Opening Night in Toronto

IMG_3699Tonight is the opening of our double bill of “A Florentine Tragedy” and “Gianni Schicchi” here in Toronto. It is also my debut with the Canadian Opera Company. This is just the first of four productions I’m scheduled to appear in here in Ontario. We’ve had a challenging but, I believe, rewarding experience getting these shows and the concepts up and running. Finally that time has arrived. The picture shows me with the soprano, Gun-Brit Barkmin who plays the role of Bianca in “Florentine Tragedy”. This picture dominates the scenery during our performance. Scary, huh? I am singing the role of Simone, her husband. Essentially, the opera’s plot concerns a love triangle between these two characters and a tenor (of course), Prince Guido Bardi, played by Michael Koenig. The music is very expressive. Alexander Zemlinsky piled layer upon layer of orchestral ideas on top of our text. There is not a moment when someone sings with the other at the same time---all solo lines. It is very much a show about three individual characters, their lives, their struggles, their ambitions, and desires. OH, and it has one of the great endings in all opera.“Gianni Schicchi” is so different from start to finish. This is a real ensemble opera and is, as always, a riot to rehearse and perform. The conflict is one that audiences just love seeing played out for them on the stage. There is little doubt that I consider this comic gem a real masterpiece. Oh, how fun it is to sing a comic opera---I can’t remember the last time that I hoped for laughs intentionally onstage. Such wonderful tunes engulf this opera and I never get tired of hearing them. I first sang in this opera (the role of the old man, another Simone) back when I was a junior at Millikin University. I sang the title role for the first time in graduate school at Wichita State University. I haven’t sung this role since 1993 when I sang the role for the first time as a professional in Spoleto, Italy. It’s great to be back with Maestro Schicchi, the crazy Donati Family, my lovely daughter Lauretta, and all the other strange folks of Firenze. And thanks to all who have brought these shows together---Maestro Andrew Davis in the pit, Catherine Malfitano, our wonderful Stage Director, all of the music and diction coaches, the orchestra, and the great assistant directors and stage managers. We couldn’t begin to do this without you. It’s going to be a fun run.