My dream role is Hans Sachs, but that will have to wait until I come back as a dramatic baritone, so for now I would love to sing Julius Caesar. This is a very challenging role vocally given all of the coloratura required, but I am drawn to the complexity of the character and the stunning music. There are so many different aspects to this man that I am intrigued to figure him out. Also, I'll take pants over a corset any day of the week!
Baba the Turk. Does anyone really WANT to be the bearded lady?
You're right, I have been very lucky to work with some of the most amazing composers, conductors and directors in the world!! But one that I haven't had the pleasure to work with is Sir Simon Rattle. I admire his work and vision so much (especially the St. Matthew Passion he recently conceived with Peter Sellars). I feel he has the same goal I do which is to communicate a pure and honest message without any pretense. I think it would just be heavenly to work with him.
The freedom! My favorite aspect of new music is that there is no set standard for how everything should sound and you can create your own interpretation. This is very liberating. It's the best part of my job. Actually creating something from nothing is the reason that I do this for a living. So many voices need to be heard and it is our job to sing life into them!
It's a War Horse! I am so thrilled to be part of this new piece. This is the first time that John has written something especially for me, and I am completely honored that he and Peter felt I could perform the role of Mary Magdalene. She is definitely a tormented soul who deals with a lot of doubt. This is something that I feel I can relate to and is really challenging me to bring out deep feelings and portray them to the audience. I cannot wait.
I have to admit that I am a choral singer at heart. There is nothing like creating music in a group and I think that is why I am always so glad to work with Peter and have such a familial element added to the creative process. I know that it is my experiences in choir throughout my elementary school days and onto my time at USC that gave me the desire to pursue this as a profession. Not only the music but the wonderful musicians and people I met during those times.
Right now...all of my voice memos. I am listening 24/7 to all of my coachings in preparation for the Adams piece. It is the best learning tool I have! Luckily, I have my first meeting with Osvaldo Golijov recorded on tape (that's how long ago it was that I met him!) and that will be preserved for all time no matter what that tenor does!
Of course, Ainadamar. That was my first recording and it was made after our magical summer in Santa Fe recreating the piece with Peter. Robert Spano was also the first conductor I worked with outside of school (in the original Ainadamar production at Tanglewood) and recording with him and the Atlanta Symphony is like performing with my hometown band. They have become like family to me and have really seen me grow as an artist and a person. I was lucky enough to record the Lieberson Neruda Songs with them as well. I have too many life-changing memories with them to name them all!
Musically speaking it's Bruckner 9 which I just heard at Disney Hall with the L.A. Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle. It blew my mind and luckily Gustavo Dudamel's recording came up on my Spotify so I got to hear two amazing interpretations. In life, it's my Vitamix blender. I'm a big foodie and I am obsessed with researching different food trends. I have tried them all! Right now it's Paleo!
I am again lucky to get to spend the summer with the amazing Peter Sellars and my best friend Jessica Rivera performing Golijov's Ainadamar in Madrid!
Jokanaan in Salome has always been my dream. I covered the role at the L.A. Opera back in 1986 when I had no business singing it, and thank God I didn't have to go on! After one rehearsal, one of my colleagues said "You know, Rod, some of it is actually sounding pretty good!" I said "Thanks! I just wish I were 20 years older..." My colleague replied "You will be." 26 years later I'm still not sure I'm right for it. But I would love to take a crack at another Strauss role: Mandryka in Arabella.
I never say never. I'm stupid enough to entertain any possibility.
Gustavo Dudamel is at the top of my current wish list.
I did a "semi-staged" Don Giovanni at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with John Eliot Gardiner that was really magical, and I am really glad it was recorded and distributed as a video. It's some of my best work. You never know how something will turn out, so it was lucky that it all came together the way it did.
It's much easier to talk to a living composer. But there is a common misconception: you might assume that a role would be "tailor-made" to your voice if you can collaborate. This is not usually the case. The composers that are happy to change what they've written for you are definitely in the minority. I am grateful for the ones that are true collaborators.
There was no one piece that got me into opera. In high school, I was deeply affected by the classical music I experienced in the small Chamber Singers group. That lead me to a Bachelor's degree in music, where I encountered opera for the first time. I did some small roles in the university's opera productions, and really enjoyed that. I had done many musicals in high school, and opera was like a musical but with more sophisticated music and foreign languages. I sort of slipped into opera without really deciding to.
I always hope to be good, regardless of the role! But seriously, both kinds of roles have their attractions and challenges. Bad is somehow much easier to portray. But I do feel better after a rehearsal of a good guy, like Billy Budd. And it's easier to be a good guy offstage if that's what you've been practicing for 6 hours a day. Once, when I was rehearsing Don Giovanni in L.A., I got irritated with our daughter Erica for her room being a mess. She went to my wife, Tina, and said "I like Daddy better when he's playing Billy Budd!"
Ha ha! I have everything backed up in the Cloud! But what would I miss if the Cloud somehow evaporated? Seriously, it would be the tracks from my son's band American Royalty. He's the songwriter, lead singer and guitarist. His music is much closer to my heart than any opera.
Spelling everything correctly for this interview. I'm not an obsessive guy, unless it has to do with food. A recent obsession was creating the perfect Thanksgiving martinis. I created Pumpkin Pie- and Apple Pie Martinis that I was pretty proud of! OK, actually, they were fantastic.
The CD and DVD version of my one-man show My Heart is So Full of You was just released, and is available online at CD Baby and for purchase during the OTSL festival this year. In July, I'll be starring as "Prospero" in Thomas Adès' The Tempest at the Québec City Opera Festival in a spectacular production by Robert Lepage. And this Fall, I will start work on a Christmas album, which will be released in the Fall of 2013.
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