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.
More Beethoven sonatas, Chopin works, and French music.
Lots and lots of music, but I won’t mention names of living composers, as I don’t want to offend hard working composers. Of the older ones, at the moment it doesn't feel like I will ever play any music by Messiaen and Scriabin. Not because I don’t like the music, but because their characters are very foreign to me, and I can only admire their music from a distance.
Absolutely. I feel that I have lots of experience in programming a festival, after doing it for 17 years in Risør.
This is difficult, because musicians are always terrible in judging their own recordings. But in my own very subjective feeling, I am quite proud of the Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 3., and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
For me chamber music has always been important, and an integrated part of my activities, ever since I started studying at the Bergen Conservatory of Music when I was 16, and began playing both with a violist and a mezzo soprano. What could be more normal and fun than two or three people getting together, playing together, discovering a piece together? Then I have, of course, also learned a lot from different great personalities that I have been working with during the years.
Well, working with another pianist can actually be very frustrating, because a pianist’s touch, colouring and rhytmic precision is a very personal thing, and one easily gets annoyed at a colleague who has a different feeling of timing, for instance. With this as a background, I have to say that working with Marc-André Hamelin on Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps has been miraculous. His incredibly precise touch and his exact feeling of colour and tempo is unique, and I have found the concerts we have made with this iconic piece very inspiring.
I was in Ojai in beginning February, and having come from a wet and snowy Norwegian coastal climate, picking tangerines from the trees in Ojai was a very welcome change, I have to say. The diversity of plants in the district around Ojai, I find very fascinating—I have never seen so many different trees. I love the wine and the food, healthy and tasty at the same time (not always the case in Europe!). And I love a certain openness to the unexplored, the new, the avant-garde, which the contemporary music scene and tradition in Los Angeles is an example of.
Sure. The biggest challenge is that it will feel like the sound on stage is extremely dry, and doesn’t carry. I understand, though, that there is a very good amplifying system, so we musicians will just have to trust that the audience hears something much richer in sound than what we do on stage. Then there are the flies... I am interested to see how many of those will "like" our program in Ojai, so much that they will visit us on stage. And likewise the birds, though I am curious to see if they also can contribute fruitfully to the concerts, to make the programs even more weird and wonderful.
After Ojai, I am playing at the Risør Chamber Music Festival in Norway, where I was one of the artistic directors until two years ago. Then I'm recording Mozart's "Kegelstadt-trio" with Martin Fröst and Antoine Tamestit, and then I will have a good holiday, which I am longing for, especially since I didn’t get a summer holiday last year. It will start with two weeks in the north of Norway, on the miraculous island of Kjerringøy, where my parents-in-law have a summer house. Last time I was there, we saw whales, eagles, reindeer, and felt like one with the silence and nature. I couldn't be more happy.
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