Opera Puls Interview

Have you ever sung anything in Czech language? What would you like to add to your repertoire from Czech works and why?

Unfortunately, I have never sung any operas in the Czech language. I studied and learned the role of the Prince in “Rusalka.” I think this role uits me very well and it would be my first choice of the Czech repertoire to sing. The closest I’ve come was the “Glagolitic Mass.” But, as you know that is not Czech. But close, in a way.

Some of Prague opera goers still remember your wonderful Samson you sang at National Theatre in Prague. Do you have any special memories of NT, Prague? Do you plan to come back in the future?

Thank you for remembering my Samson in Prague. It was a wonderful time. As far as returning to Prague that would depend on the theatre’s desire to have me back. I do have a very very special memory of my time in Prague which changed my life forever. That memory is of the great tenor Sergej Larin. I was very lucky to have shared the stage with him. It was an honor. Sergej and I became very good friends during that production and we remained friends afterward until the time he died. I learned some great lessons from him. Sergej was one of the great artists of the 20th Century. He was a great man, a dignified soul, a true artist, thespian, scholar and great singer. More importantly, however, he was a great man. I often come across people who worked with him or who knew him, Every person has the utmost praise for his talent, his humility, his artistry. Sergej remains one of my heroes and I can only hope to achieve the level of success and artistry he maintained in his life. I will always think of Samson fondly because of Sergej. He truly was Samson and taught me much about the character, life and art.

You were one of the performers who were part of the World Premiere of Giorgio Battistelli’s THE FASHION. How does it feel to perform a work for the first time ever? Do you think it’s more difficult for a singer to sing a new work then to sing a known opera that many other artists did sing before?

If feels very “exciting” to perform a new work. There is the element of the unknown which surrounds the piece. Will it be well received? Will it be a hit? Will it be a flop? Will it make an impact on the repertoire? All of these questions and uncertainties make a world premiere exciting and leaves everyone on edge. I think in a way it is easier to sing a new and unknown piece because there are no preconceived notions of how it should be sung or played. There are no traditions or expectations – so – the singer owns the score and the role to do his own interpretation with acceptance.

You play the piano and oboe very well. Does it help you to understand and get in touch more with the orchestra / conductor and the music itself? What other instrument would you like to play?

I have been playing the piano and oboe ever since I was a child so I can not say if it helps me because that is a fundamental part of me. I would have to say, however, that it does. I do not mean to flatter myself when I tell you that many conductors have told me that I am “a gift” to a conductor because I know the score backwards and forwards. I can play it on the piano and I know it inside my head. I have great pulse within my soul and I anticipate rhythms and tempos as a conductor would wish.

Last season you performed the title character in Giacomo Orefice’s opera Chopin in Wroclaw, Poland. Could you please tell us more about the project and your experience?

Chopin, like Werther is a gift to a tenor. I have so much gratitude and thanks to the Opera Wroclaw and Maestro Michnik for giving me this golden opportunity. “Chopin” is an opera which became very dear to me. It is a very emotional piece and quite demanding. The composer, Orefice, linked together hundreds of Chopin piano pieces and added vocal lines to them and created this opera, which is a Fantasy about Chopin’s life. It is so appropriate that it IS a Fantasy because Chopin himself was so fond of the Fantasy. It is a very special piece. Opera Wroclawska made a professional CD of the opera, which is due out shortly for this Chopin anniversary year. The theatre in Wroclaw is one of my favorite theatres in the world in which to sing. They dare to be different, unique and unusual and create productions with the utmost finesses and care. It is a very special city, as well. The cast, Laco Adamik, the director, the orchestra, chorus and especially Maestro Michnik (who even rewrote and improved much of the score) gave all of their hearts, as I tried to do, as well, for this piece. It was a great labor of love and one of the most satisfying and rewarding moments of my entire career.

Last week you did portrait the title role in Massenet’s Werther in Ostrava. Do you have any special feeling towards this opera and Werther’s character?

Have you got enough room in your column for the answer to this question? “Werther” is the most beautiful and perfect role in the most beautiful and perfect opera. It is, for me, the consummate romantic opera. It is utterly poignant, fascinating, philosophical, beautiful, frightening, unbelievable and mesmerizing. The role of Werther is a journey into the soul, heart and mind of this man. It is so complete that when I sing it, I can literally feel myself take flight. There is a very special transcendent experience that happens when everything in this opera works and takes off. From the opening arpeggio, which introduces the character for his first of four arias “O Nature” the public and the tenor are taken into another place and time. “Werther” is unfortunately not a crowd pleaser, I feel because it deals with our innermost fears of mortality and questions the possible alternative, which is suicide. It does it rather beautifully, in my opinion, and contrary to modern belief, the characters Charlotte and Werther, are deeply deeply in love. If they are not, if they are played as such, the magic is gone. However, when the magic if there, watch out, it is an unforgettable experience.

What are you plans for the future?

In the future I will be singing Florestan for my United Kingdom debut with Opera North. I love that opera and that role and looking forward to it very very much. I am also hoping to find peace, love and personal success in my life and continue to grow as an artist and a man by portraying these beautiful characters. Each one gives me something to learn about myself, the human condition and life’s wonderful mysteries.

Taken from opera-puls.blogspot.com: Rozhovor se světoznámým americkým tenoristou Stevenem Harrisonem