I am extremely excited to be back at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville, Spain. I am starring as Amonasro in Aida, with performances on October 25, 28, 31; and November 3, 6 and 9, 2013. Amonasro is the second most performed role of my career (Escamillo in Carmen being the first). This production marks my second engagement with the company after successfully performing the roles of Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana and Premysl in Sarka in double-bill performances earlier this year. With Amonasro, a part I have already sung many times before, the fabulous acoustics and my wonderful colleagues will be that much more appreciated.
Reflections on Amonasro, the Ethiopian King
The role of Amonasro, for me, is about the Ethiopian King’s love for his country, and his refusal to be ruled by an enemy who will disrespect that country and its people. He is sometimes played as a villain, but I believe he is far from that. Everything Amonasro tells Aida concerning the atrocities the Egyptian enemy has done to their people is factual. He knows that Aida loves Radames, and that he is in love with her, yet Amonasro hopes to use that connection to advance his higher concern of keeping his people (including Aida) free from tyranny.
I have often thought back to the great performers who have taken the stage in Aida. George London was an immensely powerful Amonasro, and I was presented with the Opera Prize named after him by possibly the most famous Aida of all time, Leontyne Price. Both have been role models for me with their impeccable vocalism. After receiving the prize it was recounted to me that Ms. Price used these words in her description of me: “He is the real item.” I am also indebted to Rakefet Hak (now at UCLA, formerly on the Met staff and with LA Opera) for her musical insights and allowing me to delve deeper into the role of Amonasro.
While I have always been immensely proud to perform as the Ethiopian King, the role has held even greater personal meaning after I received Planet Africa’s Entertainment Award in 2011, recognizing me a positive role model for youths, and a person whose roots stem from the African continent. This will be the third time I will perform Amonasro since receiving this humbling award.
Thoughts on The Tales of Hoffmann
Two days after returning from Seville, I will fly to Tokyo to begin rehearsing the Four Villains from The Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach, which will be presented at The New National Theatre on November 28; and December 1, 4, 7 and 10, 2013. I am greatly looking forward to the challenge and opportunity to sing in Japan for the first time. This will be my second rendering of the villains after successfully presenting them with Michigan Opera Theatre back in 2001.
The pompous Lindorf begins the opera with his sneering asides toward Hoffmann and they are deliciously venomous and very much like a devilish Méphistophélès. Next, the fully crazed Coppélius makes his entrance with his numerous eyes for using in robotic women, quickly seeking revenge when he is not given full credit for his inventions. Then follows what is possibly the most sinister of the villains in the form of Dr. Miracle. He is the doctor who shows up pretending to offer cures for the sickened Antonia, while really savoring the way he is going to destroy her, giving others false hope for her recovery. If Lindorf is Méphisto, then Dr. Miracle would be Lucifer. Finally, the sorcerer Dappertutto arrives, who with his wonderful “diamond aria” conjures up the forces that will confound Hoffmann. Dappertutto is very much the “warlock type” who reminds me of the character of Nicholas Blair who was on in the original Dark Shadows soap opera. He is evil, through-and-through.
The production in Tokyo will be conducted by Frederic Chaslin who also conducted the 2011 edition of Faust that I performed in Santa Fe. This particular production of The Tales of Hoffmann will include some of the most powerful and beautiful music one can imagine for all four of the villains.
My renditions were greatly helped by the preparation I received from William Hicks (coach at the Metropolitan Opera), Audrey Saint-Gil, and Giulio Favario (former chorus master at the Lyric Opera of Chicago).