role.

AS: We know. We cherish that review. We had expected that no one would see her performances since most reviewers are there for the first night.

We feel so fortunate that someone was there to add that moment to the historical record.

Wm: You, as a San Francisco Opera Adler fellow, spent much of your time singing in the War Memorial Opera House. As you were then a light lyric tenor, did you find the size of the house daunting?

 AS: Acoustically, I cut my teeth there. I’m comfortable there and will continue to sing there. The house presents challenges, but every opera house in the world has challenges for a singer.

[Below: Alek Shrader participates in a social media interview at the War Memorial Opera House; edited image from a video, from the San Francisco Opera.]

SHRADER WAR MEMORIAL (425)

I like the War Memorial because its acoustics allow you to get a sense that your voice is being projected, as opposed to stages where you can have no reference of what is being heard. It’s really not whether the house is big or small, but how your voice works within it.

Wm: In the 2014 Santa Fe Opera season you are singing Ernesto and Daniela is singing the title role of Bizet’s “Carmen”. You have performed together in Britten’s “Albert Herring” and in Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” and have other joint appearances scheduled. What is it like performing with your spouse?

AS: For me, it’s even more fun playing with your spouse in an opera. You already have an understanding of what to expect from your partner. The more you can make things spark, the more fun it can be.

But now that we are married, we are given romantic leads together, we know what the other is likely to do – it’s about trust. . When one of us takes the lead, the other has a good understanding of what we expect to happen. That’s said, it’s always fun to throw a curve ball.

Where were you married?

AS: We got married in Katy, Texas, because her parents live in nearby Houston. We found a beautiful hacienda where we could have an outside wedding.

[Below Daniela Mack with Alek Shrader; edited image of a Ken Howard photograph, courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera.]

SHRADER AND MACK

Wm: Where do you call home?

AS: We are completely nomadic. We have a mailing address and trunks of clothing in our parents’ garages.

In working out the logistics of our schedules, it was clear that there would never be much time when both of us could be at “home”, where we spend our free time wherever the other one happens to be working..

Wm: How does that work?

AS: I will be following Daniela around after the 2014 Santa Fe season, since she is scheduled for galas and master classes and I have a few weeks off. Then we go to San Francisco Opera, where we both will be performing in Handel’s “Partenope”.

Wm: Are there special challenges in singing what Handel wrote for the tenor voice?

AS: Handel presents quite a few challenges for tenors.  Since he lingers in the passaggio, there is a muscle temptation to either come off your breath or push through the phrase – that’s setting yourself up to fail later in the evening.

Handel requires constant and steady supported singing, no matter how many notes are crammed into each measure.  At the same time, knowledge of style is required for those all-important embellished da capos.  Since he mostly wrote arias, you will feel exposed for most (if not all) of your singing.

Wm: You have engagements in Handel operas in San Francisco and at the Seattle Opera, and a track record singing in Rossini and Donizetti comedies. Which composer is your favorite?

AS: I like Rossini best, especially Almaviva, which was my first lead role. He gets to play four different characters in the same opera.

Wm: You are still one of only two tenors to have sung Almaviva’s Cessa piu resistere at the War Memorial Opera House, where it was never performed before 2013. Where do you think your changing voice is leading you?

I don’t expect to venture beyond the Duca in “Rigoletto” or Alfredo in “La Traviata”. I am planning to avoid Rodolfo in Puccini’s “La Boheme”.

Wm: Are there things you regret about your nomadic existence?

AS: A dog has been on Daniela’s wish list for seven years. We started looking at breeds that fit under an airline seat.

Wm: Thank you, Alec, for an interesting hour.

AS: Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: 2008-2014 William's Interviews

Visit Opera Warhorses on Facebook!