Tenor Francisco Araiza
Two Conversations with Bruce Duffie
|Born October 4, 1950 in Mexico
City, Mexico, tenor, (José) Francisco Araiza, was educated
there. He studied voice with Irma Gonzalez in the Conservatorio
Nacional de Musica (where he sang in its choir) and German repertory
with Erika Kubacsek. Araiza made his concert debut in Mexico City in
1969, where he subsequently appeared for the first time in opera in
1970 as Jaquino. He went to Europe and took master-classes with Richard
Holm and Erik Werba at the Munich Musikhochschule after having won the
Bavarian Broadcasting Voice Competition. He also holds a Business
Administration degree from the University of Mexico City.
Following his studies, Francisco Araiza was a member of
Opera from 1974 to 1977. Since 1977 he has been a permanent member of
the Zürich Opera House. He has performed in all the main opera
houses of the world and has participated in all great international
From 1983 on, this most versatile singer who was already known as the
best interpreters of Mozart and Rossini became a leading tenor of the
Italian lirico-spinto, the French and lighter German repertory with
roles like Edgardo, Alfredo, Duke of Mantua, Riccardo, Don Alvaro, Des
Grieux, Faust, Hoffmann, Werther, Romeo, and Max. He sang Lohengrin in
1990 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice and Walter von Stolzing in the
Metropolitan Opera's new production in 1993.
Besides his operatic engagement, Araiza is also a highly esteemed
concert and Lieder-singer which can be shown by his nomination
«Best musical event of the year 1988» for his Tokyo
recital. He was named "Kammersänger of the Vienna State Opera"
also in 1988.
Francisco Araiza has worked with all the great conductors and stage
directors like Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, Carlo Maria
Giulini, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Neville Marriner, James Levine, Claudio
Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Giuseppe Patane, Wolfgang Sawallisch,
Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Harry Kupfer, August Everding, Otto
Schenk, Giorgio Strehler, Franco Zeffirelli and Roman Polanski. His
artistry has been documented in almost fifty recordings for labels
including Philips, DGG, EMI, RCA, CBS, Teldec, Orfeo and Atlantis, as
well as in lots of video productions for which he was awarded with the
«Deutscher Schaliplattenpreis» and the «Orphée
An illustrated monograph called Voices
of the World: Francisco Araiza was published by Atlantis in 1988
as well as his own chapter in the books named Great Interpreters published by
Westermann and Divo published
by Harper & Row. In 1992 the German television station ZDF
presented a personal portrait with the title Francisco Araiza. I am a romantic.
-- Throughout this page,
names which are links refer to my interviews elsewhere on this
Francisco Araiza appeared with Lyric Opera of Chicago on several
occasions. In 1984 he sang in Abduction
from the Seraglio (with Ruth Welting, Kurt Moll, David Gordon,
conducted by Ferdinand
Leitner), and Barber of Seville
(with J. Patrick Raftery, Kathleen Kuhlmann, Cesare Siepi, Sesto Bruscantini,
Andreolli, conducted by Bruno Bartoletti, staged by Graziella Sciutti
(!) in sets by Sir
Peter Hall). The following season he returned for Traviata (with Catherine Malfitano,
Pablo Elvira, Catherine Stoltz, Gualtiero Negrini,
and Donald Kaasch,
conducted by Bartoletti in the Pier Luigi Pizzi production). The
year after that was Magic Flute
(with Judith Blegen, Luciana Serra, Timothy Nolen, Matti Salminen, and
Thomas Stewart, conducted by Leonard Slatkin
and staged by August Everding), and La
Bohème (with Katia Ricciarelli, Barbara Daniels,
Alessandro Corbelli, Paolo Washington, Renato Capecchi,
conducted by John Mauceri with John Copley directing the Pizzi
production). He returned once more in 1990 for Rigoletto (with Leo Nucci, Patrizia
Pace, Kevin Langan, and Elizabeth Futural, with John Fiore conducing
and Sandro Sequi staging the Pizzi production, with Maria Tallchief
directing the ballet).
During his visits in 1984 and 1990, he was gracious to allow me to
speak with him, and these two lengthy conversations are presented
here. We spoke about various roles and ideas both musical and
general. He was confident in his decisions and with his opinions,
and showed a wry sense of humor at various times. His English was
quite good, and while I have corrected small grammatical mistakes here
and there, I have left a few of his charming turns of phrase, and a
couple of words which do not exist, but convey his thoughts brilliantly!
Here are those encounters . . . . . . . . .
Bruce Duffie: How
was the Barber last night?
It was a nice opening night. The
public enjoyed themselves very much as we could notice on stage.
The usual jokes we were doing have
to be done, and were very much applauded and loved. So the public
had a nice evening. Musically it was also well. To have
Cesare Siepi as Don Basilio is such a big joy, and also the
other incredible Italians of that tradition like Sesto Bruscantini
making the part of Bartolo. He’s always a person who has had
special experience to hear these people because they are absolutely
BD: Is it
special because Bruscantini was a Figaro
and now he’s a Bartolo?
It’s special because
Bruscantini is among those Italian people that represent a special
culture. In the case of Cesare Siepi is the big bass
tradition, and in the case of Bruscantini, it’s a special school
of treating the words, the recitativo. That’s what makes his
appearances so very, very, very exciting, very singular.
BD: Is this a
good tradition to work with?
FA: That’s a
good tradition to work
with, and that’s an example because it gives you a classical
interpretation with more points of view
to use later when you’re going to meet them some day for special
parts. You are able to see the way he projected his whole role
and interpretation, and the way he just places his highlights
exactly with perfect timing and the right nuance in every
sense. That’s really a good school!
BD: Are you
carrying on that tradition?
FA: I was
always very aware of the
importance of the words in the opera and in all vocal
music, and that is information I
have been trying to achieve.
most of the audience doesn’t speak Italian. Would it be better at
all to translate the opera, or would that lose too much?
FA: It is
very difficult to
make a translation that could really compliment the music
and all the characters. There are some words that have to just be
there, and if you change them a little bit
because of the translation they lose strength. So I don’t
think that it would be a good idea to translate them. It’s
certain that the public has to do their homework in order to really
enjoy the most of the evening. I
have seen in some houses, especially the latest in San Francisco, was
there are some performances where they put supertitles in English, and
that seems for me not a
bad an idea at all. [Lyric
Opera of Chicago would begin using supertitles the following season.]
I must say they would be applicable for every kind of
opera. They did it with Don
Pasquale because that’s a
funny opera. All the jokes were coming at the right time, and the
people were understanding what’s going on. But especially they
it in Siegfried as well,
which is a very difficult piece to understand and follow. It
demands a very
different way of putting these things together because the words just
on. Most of the parts are conversational. They don’t stay
in the traditional ways of singing an aria that has one phrase and
repeats it for
the whole aria, so you just put that one in the text and that’s
it. You have to be changing immediately according to the music
and according to what’s happening.
BD: Is that
FA: I just
saw a general
rehearsal, and I didn’t need it. I just took a look
at it for curiosity and then afterwards I didn’t see it any
more. But I can imagine that for people that really read those
things, it is so easy because you can read it so fast and the music
is most of the time a little bit
slower. Then you can
concentrate on the stage, especially because you have only one line to
read. If you have two or three, that would be distracting, but
with just one you can see it immediately and then
concentrate on what’s going on on stage. So I think that’s a
good, positive way to bring operas towards the people.
BD: We will
get them next season.
FA: You will
see. It’s going to be a good experience.
Good! Is it better because people have watched television and
seen subtitles on television?
Has that made them accept the supertitles in the theater more?
but it’s a question of practice as
well. You have the practice on television, and you don’t
lose very much from what’s happening on the pictures by
reading the subtitles. So it might be a sort of discipline to
adjust to it in the theater.
BD: So then
you envision this for happening for most
not! But not always. When the
people know enough of the opera, they should have the complete
spectacle without distracting elements.
operas might not work?
FA: I think
everyone would work, but what I want to say is not to do all the
one series with supertitles. Do two or three, and then all
the others normally in order to let the people try to pick
up spontaneous highlights. Every opera goer needs
a little bit of time in order to
BD: Would it
be too distracting if
the opera was in the language of the people anyway? For
instance, Peter Grimes in
England or America?
FA: There are
operas where it couldn’t
matter that much to make a translation, but especially on the
kind of character operas — like
Peter Grimes, or Wozzeck, or Aus Einem Totenhaus by
Janáček — these operas could have a big
profit if the people
would understand the exact word of what’s going on.
They would need a very good translation but an achievement of other
operas I am not so sure. I
wouldn’t like to see a Bohème
in English, or Turandot in
or a Traviata in English, or
a Mozart opera,
no! I was just at the Amadeus
film and they just did all the
German operas in English! The translations of the texts were so
awful, SO awful, so that I don’t accept that movie.
BD: But of
course you are such an international person
with German and French and Italian and English all at your command!
FA: Yes, but
if it doesn’t
improve the quality it is a loss. In these character operas you
couldn’t really lose much because the music is made more as
an accompanying affect. It is not building or spinning a
line. It’s really in the force of the
word, so you just have to make sure that you bring the right word and
the right mood in a language. Then you can do that, but
other music is impossible because it’s not only the word that has to be
well done, but it’s also how to put the word together with another
word, and going and building up this phrase that is already built
BD: When you
worked with the supertitles in Don
Pasquale, could be more subtle with your acting?
no! For me not at all. It was very funny because the people
were understanding more of what was going on with the words, but as I
appeared to sing my
Farewell Aria the people began
to laugh. I wondered
why because I had my pants on and everything! [Laughs] Why
they were laughing? It happens that in the text it said I’m going
very far, far away, so people have read
that, and as I came in with my suitcase and cape and everything, they
found it funny! It wasn’t really funny, but that can happen when
they shouldn’t laugh. The next performance had been
balanced until I was on the stage and began to sing before the text
appeared, so there was more understanding. But I didn’t really
notice a big difference according to my own person in acting.
America, many of the
Italian singers feel that the words are not
coming across so their gestures are big and the comedic acting is
much more broad.
Yesterday, for instance, in the Barber
the Count disguises himself first as a soldier and then as a music
teacher, and it belongs to the
figure of the music teacher to draw everything he
is saying with his hands. It is an opposite
figure to Don Basilio, who is first of all a bass with a big
voice. The tenor, with his highest voice as possible, instead of
trying to relate
to Don Basilio is going as far away from him as possible.
Basilio is all spread out, and ‘Don Alonzo’
is all closed in speaking everything with the hands because Rosina does
not know anything about what is going on. I play the piano during
the ‘lesson’, but at the
same time I am trying to make Basilio go away because we are in much
danger. [Laughter all around] Everything is with hand
gestures! At La Scala they
understand perfectly every word, so I don’t think an
Italian actor really does these kinds of gestures because
he wants to be understood by the public. It’s almost
impossible. You have to create your presentation as
accurately as possible, and then
you have to bring it everywhere.
BD: Is the
opera public today more sophisticated now than twenty or thirty years
especially in Europe. What I have been missing in very many
theaters is the spontaneity of the public, and willingness to accept a
special event from anybody. They are well treated with recordings
and TV so they put their level of expectation very, very high in
order to judge a live performance.
BD: Is it
right for the public to judge a live
performance against the television or against a record?
FA: No, not
at all. They are taking away from
themselves the best of a live performance, which is spontaneity.
It is an easy comparison with the record when he held
the note much longer, but they are taking
away the magic of the moment.
BD: Then why
do you as an artist continue to make
they are documents. As an artist I try
to make recordings only where I’m able to do the part on the stage
as well. So my recordings are true documents of
what I am able to do also in live performance.
BD: So you
would not accept to do a role on
record that you hadn’t sung?
FA: Yes, I
would, but only if it could be
according to my possibilities at the time. What I mean is that I
wouldn’t sing a high note on
a record that I don’t sing on the stage. If I
feel like it, because in the moment I think that has to be the right
condition, then I do it, but only if I would do it as well on
stage. Sometimes I don’t because I don’t feel like it or because
I’m not in the mood to do it. But if it’s written you have
BD: How much
can you vary from the score? How many extra notes can you put in?
FA: Very few,
very few. That was the tradition
once. For instance, as the Count,
normally I put a high C at the end, which doesn’t belong because it is
so dark. The high C,
as you know, is a symbol of light and is just a most beautiful note
for tenors. But I do it anyway because I like to do that, though
yesterday I just didn’t feel the mood of doing it physically, so I
didn’t do it.
BD: Maybe in
another performance in the run you will sing it?
FA: Oh, yes,
when I feel like doing it. It’s also a question of compliment
public. If you feel like carrying the audience you say, “Okay,
we go.” Perhaps if they are a bit cold, you
can bring them along with it.
BD: How much
do you react to the audience?
much. Every sensitive artist reacts
incredibly to the audience.
BD: Are there
any scientific ways of determining it? For instance, are Saturday
night audiences different to Wednesday night audiences?
FA: They say
that, but I want to take the challenge
and I try to take all the audiences equally. You have to spend
exactly as much work trying to convince one or the other. You go
out and you accept to your job in this way, but it’s easier if you have
BD: How long
does it take before you know what kind of
an audience do you have?
Immediately! You’re aware just five
seconds on stage. You know what’s in the air already.
concert audiences different from opera audiences?
Yes. First of all, concert audiences are more
specialized in music. They just go there to hear the music, and
not to see a whole complete spectacle. That diminishes
the range of criticism, and expands your expectations. You are
more specialized and more concentrated, and as a
matter of fact, I don’t know why but I don’t experience that concert
audiences are more spontaneous than opera audiences. Maybe it has
to be with being overwhelmed by so many tendencies and styles of that
interpretation. These are
traditional things. In the opera they are all
spread out, and everybody is finding himself
with special directions. A concert is more closed, so you cannot
do many different things. Even in an evening with exactly the
same stuff and even a good conductor, without changing anything the
chemistry might not be working.
BD: Does the
fact that performances being broadcast
change anything for you?
You just do it. You have to
just do it. They are scary.
BD: Do you
ever wish that maybe if a
third or fourth performance was so brilliant and everything worked that
it had been broadcast instead?
course, but you never know. This remains a wishful topic, but you
get really used to it, and you have to be able to
give the best of yourself every night. As I began to make
recordings, I was always scared that they’re going to
repeat a mistake, or that maybe the other take was better. You
to really be able to do your best every time, so it doesn’t matter what
they think. It will be good enough.
BD: How can
you make it so that each one is the best?
FA: You have
to really concentrate. One of my big personal characteristics is
the ability to concentrate. It is like pressing a
button. I can really come to achieve a
very, very good moment in a certain point in
recordings or in live concerts. Song recitals are good for
me, but are the most difficult. It is a challenge in every sense
because that’s the discipline that allows you the most to be an artist,
to be your whole self.
the whole evening stands or falls on your
FA: Yes, and
also because the composers gave the artist
the greatest freedom of interpretation in this
music. If you open a Lieder
book, you will find not ‘adagio’
the metronome where the quarter note equals 60 or
something like that. No, the composer says ‘not too fast!’
What’s ‘not too fast’?
BD: Not too
fast for you?
FA: For you,
exactly. The way is to find your own interpretation without any
concept of any kind. That’s what makes this especially
because you have the responsibility to work out a concept of where you
are going, and when you are
staying there, there’s only you and nobody else.
BD: In the
opera house, do you sometimes wish that you
could pull the conductor along a little bit, or hold him back a little
FA: As a
matter of fact, I say there are leading artists and there are
artists that have to be led! There are
artists that can also lead from the stage, and I think that I belong to
the group of leading ones. With good conductors like Karajan or
Muti or Abbado or Giulini, I’ve always felt the
best communication and there is never any trouble. When there is
has been with one or two mediocres who say that it has to be this way
that way. So there has to be the
flexibility and the understanding for the moment.
specialize in Mozart, Donizetti,
Bellini, Rossini. That is your fach.
BD: Do you
enjoy doing those roles, or do you sing them only
because your voice dictates that’s what you should sing?
FA: Let’s say
both of those reasons. First of all I have
never been a tenore leggiero.
I have always had a lyric tenor
voice which already does fit this kind of repertoire. But
according to my technique and to my age, all the advice from
my teachers and specialists around me said I have to sing
Mozart! I made my
début in 1970, and Fritz Wunderlich had died six year
before. For me he isn’t the classical Mozart tenor, because I
don’t think that the music of Mozart is sterile. It is really
full of life and of erotic character. So if you’re going to make
a Mozart tenor,
he has to be first of all a real tenor, and not this kind of light
castrato. That is the kind of voice you’ve been used until
then. So I understand why the people try to move me
immediately to sing Mozart, including my teachers in Mexico.
They brought me the German repertoire, taught me the
German roles and tried induce me into that. But in Mexico, a
tenor like me could have sung immediately Rodolfo and Faust and all
these roles. I was lucky enough to go to Europe, and to
build up my whole Mozart repertory. I immediately sang four or
five big Mozart opera roles for a young tenor
BD: The Magic Flute, Abduction, Così, Giovanni...
Idamante. These built a very, very strong bond for my career in
very many places. I had the biggest load you can imagine because
the way you go
to study a Mozart part is very different from the way you go and study
Italian one or a French one.
BD: Why is
of the style, the very, very old and
difficult Mozart style. First of all you have to be able to
manage your voice in an absolutely instrumental way.
BD: Do you
feel you are just a clarinet or an oboe?
FA: No, you
learn the principles of what you can do with instrument. You have
be able to put a note cleanly in place without carrying or letting it
fall. You just place it perfectly. Also the definition has
to be really a beautiful sound, first of
all. Second, you have to be able to put this note in the three
main levels of loudness — piano, mezzo-forte, and forte — and
you have to be able to go from one to another without any
break. You have to be able to do that with your whole
range, and that means to sing instrumentally. Then you have to
attempt some roles. You
cannot do portamentos; you
cannot do ritardandos; you
cannot do really just what you want. You have to respect the very
strong classical style, but the marvelous thing about that is you have
to fill it up to
the borders, to every corner, and that’s what makes this a special
BD: So it’s
Absolutely. That is the difference. When you have achieved
a Mozart part properly, you are
really one of those steps forward to do the others.
BD: So then
you learned all the Mozart roles and then
went on to some of the Italian roles?
and with this discipline
the result is going to be a better one.
BD: Are the
Italian operas of the early and
mid-1800s a continuation of Mozart, or are they something completely
FA: No, they
are completely different, because for me
a continuation of Mozart doesn’t really exist. You
don’t really find the style again. Wagner himself developed a
very different personal style. Mozart was unique and remains
unique. I was trying to analyze if
Massenet was also going in the bigger way of melodic line. After
studying Massenet, I put him
in between Mozart and Verdi because he joins the classicity of Mozart
and goes already into the melodicity of Verdi in a very heavy
way. If you take a look at the development of operas, everybody
something from Massenet. French music is thought to have
this very perfumed, very French
BD: Is that a
FA: That’s a
very big mistake. You need to really approach this music with the
right aspect and
with the right attention. Then you can see what music it
is. It is very good music.
Massenet roles have you sung?
Grieux, and I’ve studied Werther, which is one of my
BD: You have
a large voice, and yet it is so flexible. I was
wondering why you didn’t get pushed into Faust, or even Siegfried
to my age as well as my technical possibilities. But now my voice
is asking for its right, and also my personality. Although I
learned the discipline to interpret the Classical roles, and
tried to get to the ground and tried to make them live, I could do
those other roles. Now I have recordings and radio broadcasts of
all my roles, including all the Mozart
roles. The only one I haven’t done yet is Don Giovanni, but it’s
To read my Interview with Thomas Allen, click HERE.
To read my Interview with José van Dam, click HERE.
To read my Interview with Robert Lloyd, click HERE.
To read my Interview with Margaret Price, click HERE.
BD: Does that
please you to know that all of these
have been documented?
FA: Yes, it
does indeed. It was very
funny. The first experience I had with my first record was
made in 1978. I knew that it wasn’t the definitive interpretation
of what I was singing, but it reflected my status at the moment
vocally, technically and of the
interpretative capability. The recitatives I still find
very exciting because it’s very fresh. It’s a kind of achievement
that a young person who has the whole world open for his
eyes is able to do. When I hear my first recording, I think
that’s nice, that’s cute!
yes! Now I listen to the
other ones, and they really reflect what
I have been doing during the years, what I’m trying to achieve now.
BD: It’ll be
interesting twenty years from now and
see what you think of those first recordings.
if I manage to sing that long!
BD: How long
do you think you should sing?
FA: As long
as you can really be honest
with yourself and know you are really able physically to create a young
BD: Alfredo Kraus is
in his mid-fifties and he’s still singing Romeo and Des Grieux.
cannot hear in his voice one beat of his elderly years. The voice
is fresh. He is a wonderful tenor, and he’s perfectly in shape.
very lucky here in Chicago. He’s been
here many, many times in the last fifteen years.
FA: He’s such
a fantastic, stylish artist, and
he looks incredible. He has this sporty figure, and he takes care
himself. He’s perfect.
BD: So you
learn from other singers around you?
exactly. What can you learn from other
singers? Everybody approaches the recitative in a
different way, but it can open your eyes for a moment to a certain
aspect. Alfredo is now in his
middle-fifties and he’s still able to sing those roles because he’s in
shape and technically he has the
experience of everything. That’s a real example, so
it’s right to apply the same discipline and go there as well.
Bellini and Rossini and Mozart operas were written so long
ago. How do you make them speak to us today?
FA: Most of
the operas deal with the same thematics every time. They present
more extroverted feelings of the human person — love,
hate, jealousy, and instinct of any kind. So
they’re characteristics of the human being. Now, of course,
they’re differences used to approach a woman or girl than at that time,
but you can move all these things into
the main theme. Love is love, so it doesn’t matter if it is a
Prince is falling in love with Cinderella, or it could be
Rodolfo with Mimì as well. It could be maybe not such
a tragic love, but
you have to find the main thing to carry and develop. It’s always
a magic moment where it will jump
out, and then you have the chance to really build it up.
composers back then capture these moods and spirits better than
composers of today?
than today, we cannot say. But today’s
composers, yes, absolutely are able to capture these moods. As
you know, modern music is now going in
different directions, and is trying to build the bridge between
traditional music and what supposed to be modern. Modern
music goes no one way, so it’s absolutely experimental. We are
in a typical experimental section, and not all of it is very, very
wasn’t Mozart experimenting at all, or Wagner?
FA: No, no,
no. They were following tendencies of each other.
BD: So they
built on top of everything?
according to their talents and to
their genius they were able to capture this
line and take it over into the possibilities. I
don’t know when they really lost it... at the beginning of this century
Schoenberg was one of the innovators, and so was Stravinsky.
Schoenberg wrote some
fantastic music in his classical periods, but he was ashamed
afterwards. Why was he ashamed? I don’t understand this.
BD: So if you
were asked to sing Aaron in Moses
Aaron, you would turn it down?
FA: No, no, I
think that’s very, very
interesting. That’s a very good part. But I would hate to
sing any of the parts of these composers who are making
noises. [Imitates squawking sounds and odd note-to-note leaps]
BD: You don’t
like that at all?
way! Why should I do that? I don’t
have any kind of contact with it, not at all.
let’s go backwards. How far back does the
line extend — to Monteverdi,
to Heinrich Schütz?
Yes. But as
funny as it might be, opera is nowadays considered as
second-class music. Opera has been the challenge for everybody,
for every composer.
BD: Is it a
challenge for the audience also?
course, but every time they were expecting it. Why did Brahms not
have this breakthrough that his qualities should
have? He didn’t compose any operas with
success. There are these two little hymns that are
somewhere in the world that nobody knows about, and there are very few
BD: Would the
Brahms symphonies have
been better if he had written an opera?
FA: I think
so. Look what Mozart does after composing
opera and then the way that he handled the
instruments afterwards, after hearing the human voice doing
things. They just wrote new challenges for the clarinet and for
the flute. It’s really amazing, and they
treated them better.
BD: So the
songs and the
choral works of Brahms don’t quite do it?
FA: I think I
understand why he
really didn’t like it that much. He just didn’t find a
librettist that could interest him that much in the subject
matter. He would have had it all to make opera if he had found
someone like that.
BD: Are the
librettists of these nineteenth century
operas really good, or are they just hacks?
FA: No, they
are fantastic. The librettists began to base themselves in the
literature. There is no question of the quality. A
librettist was literally build up into the art, so he knew
what he had to bring to achieve in order to make something
valuable. There are some where the situation is going to have
another rhythm which works much slower, and it’s going to carry
sometimes for hours, as in Wagner. The dialogue in Wagner
takes hours and it is a very, very big challenge.
librettos you consider poor?
For me, you have to find out what was trying to be said through this
libretto, and then try to solve the problems. Maybe composers
sometimes wrote the music at such a speed that they have the full
picture of what they
wanted in their heads but didn’t have the time to write
everything down, or thought maybe if they wrote this and that, the
will understand what they mean. But sometimes something is really
leave it to the interpreters to fill in the
FA: I don’t
think so, at least not that much and at least not on purpose.
They really wanted to have the
full control of what they were doing. They were such at ease,
they thought the people also were
like that. The artists will understand if they do it like that,
but it is really failing in very much information and through which
eyes they were looking at these
matters. For instance, I’m
occupying myself now with Rigoletto,
which I’m going to sing
Germany. I see the [character of] Rigoletto coming back to his
for his daughter, finding strangers around his house. Then he
discovers finally that he was blind-folded. It is silly.
You notice perfectly
well if somebody’s trying to blind-fold you. I’m sure that in
those days they had anesthetics to make you sleep. I’m
sure that the courtiers who were going to kidnap Gilda had anesthetics
in order to make her sleep and to take her away, but Gilda
doesn’t sleep. She screams for her life as
she is carried away, but Rigoletto doesn’t notice anything from
BD: Wasn’t he
thinking that they were
robbing somebody else, not his own house?
FA: But he
knows the voice of his daughter. He had a big quarrel with
Ceprano, and there is a certain moment when
they forget about it and make a truce. This is when they put this
anesthetic in Rigoletto’s drink so to make Rigoletto fall
asleep. As he sleeps, they blind-fold him, and then they go and
take his daughter. He wakes up, and they haven’t finished yet.
interesting you’re studying the opera for your own character of the
Duke, and yet you’re studying the character of Rigoletto.
FA: I study
everything when I
approach Mozart, so then you approach everything the same way.
BD: But it’s
interesting that you
would go into such depth for another
character. It’s almost like a conductor who has to know every
BD: Then how
much do you as an
actor divorce yourself from facts that will happen later?
FA: You have
to divorce. You have to really
find the keys. There are things you’re not
supposed to know.
BD: How much
do you become the character? Are
you the character or are you playing a character?
depends on how much the characteristics of
the character you find with the ones of yourself. For
instance, when I am playing Des Grieux it’s more me. When I’m
playing Almaviva, I’m playing it absolutely.
BD: Are there
any characters that are really too close
to Francisco Araiza?
especially the ‘Sturm und Drang’
like Werther, Don Carlo, Des Grieux. One has this typical
challenge, the idealization of the world. That’s what interests
me a lot and helps me. All the other things are for me a question
of discipline, which is a learned art.
BD: Does the
size of the house matter to you at
FA: Not at
all. My voice carries very well and it’s big enough.
BD: Are there
houses that are too
small, or places where your voice is too big?
FA: No, I
haven’t noticed that. In
Europe you have the problem that the smaller houses have the worst
acoustic. So I don’t really
care. I have enough voice anyway. My best experiences in
the biggest houses were
in Salzburg in the Festspielhaus, where I had no problems at all, and
Tokyo in the Bunka Kaikan. The Metropolitan is the most
difficult house to sing in. The house here in
Chicago has a very tricky acoustic.
BD: Does the
stage-set help or hinder all of this, perhaps when there is very
little scenery behind you?
FA: Yes, that
happens. Sometimes we have a raked stage and that helps a lot.
BD: If you’re
standing in front of a wall, will that help to project the voice
depends if the wall is made of projecting
material, but it’s other stuff it swallows the voice up. But
productions that have the purpose of
helping the acoustics, especially
the productions of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. All of them have very,
acoustic. Also they are beautiful.
BD: How do
the different directors affect your
much. I am a person who
depends very much on the colleagues. First of all I have to have
right colleagues, especially the right woman to be able to
act really well. It would be crazy not to.
BD: What if
you get someone that you don’t care for?
awful. For me, that’s
like punishment! It
BD: But then
you have to overcome it.
Isn’t it your responsibility to simply deal with the situation?
FA: Of course
you do overcome it, but you will be
distracted from so many elements because it’s only okay. I don’t
look at her, or if I look at her, then I think it’s
Flicka von Stade there, and not her. But
you can only do that until a certain moment when she does a stupid
then you know it’s not Flicka. So you
BD: [With a
sly nudge] You don’t do something to irritate her?
never! That would be silly.
Sometimes I would love to, but... [Both laugh]
BD: Do rely
on a prompter at all?
FA: Not at
all, especially when there are
very penetrating ones that I hate, really. They are snapping
fingers and conducting
you and saying you’re always the worst. Then when you are trying
to make the character
pause they try to get you to come in. There have been times when
is pretty awful giving unnecessary prompts in dramatic pauses! So
no, I don’t rely on prompters. I learn my
lines very well. As a matter of fact, I’m a specialist, so all my
parts I have sung over fifty
times at least.
BD: Are there
any parts you’ve sung too many times?
FA: Yes, Barber!
BD: So how do
you then stay fresh?
FA: You stay
fresh because as soon as you have a new
public it’s an absolutely new atmosphere. Also with a new
new colleagues there is a new challenge. But this is my last
production of Barber.
BD: Are you
retiring the part?
Yes. I will sing this series and
then the first and second performances at La Scala immediately after
that, and that’s it!
told your agent not to accept any more
FA: Yes, and Cenerentola will be retiring in
year in Munich.
BD: Are you
then accepting heavier and heavier parts?
Yes. As I told you I sang Des
Grieux in Manon, and I sang
Leicester in Maria Stuarda.
I’m going to sing Percy in Anna
Bolena, also the Duke in Rigoletto,
Faust, Rodolfo, Werther,
and up to Don Carlos and the ‘zwischen’
German repertory. So I have a good new field to develop in.
I’m going to sing Hoffmann as
well. That will be as far as I want to go for now. That’s
my main characteristic, my personal voice.
BD: Is it
satisfying for you to know that you’re
booked four or five years in advance?
FA: Yes, it
is very satisfying.
BD: Is it at
no, but it’s a big responsibility
especially if it does not happen. How I’m feeling now tells me to
move up in these matters. It was easier to sing Almaviva or
Ramiro in Cenerentola earlier
career, so I
would say no to the heavier parts. I didn’t see why I should keep
very, very difficult parts which would strain my
voice, making a violation of it if I could sing the other parts that
better. But as I feel now, I don’t have the flexibility
that I used to have years before. Just going up to the
C and down was no problem, but now I have to work to do it.
singing is harder work for you?
FA: Oh, yes.
BD: But you
FA: I do
enjoy it, and as I quit these
parts, I want to achieve the heavier ones. But what if I
That’s the bigger question, but I know that I can. I sang for the
Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg and I
got a commendation. That was very good.
BD: So are
you taking these parts on one by one very
Yes. They are coming one after the other but really
with time, and also time to see the reactions.
BD: Have you
ever come across a part that you sing on
the stage and you realize it is not the part for you, so you
retire it earlier or immediately?
yet. Always the more that I have occupied myself with the part
that came early, the better.
I say that because I have sung my whole life the tenor
part of Verdi Requiem.
I had my first Verdi Requiem ten years ago or so, and while I don’t
hate the piece, it is difficult for the breathing and
building of the phrases. The orchestra comes in and I open the
voice, so it’s a very tough part. But year after year
it became easier. Now it’s a part of me and I
don’t need so many places to breathe as ten years ago or eight or seven
years ago. I can sing a phrase normally without any
breathing. So you achieve more and can develop into
started that one very early?
FA: I thought
it was very early. As a matter of fact I sang it last year
again, and when I was restudying the part I remembered how I used to
shake and to fight for breath. Now that’s all gone!
BD: Now it’s
absolutely easy. It’s now that I
am up to it. I’m able to do it without any problems. That’s
why I think it’s the right moment to add other parts. The Des
Grieux in 1986 was an emergency. I was offered
that a year before, and it was a question should I do it right then or
no? I was waiting for it so I accepted it, and it went
BD: Are you
very careful to not sing too often?
BD: Are you
singing too much?
FA: Too much,
no because I’m still vocally
alive. But I have been singing very much. However I’ve
since I sang Des Grieux that I needed a full day after that performance
in order to recover physically. Jumping around from one part to
another, I was able to recover very easily from Barber. But the Des Grieux is
another way of being tired.
BD: Are you
Right. You can only make these parts in a convincing way if you
go into them. You have to act, you have to try and be this
part. There are parts that you cannot
play; you have to be that part and Des Grieux is one of
these. It takes your whole substance, and after a
performance you’re really down for a while.
BD: Next Fall
you’ll be back in
Chicago for Traviata.
Tell me a little bit about Alfredo!
FA: I find
Alfredo very, very exciting part.
BD: Will you
sing the cabaletta?
FA: Yes, yes,
certainly. It is the problems of getting involved
with such a situation as this, accompanied by such beautiful music, and
especially a part where you can really live your emotions at the
borders. So that’s what I like to do, and it’s a very thankful
part. So I’m looking forward
to doing it in a good production because it has
to be well done. Ardis Krainik was
American Intendant to give me a long-period contract in
the USA, so I shall probably get back here for many years!
BD: Do you
like being a ‘wandering minstrel’?
FA: I must
tell you that you really don’t
realize this much traveling around. The main
concentration stays in the music and the parts that you have learned,
doing your job and also trying to develop in a certain spiritual
way to be able to understand this kind of lifestyle to keep your gifts
occupied. I am always learning new things in new fields.
One of the things I do the most is song recitals because that’s the
field that allows you to realize the most as an artist. If I sing
them here, there or
anywhere, that’s secondary. The main thing is the art itself.
[At this point we chatted
momentarily about his family and his children who were with him on this
BD: Do the
kids like to see Daddy on the stage?
daughter saw me for the first time onstage here. She
has seen me on television, but on live stage it was the first
time. She was very upset as I was fighting with the Figaro with a
sword. She was so scared. [Both laugh]
BD: In your
you are not usually killed. Would that upset her to see you
in that kind of situation?
FA: I think
so, so I won’t take her. My brother took his daughter to see me
in Zurich when she was more or less
four years old. He wanted
to take her to the opera, so they took her to Otello,
and I was Cassio. She got so upset that my brother had to take
from the show. We realized it was wrong to take her to Otello for the
first time. After that he took her to
Abduction and she enjoyed it
very much. Although I am a prisoner there
too, that was less scary than the big fight!
BD: And of
course you’re then released at the end, and
they can see that.
interviewed soprano Valerie Masterson...
[Interrupting] Oh, I like her very much!
she was talking about
bringing her children to the opera. She thought she would
take her son to Orpheus in the
Underworld because it’s all happy and
bright and bubbly, but she forgot that at the end
of the first act she disappears and goes to hell! The kid
was on the floor screaming. They had to bring him to
the dressing room to see that Mummy was all right. [Both laugh]
FA: Yes, the
children have their fantasy in the
imagination and it goes very, very far.
BD: She said
her daughter had just seen Mummy
as Manon, and they asked the people who took her to the theater asked
her if she minded seeing Mummy die on the stage, and she said, “Oh
no, I’m used to it now.” [Both laugh]
How can we bring
more children to the opera?
FA: In Zurich
Vienna and Munich and other cities there is a big program, a Magic
Flute for children.
BD: Is this a
FA: No, it is
live. It is part of the school here for
the 4th or 5th class, one day to the theater to see The Magic Flute for
children. It is incredible the way it is done. The baritone
is also a narrator. He reorganizes the score and
brings the old jokes. He begins by talking about the snake.
Every kid likes
the snake, the more dangerous, the more fun! He tells how Tamino
falls in love
with Pamina through a picture, and Tamino sings the aria. Then
the narrator says that
was in 1785. How would it be if Tamino could fall in love with
Pamina now? So they have Tamino singing the Beatles song, “I
love you, yeah, yeah, yeah.”
BD: So the
kids then make the connection between
one love song and another love song!
course, and then the kids are immediately taken. Papageno stays
there and lets the
snake come after him. He says, “They’re
not dangerous at
all!” Then the children scream, “Watch
out behind you!” “Behind
me??? Waaahhh!!!” [Much
laughter] They have done a very, very good job, and those
are kids that will be coming back to the opera for sure.
the way to catch them — at a young age.
Yes. There are so many programs for catching
them. There was The Magic Flute
I don’t know if you saw that, but it was very well done also,
beautiful. Did you
see this new film of Hansel and
Gretel with Fassbaender?
It’s such a
dream. [The cast also includes Gruberova, Prey, Dernesch, and
Jurinac, conducted by Solti
and directed by Everding.] It’s so beautifully done, so
spontaneous, so true. Those are the things that can really grab a
public. I don’t have any fear about future public for
the opera. Just take a look at all the theaters. In Europe
at least, 30-40% of the audiences are young people. I see it
myself, and my fans are all teenagers.
BD: Do you
ever wish you were a Rock singer?
no! My experience tells me this is where I belong.
BD: Could you
be a Rock singer if you’d wanted to?
yes. In Mexico I
worked a lot in entertainment, singing Rock songs in shows and anything
I could, but I don’t like it.
BD: Is Rock
FA: It is,
yes. What does music do? It awakes some special
feelings; it finds the chemistry in you; it moves you to special
emotions. Rock does that. Just take a look at the thousands
people. Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, they give a concert
the crowds are really
out of their minds. They are there not because they think
they have to be like that, it’s because they’re really feel it.
might be the rhythm or whatever, but there is something in it that
much of it just peer pressure?
FA: It is the
will of the public to be captured by this
atmosphere. If the concert doesn’t begin on time, you can feel
electricity there. There is another kind of expectation of
there and seeing
what’s going on and all of that. They want to participate.
I think that’s the biggest
BD: So they
go to a Rock concert wanting to have fun?
BD: Do people
go to opera wanting to have fun?
always. That’s our big problem.
Some of them really go only to criticize. The opera singer has a
problem trying to make
up his mind, or maybe seeing himself in the right position. Is
opera singer an entertainer or is he an artist? Most of them
even think about the question. They think as a matter of course
they’re going to be in a place to be paid
for doing something, and they’re going to try to convince an audience
of something. Those are the facts, so I am an
entertainer. But that’s too easy and too
wrong because the way I see it is you have a commitment, first of all,
and if we accept to do it at a special place, open for the
person who buys a ticket, they have the
right to be a part of this artistry. To do your
own interpretation of a certain piece under certain circumstances
shouldn’t keep you away from being an artist and trying to do an
artistic kind of treatment in the very moment. I speak with
younger singers and also with older singers, and they are getting tired
of the job and all the traveling around.
BD: It should
be the burning desire inside.
FA: Yes, it
must be a burning desire
inside. You’re not even to
expect the approval of the audience. They have to be happy to be
there, to be able to take part in this moment. That’s the way I
see it. Of course the public is paying to be able to be there,
are paying you to make something artistic. It’s complex, but it
is true and it is the only way.
BD: Do you
try to give the
public more than its money’s worth?
FA: You do,
absolutely. That’s the difference between a
technician and scientist, but there are really very few that feel like
that, who think like that, or react like that. This tradition
shouldn’t quit. It should improve.
BD: Do you
feel secure about the future of opera?
absolutely. Just have
a look here or there, and there are plans to make a new opera
house. In Houston they’re making a new opera house, and in
Los Angeles they want a full opera company for themselves.
Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, they all have their traditions too.
It’s due to their economic problems and political problems that they
cannot give the opera the place
it should have. But they have great tradition and they have had
the biggest singers and interpreters of the time.
BD: Are there
any great Mexican operas?
FA: I don’t
know. There are no composers, first of
BD: Why don’t
Mexican composers write operas?
FA: I think
it’s got to be with the loss of tradition. To become
an American opera singer, you have to have a Master of Arts from some
university. You have to have a
really, really good background. In Mexico, even
in Italy and Spain you only need to have the voice to become a great
BD: Thank you
for being not only a singer, but also an artist!
When you come back again can we talk about Massenet?
Fine! Yes, yes, certainly.
BD: Thank you.
FA: It’s a
[During the course of doing
interviews for many years, there have been several times when mention
was made of getting together again at a later date. Sometimes it
worked out, but often it did not. Happily, this was an instance
when a second conversation did happen, specifically six years later.....]
BD: You started
out singing Mozart and Rossini and now
you’re moving into the Verdi and French repertoire, and I
understand even some Wagner. Is this a comfortable move for you?
FA: Yes, it
is indeed. Lohengrin was my
actual goal of the vocal development, and I have put my
concentration and my energies in arriving there without damage in the
voice by going too far into heavy parts too
soon or too much. It was the final test to see
how the development was working, and the Lohengrin last
June in Venice I was really very, very excited. But I was so
lucky that I was part of a great, great production from Pier Luigi
Pizzi [shown in a video-capture at
right], and I was working
with a conductor that for me is one of the geniuses of the younger
generation, a German named Christian Thielemann.
From the very
first rehearsal we had this understanding that
we were going to do new things, and to treat the whole opera as we
a Lied, given the great,
great importance to every word and the phrasing of the part and the
different moods and
situations, the differentiation in attacks, etc., etc. It was
for me an incredible surprise to see how it worked.
BD: Was the
conductor very careful to
make sure that he didn’t over-blow the orchestra because you have a
different kind of voice than the normal Lohengrin?
what I told him. Certainly we
chose a very nice theater in Venice to make this production. It
one of the best acoustics of theaters of this size. It’s very
well constructed. It’s very
intimate, and I told him that I didn’t want any special
attention in that matter. You cannot really count too much on the
dynamics of Wagner. Certainly you have to
understand that once you give these operas on a normal stage outside of
Bayreuth, you have to lower your dynamics anyway, generally
speaking. So one knows that, and by applying this rule you are
never wrong because it is an opera that is lyrical-heroic, and it
is very well written. When Wagner puts a certain amount
of sound with orchestra and chorus together — for
instance, in the second act when Lohengrin thanks the whole populace
warriors for their confidence in him — Wagner
really trumpets on the high
range of the tenor, which is easy to cut through all this amount of
sound that’s coming out of the orchestra and chorus.
BD: All those
high As lie well in your voice?
FA: It lies
well so you don’t have to really push the
voice in order to get through. Other than that, all the
constructing of the orchestration is very much in accordance to the
voice and to the dramatic situation. I can say I
never found a spot where I thought I was covered. Even when
Lohengrin wins the battle against Telramund,
there the orchestra is very strong and you have the freedom to
make your attack just after the orchestra has been cut off by the
conductor. You’re going again to high A, which is a very, very
powerful tone. I don’t think that it is a
question of size of the voice, but that the voice is well
placed and it will carry.
BD: And of
course it needs a lot of stamina
It is not only vocal stamina but also physical stamina which you have
to have. Certainly in the Brautgemach
in the third act I have never had an
opera where I sang so much together. So certainly it was a
challenge. It was something to see how it could work, but already
from the beginning of my studies with this part, I noticed that it sat
in my throat. So if I was careful at the beginning I would not
have any problems later, and that was the way it happened.
BD: Did you
build yourself up over time to sing longer
and longer parts and more taxing roles?
Exactly. According to my
development I was taking parts that were working into this
region. For instance, the French parts
for tenor are usually longer than the Italian ones. Des Grieux
lasts one hour and twenty minutes of tenor
music alone, and then we have Roméo which lasts one hour and
thirty-five to forty minutes of tenor music. Lohengrin also lasts
one and half hours music, which is not any longer, but the third act is
compact, and you are there the whole time singing heavy stuff.
Another point is that in the French operas you can somehow rely on your
technique and your way of taking back the voice a
little bit to make a little phrase and then come out of it
again. With Lohengrin, with Wagner, you can do that to a certain
point you, but you have to be aware that you have to be using
your voice at full power for ninety percent of the time. This
attitude can be a barrier — what you have
heard from the orchestra at the rehearsal — but
when you get to know
the opera and when you get to know the weight of the voices of your
colleagues on stage, you can adapt that as well.
BD: For this
production did they pick other voices
which were similar in weight to yours?
That was the great thing that they were all
Wagner singers including Nadine Secunde as Elsa, Gudrun Volkert as
Ortrud, Bent Norup as Telramund, Heinz Klaus Ecker as Henry and Eike
Wilm Schulte as the Herald. They didn’t hire a Tamino
and then try to match the other voices to mine.
BD: Were they
apprehensive of you at any
FA: Yes, I
noticed that. They knew they’re going to sing with Francisco
Araiza, and he was making a development which is very controversial
BD: So they
were aware of your move from Mozart through
Verdi to the French....
and then they saw I was going to sing Wagner! How is
that going to be okay? They have the name
who has made a career in the Mozart-Donizetti-Rossini repertory who is
struggling into the new repertory to convince people that it’s the
right thing to do for him. Here he is doing his first Wagner, so
they couldn’t show that to me during the
early rehearsals, but at the very first rehearsal with orchestra, it
was a Sitzprobe, and it was
very funny because we had a stage that had
a certain incline. This raked stage was quite high, so they
constructed a platform to make it flat, but only in the middle and they
put a couple of chairs on this platform. The chorus
had the loges, so there was no problem for them. I wasn’t there
beginning. I was warming up and drinking my
water, and I heard them coming to my entrance so I
went on the stage and I saw that none of the other soloists were on the
platform. They were standing on the sides, very bravely waiting
for Francisco Araiza to go there. So I did it, and I was shaking
a lot. My breath was up to here
[points to his head], and my diaphragm and my throat, so it was a nice
excitement because it was like the first times
that I had begun to sing. I had to take care of everything
breathing, my support, my voice, my placement, and my nerves.
Then I began to sing and began to realize that the voice was working
the way I wanted it to, and I was feeling the room the
way I wanted to do it. After the first break I was
absolutely confident, and I finished the rehearsal and everybody was
cheering and a new Lohengrin was
born. It was fantastic.
Certainly the approach I do is very, very special. It is an
approach that explores all the possibilities. It didn’t leave one
possibility open. I am thankful to the conductor who supported me
in absolutely every
aspect, giving me the time to shape the voice, time to re-attack, to
make the diminuendos, to make different colors in between phrases, and
all these things, and especially giving me the time to
BD: As the
rehearsals progressed, did you find
yourself getting stronger and more confident?
yes. Every one of the final
rehearsals was a kind of affirmation that what I was doing
was right. I must say that when I arrived to the general
rehearsal, which was open, that was the final test.
BD: Was there
was an audience for that?
FA: There was
an audience there, and I knew that all
the critics were also there. They weren’t supposed
to be, but they were there. They couldn’t wait to see the
premiere because they thought that I might cancel. So if
they got the chance to go the rehearsal, which I was supposed to sing,
they went in! But I felt confident, and I was enjoying this part
so much because of the whole environment that went around me. I
had really fun doing it, and you could feel the expectation that they
were positively disposed to this
debut. And after the Gralserzählung
they applauded! They shouted
bravo! In Wagner this is impossible. The conductor was
looking around because this never happens. It never happened
was happy and having fun as well! So we had a great, great time
together doing a series of five performances.
BD: Did you
have enough time
to rest in between each performance?
between I had usually two days, but one
time I had only one day in between. They wondered if I could do
it in this manner, but I got
to finish this series and I tell you I think that changed a lot in me.
BD: How did
you feel after the last performance?
FA: It was a
combination of fulfillment and being
empty. I was happy that I have done it, that I reached my
goal. I will never forget this
production and the experience of constructing it every time
new. But at the same time the excitement was so big that
I was absolutely empty. I didn’t have any strength to go
ahead. It would have been wiser for me to take a couple of weeks
off and really digest this whole
experience, which was really one of the highlights of my
BD: I was
going to ask had you foresight to make sure
that the next couple of weeks were empty.
FA: In fact I
went on to Munich to sing a series of Rigoletto.
You cannot put
further extremes together, which was not wise at all because
I wasn’t in the mood. I was really still feeling in the
Grail, and still enjoying my remembrances of this experience.
BD: Were you
able to readjust the voice for Verdi?
wasn’t. That was the problem, because as I
told you before, I was using my full voice ninety percent of the time
in this range that goes up to A natural. Then I had to cope with
very, very difficult range of the Duke, so it was quite a trouble for
me. I had to reduce the voice, and I was just
putting the voice very thin in the mask, and it was not nice
BD: Were the
people there in Munich saying that you had just sung Lohengrin?
Exactly. They were expecting a Lohengrin sound in
this range, which is absolutely impossible. Nobody can
carry that amount of sound up there. I needed at least two
weeks to readjust to this range, which I didn’t have, so these
performances weren’t very good, I must say. But it’s my fault and
I feel guilty about it.
BD: As you
reorganize your schedule for future performances, are you leaving more
time after each
FA: I’m not
going to undertake more such
experiences like that because I’m not going any further into
the development. That was my goal.
BD: [With a
gentle nudge] No Siegfried?
Siegfried! [Both roar with laughter] That was my goal, and
as I achieved it I am really very lucky. I’m not pursuing
something further, but what I want to do is to fill up what I have
done. I just closed what I have to learn in my French
repertory by singing Roméo. I have the five important
parts — Roméo, Werther, Hoffmann, Faust
and Des Grieux. I
have been skipping Carmen
because I think that’s also a more dramatic
BD: Will you
be coming back to Lohengrin
FA: Oh yes,
as a matter of fact, you’ll never
imagine but I have had since June three invitations. I’m doing
productions in Zürich, and certainly for what
I have seen in this part, I have found a key of interpretation that
works very well if I have the right environment. I’m very
worried if I’m going to step into some productions
that already exist. I just don’t think I can always fit
in. So that’s a problem I will have to see for future commitments
for Lohengrin. But I’m going to widen up
this border by going into Walter from Meistersinger,
which I will be doing at the Metropolitan in a new production in
1992/93. And I’ve been running after Loge
for a certain amount of years, but it hasn’t come through yet.
BD: You sang
a small part at Bayreuth years ago?
Exactly. It was the Steersman in Flying
though you were singing a small,
light part that fit your voice, did that give you a bit of the Wagner
feel to hear the big orchestra and be there
for all the rehearsals?
Yes. What happens in Bayreuth is a very
special phenomenon. First of all you hear the orchestra as you
will never hear an orchestra again, because all of the orchestra sound
comes towards you when you are on the stage. The orchestra sounds
in all of the other houses goes first up
and then it gets onto the audience. The luckier ones are the
ones always upstairs, as you well know. So at Bayreuth you have
orchestra coming exactly at you onstage, as if you were suspended up in
hall but coming directly at you. You get to hear an
incredible amount of sound.
BD: Do you
feel that you’re swamped?
FA: You feel
overwhelmed. You feel just like you have been
taken by a cyclone and blown away because in Bayreuth the dynamics of
the score are respected. If they have five Fs [forte — loud],
five Fs! They should and they do since they are not being afraid
of covering the artists. What happens then is that
you have to get acquainted with that, and to realize that you don’t
to push your voice in order to get through because while this orchestra
sound is coming towards you, your voice is
cutting directly through. It’s not like cutting a wall, like in
normal theaters, but you are just going through without problems.
What happens later is this sound comes
through and carries with the voice, which is an incredible
phenomenon. Once you get that, you can sing the lightest
pianissimo in Bayreuth, and they will be carried through the
orchestra. So for a lyrical voice like mine, being there and
putting the voice in the right place was the best thing to do. I
remember the other voices that were heavy and lacked
the focal point which I have, were pushing more. By
sitting in the hall and listening to these voices and listening to the
voices that were projected easily, it was as if you were in such a
chamber room. The other ones develop more than the ones that
were being pushed, because by that you were shortening the
range of emission by giving so much power — which
was not needed at
all. So what was carried was what you were producing, and
if you’re producing a round, healthy sound, that was what came
through. So it was a very, very good experience for me to
do that because I could put my voice in the right focal point, and then
the full power, which was a great experience. To develop this
focus into the greatest possible amount of volume by not widening the
throat is the important thing. Besides that,
I have always been a Wagner fan. The first opera
that I heard that really struck me was The Flying Dutchman in the
recording with George London. It was
George London who has brought me, but by hearing it so often I learned
love the opera as well, and learned to love Wagner in that manner.
Steersman on that recording is Richard Lewis, who is a fine Mozart
exactly! So I began to think about a development into certain
Wagner roles, and I began to think which parts those might be. So
by reading the parts, I realized Lohengrin could be in the
possible range and Walter von Stolzing as well, and Loge certainly, but
then that’s it. Erik is definitely too heavy.
Tannhäuser is definitely too heavy, and of course the heroic
the Ring have other
ranges. They are very low. The young Siegfried has an
incredible range of two octaves, and he moves the whole
time for an amount of two hours and forty-five minutes. It is
the longest part ever written in the singing literature, even longer
than Elektra and Hans Sachs. And Siegmund is like a high baritone
voice. So if I was interested in singing those
parts, then I would have to let my voice go down. But I am
interested in singing more the French and the Italian repertory, which
requires you to have a healthy high C. That’s why I
wouldn’t go into these other parts. Even Parsifal is very, very
questionable for me because of the range.
though it’s very short by comparison?
Certainly, but it’s a question of
feeling the range easily. At the beginning
of this year I did a recording Freischütz,
and I was invited to do a production as
well at the same time in London. But before that I had a series
Faust in Vienna and after that
again. So I said it’s not
going to work because I don’t have the time to let the voice really
come down to the range of Max and then to pull it up again to the
range of Faust. So I canceled the series of performances in
London, but I did the recording, and I tell you I was having
trouble achieving the low notes. It was wise for me to cancel
this series because I didn’t have the
time to let the voice go down. I knew that I could do it
because when I do Liederabende
singing always in this range. But you are not giving
full power of the voice there. It is a different way of
singing when you sing Liederabende.
You sing as though it is
in the middle of the dramatic general repertory. So I decided to
take care and to decide how far to go, and then I said
Lohengrin will be the piece to decide whether I can achieve this
development or not. I’m glad I did it.
Can we assume you enjoyed the Mozart and Rossini
repertoire when you were doing it?
FA: I enjoyed
it very much, but I knew after ten years
of singing my 255th Tamino and my 240th Don Ottavio, I realized that I
in danger to come to what you call a routine, and that I cannot
accept. I was lucky because I was not only singing opera, I
was also singing concerts and recitals, and I was keeping
up my studies, learning new parts and going further in the
repertory. As you know, concert repertory and recital
repertory have high ranges as well. There are more lyrical
programs and there are more dramatic ones, and I was also making my
experiments with these programs. So I knew that I could go
on, but going on had its advantages and its disadvantages. Here I
was at a
certain point in my career, and some people would say, “He
has achieved a
worthy career, with the most important recordings and most important
most important productions in the best houses of the world with the
best producers and the best conductors... so he is going to throw
that all away to go where there are lots of
tenors???” That was the idea, and I had to
not listen to that, but I had to listen to what my voice and my soul
really requiring from me as an artist.
BD: Was this
also the advice you were getting from
teachers and accompanists?
certainly from my voice teacher. She knew
that my staying in most of the Mozart repertory and the light
repertory was only going to be a question of time. As long as
I was young, the technique would allow me to do that. But the
voice, which nature tends to push down, was going
to widen with the years and ask for heavier parts in a certain
time. And it happened that way.
BD: Are you
losing a little bit of the flexibility,
FA: Yes, that
dramatic laws of flexibility say that I’ve done
something wrong because I can still sing coloratura. I can still
do a pianissimo high note in the right place without preparing
specially or pushing. But certainly I
have to change a little bit of my technique. I notice
now that the voice is not as easy and as agile as it was
before. Also when I am listening to my recordings, I think that
was not bad, but now I couldn’t do it. It’s not that I’ve lost
the flexibility and the
coloratura, but they become a bit heavy. I noticed it the
last time I sang Cenerentola
in Salzburg, which I did recently to show that I can still do it, that
I was still able to do this repertory.
BD: I don’t
know of another
tenor who sings both Lohengrin
and Cenerentola in the same
that’s weird! It shouldn’t happen, but it can happen as a matter
of fact because I did it this year. But you are right!
BD: So it’s a
for you voice and for your career?
yes. The question of course was how far
to go, and as I had settled my limits already from the beginning,
it was no problem selecting which parts to approach. I
was lucky because as, you mentioned before, I was working towards this
Lohengrin, and maybe the first dramatic step that
I took was the Ballo in Maschera,
which for the Italian repertory was the absolutely border. I felt
very comfortable with this
part. It’s a long part, one of the longest tenor parts in the
Italian repertory and very strong in dramatic ways, and I enjoyed it
much. Then the second step was the Roméo, which is a
lyrical part. But when you see the music, you see the orchestra
and the whole environment, then you realize that it’s more of a
tenor which is required to do this part. I enjoyed these phrases
very much where I could put the big
load, and then put this high note there and take out weight. So
very taxing, especially because of the length of the
part, but it is put together very, very well. It’s a very
well-constructed opera, which doesn’t need or lack one single
note. It’s a perfectly dramatic and developed subject, and
the music is just
beautiful. So it was a real preparation for the Lohengrin, and I
felt that when I approached the Lohengrin it was at the right moment.
talk a little bit now about the French
roles. You’ve sort of mastered, as you say, the big five
roles. Are they similar all in weight and in style?
similar, though every one of them has
their difficulties. From the five, I think everybody could agree
that Hoffmann is the most difficult of all of them.
because of the range?
FA: I don’t
think that’s only the range, but he keeps
you really singing thoroughly in the break, and then from there
up to the top.
BD: The E, F,
Exactly. It is always there and always ascending, and uses all
the dynamics. It’s always this way and all in this range.
becomes very, very tough, so for that reason this part is very
difficult. As you well know, when a tenor achieves a good
his break range, then he can sing. When he
has a good top, then he really manages every part, but that’s the most
difficult thing to learn.
BD: Now in
the Hoffmann, do you sing the
the recitatives or the version with the spoken dialogue?
FA: I have
sung the Guiraud version which
is the recitatives, and I have recorded the newest version, which
by Michael Kaye, for Philips.
you done it with spoken dialogue?
FA: No, not
on the stage. That’s the trouble, but I’m
used to it by doing Mozart operas where you have to go back and
forth. However, you don’t
have to do real speeches, but they do put you into some problems,
demanding from you to have a special speaking voice. Then you
have to move out from your singing voice.
Hoffmann is the most difficult of your five French roles — not
necessarily the longest but the most
FA: I would
say so, yes. It’s the most tricky because of this matter.
Roméo is the longest?
Roméo is the longest, which makes it also on
the difficult side of the five.
lands in the middle then?
FA: There is
no middle. I would say
Werther is difficult as well because of the second
act, which is endless, and very dramatic.
optimistic] Endless in a good way?
FA: Oh, it is
beautiful, certainly. Those are maybe the points of these five
roles, that they
are all beautiful. We are talking about what we
call ‘soul dramas’. You can, as an artist, discover lots of
characteristics that maybe are existent in your nature, so you
can put a whole amount of yourself into the interpretation of these
parts and enjoy them quite a lot.
BD: Do you
ever put too much of yourself into them?
FA: I really
try to put the most I
can into them, to see the music as an art of you that you have, like a
painter has, and then digest this view and bring back what you have
understood from it. Of course, this is a very personal result
comes out, and then you can say in this part it’s ninety per
cent myself. That’s exactly the same way that I would react,
exactly the same way I would feel, exactly the same way I
would suffer if I am in such a situation. You find yourself
really enjoying it all because you are moving into very well-known
territory. This is maybe a real common denominator for all of
these French parts.
BD: So then
Des Grieux and Faust
are a little easier, perhaps?
FA: I would
say so. They
have all the elements that the other three have, but in a more compact
way. You have the dramatic
outbursts of Faust and of Des Grieux as well if we talk about the scene
in the Hôtel Transylvanie in
Manon, or the final terzetto
in Faust, and the
Prologue which is very dramatic. Then these two parts move more
into what we call the lyrical repertory which is very attached
to bel canto with a French
style, which is very, very
BD: What is
it about the French style that really
attracts you and your vocalism?
style attracts me because from the moment that I put my foot in
Germany, I was told to learn the correct Mozart style. This
question awoke in me a very big
curiosity. What’s that about the style? What are
styles? How do they apply to music? How can you find
them? How can you define them? How can you make them
work? And by working hard in this Mozart style I finally
understood what was meant — that a certain thing
can be taught if you move around with the right people. Either
that or you go where this music was born, and you breathe it in, which
did. I also asked who can teach me the Mozart style, and being
quite a number of specialists there, I found
Professor Richard Holm and studied with him. He was a former
who also moved into heavier parts, singing Max, Loge, and Don
José as well. So I understood what it was
about. I could define it. I could make a clear
point of what was meant, and then I could use it and see that I could
reach my dramatic expression without going out of this style. So
that was good, and in this manner I was very interested in discovering
styles. I noticed that for singing recitals, for singing
Lieder, it requires also a
special style, but that style is
wider because of the nature of the compositions and of the messages of
the composer who allows you the most amount of freedom that you can
ever get as an interpreter, as an artist. He
composes a Lied and says ‘not
too fast’, or ‘lovely’ or
whatever. He doesn’t tell you ‘allegretto’ or ‘quarter note =
60’. He gives you lots of freedom in the tempo and in the
dynamics. Almost no composer wrote dynamics for the
voice, and for the accompaniment he’s seeing that it’s a guide of
what I want to be told. You get that as advice, and you
carry on digging in and discovering. Why is it like that?
How can you enrich that? How can you compliment that? Do
you think you are certain? Does it have to be
forte there? If you feel
more a mezzo forte, you are
free to do it that way.
BD: This is
for Lieder. Does this
also apply to the Chansons?
FA: Yes, I
think so. I think so absolutely.
You have the same freedom, though we come again in the French style,
so you have to be aware that there are certain laws that you have to
obey. It’s this French flavor you have to get, and certainly the
language gives you a great help in doing it, in modulating it
correctly. You are already a step forward, but certainly there
tiny differences that come from
really working hard into every note and every syllable and every
word. Then there is the connection with the phrase and what it
didn’t he put it at the end? Why here? Is it meant as a
tone or not? Even after asking all these kinds of questions you
have to find your own key. Once you find
your own key, you have to prove to yourself if it is right in the
style. Maybe you are too dramatic in a certain way, and it just
happens that you go further as the style would permit. Then you
have to contain yourself to try and achieve the same relationship
without going out of pitch. There is a French style and there is
a Wagner style, and finding out
these secrets you finally realize that it’s easier to do this music if
you put them in a normal pattern and sing
everything as you want, or as you think it should be sung without all
advice, but you might get in big trouble doing that, both
technically and stylistically.
BD: So how do
you avoid the trouble?
knowing the style! [Both burst out
laughing] By knowing that there is a style, by knowing the style,
and by knowing how to produce it.
BD: In the
very early years of opera in Chicago, we had a great deal of
Massenet [See my article Massenet, Mary Garden, and the Chicago
Opera 1910-1932.] Are the two operas of Massenet which
you sing particularly
well written for the voice?
FA: Yes, very
for some voices they will present different difficulties.
BD: Do you
feel they were written for your voice?
FA: I think
that Des Grieux is
more written for my voice than Werther. Werther needs
either a heavier voice that covers up in the break range sooner
— as I do — or a lighter voice that
doesn’t need to cover at all there — like
Kraus’s voice, for instance. I have to work a lot
to sing a good Werther.
BD: But you
still do it.
FA: Oh yes, I
love it. That’s why I love my
BD: You enjoy
singing French language?
FA: Yes, I
like it very much. It is a technical
language. It’s not as easy as
Italian, but being accustomed to German, maybe it’s the same way to
BD: Is Werther a French opera because it
Massenet, or is it a German opera because it is Goethe?
FA: It is a
good question. It’s a very good
question. As a matter of fact, you would tend to say
that it is a combination of two autobiographies — the
one of Goethe,
and the other from his friend who killed himself. He made this a
told in a Romantic manner that you wouldn’t think of
being typical German. You wouldn’t think by reading it
that’s it’s a German story. It is a typical Romantic Sturm und Drang, and then we
translate it into music. Here we find the French composer that
taken this task and put it into music. Goethe is talking to his
Werther about the simple
melody that he finds in the relationship between him and Charlotte, and
this simple melody is the one that Massenet found. It was this
of two notes with ever-changing harmonies, a microcosm that’s
endless. And at the same time he achieves
what was supposed to be there — the simplicity,
the easiness, and the depth as well. He
really found the essence of the characters. There is not one
moment when I would say, “Ah, this is
is perfumed.” Not one moment. It’s a
situation, and he situates it like that. So I couldn’t say it
is French, because it is not Pelléas,
it is not a chanson-style. It is a dramatic work, and I put it in
a category with a lack of nationality. It’s a very
well-constructed romantic piece.
BD: So then
it moves across borders very easily?
FA: I would
say so, yes.
BD: Is there
any chance that Werther and Charlotte
could have been happy if Albert hadn’t been in the picture?
FA: No, and
here we come to the grounds of the philosophy of the dark soul, which
says yes, you
have a soul, and you’re allowed on Earth to look for
it. If you are lucky, you are allowed to find it, to
acknowledge it, but you are not allowed to live happily with it.
So you are not going to be together to reach unity, even
if both of you know that’s the
only real consequence of being there.
BD: So it’s
an impossibility from the beginning?
Yes. That’s why it’s
impossible to do it, and if it could be the perfection of
something, I don’t know if that’s beautiful. That’s also a
philosophy to think about. We are here to work towards
perfection for ourselves, and we could achieve perfection, but finding
what’s missing in us is not easy. Could it be the thing to
achieve? Could it be the realization of the human being, of the
human soul? I don’t know. That’s a question to be discussed.
BD: It almost
seems like if you got both
halves together it would explode or catch fire or have nuclear fission.
FA: Yes, but
I don’t know if that could be reached. It’s like saying the way
that you take into reaching that point
is what’s worth it, and not to reach it.
BD: So the
journey is the point, and when you get
there you can’t stay?
FA: You can’t
stay. Even though you know if you
don’t get a cure you are going to die, you are going to accept that
you are not going to be fulfilled for the rest of your life.
BD: So it
really is the journey, and not the
BD: Do you
believe this, or is this just
something that is there?
FA: No, I
believe it myself.
why Werther is so very close to you?
about the other Des
Grieux. Have you looked at the Puccini opera?
BD: Have you
It’s not for my voice.
BD: How do
those two settings of the same man compare?
FA: Not too
well. Not at all. As a matter of fact,
I don’t consider the Puccini opera to be a great dramatic
piece. It has lots of elements that I don’t like in
expressionism, such as the weakness of human beings, acknowledging the
situation and screaming, “I don’t want to die, I
don’t want to
die!” You can do it in a certain way, but
the way Puccini has done
it, it is too superficial. Certainly there are natures that are
so moved by this scene, and maybe that’s why Puccini did it. He
was a very
intelligent man and at that time he knew exactly the
formulas to achieve what he wanted. But let me mention to you my
experience with the original version of Butterfly, which I sang,
and I found the original version was superior. It is a
thriller. It is a very, very subtly conceived
Psychologically it perfectly developed the story and is well
done. As you well
know, though, it wasn’t a success. So he had to shape it and to
move it, and to put
it more into the understanding of the people, to do this more likable
version that we know as traditional now.
BD: I wonder
if now we could accept the original
absolutely. No question about that. My experience was that
all the people asked, “How is it
possible we haven’t heard that? It’s so much
better than the traditional one.” The
dramatic relationships finally make sense by putting the Butterfly not
to the point of just being pretty and being betrayed. In the
original version she knew
perfectly well what she was going onto and what could happen. She
had rejected the offerings of Goro before. This time he said, “Here’s
an American officer. Would you like to meet him? Would you
like to marry him?” She tells him, “I
have rejected quite a
few, but as I saw him, let’s give it a try and see what happens!”
The only guilt that remains is the lack of
total honesty from Pinkerton. But he does tell her all about
America, and what everybody does in America, and that women have rights
in America, and all these things. So then we have in his Manon Lescaut more the
traditional version of Butterfly, which is not deep enough. It is
constructed. It has lots of empty spots.
You take the first two arias of Des
Grieux away, and then the second act doesn’t
have any logic at all. He comes to the room in the Palace to tell
her that he doesn’t love her! It’s silly! It’s stupid, it’s
constructed, it’s not well
done. Okay, you have the big duet, but that is all.
BD: In the
Massenet it’s all set up and it works out
FA: That’s a
dramatic piece. That’s a dramatic
development, and you see the steps of the novel of
Prévost perfectly clearly. You see how Massenet follows
it, how he
puts it together, and how they work, how they develop. You have
the right chronology of situations and
feelings, which is the biggest lack in the Puccini version.
BD: Do you
enjoy singing the Massenet?
FA: Yes, very
being the first step into the heavier repertory, I have still very nice
thoughts about it. I would love to sing in
a new production at this point. These parts
that I am singing now, I’m not singing them as often as the Mozart
parts I used to sing in my first few years of my career. I’m
always hungry for these parts, and by singing other parts I’m
complimenting the ones I have not sung for a certain amount of
time because I find similarities. I couldn’t reach
them, so I was putting some expression into certain situations. I
was not very well focused, and I had to find explanations. Doubts
that I had before are now resolved. For instance, why does Des
Grieux have to run away from
the dead Manon? In the novel it says that he stays. He puts
clothes into his hand and stays naked for five days, just lying there
almost dead. Why does he have to move away from her? Okay,
interpret it because he stays alive. So it’s these two
levels. He has to be away from her at the end, for the last
second. These are the kinds of things that
keep you thinking, keep you going. I’m going to
sing this part again in February and March in Vienna, and this is a
production that I love very much. I’ve also been
offered to do a new production in France and in Spain.
getting a lot of offers for
a lot of different parts. How do you sort them out? How do
you decide which ones you’ll say yes, and the others you’ll turn
FA: I try to
accept the parts that I enjoy the most. I’m not
going to sing in Rigoletto
anymore because I had this bad experience
in Munich, and it’s a part where you really have to work a lot.
It’s a very unsympathetic personality.
BD: Does that
mean when you came here to Chicago to sing it, it’s not really as
exciting as it could be?
because when I sang it the
first time I felt very good with this part, and I felt that I worked
out the character very well. I have put him into an environment
where I could give this part all that it should have without hiding
anything of his negative side. But maybe to give
the public the possibility to think why a nature like his acts the
way he does, if he’s moved or pushed or forced by certain elements
to do what he does, it’s his philosophy. Verdi speaks about it
very clearly in his letters. He says this guy has zero character.
He’s a nothing, a jerk! But then when you
sing this part, you don’t have the environment where you can really
put everything in it and still make it a figure. You have to be
very careful not to make this unsympathetic figure more unsympathetic
than it already is because you are going to get really in trouble from
the audience with this approach, with the cutting
of the message for them.
BD: So then
he’s really a wonderful jerk?
FA: He’s a
wonderful jerk, yes, who has the power to seduce if he wants to.
as a matter of fact, he’s a very, very tragic figure, which you don’t
notice very much in the traditional settings as we have here. You
don’t have the possibility to show that he’s really searching for
something that he will never find. In the case of Gilda he has a
feeling, but he asks all these
questions about virtue.
BD: So he
couldn’t have been happy with her then?
FA: Well, he
was happy for one month or so... [Both roar
laughing together] But although Gilda is still being
faithful to him, we see him going to look for a prostitute in order to
experiment what’s really the animal in himself. We have in this
opera three clearly divided love
situations of the Duke. First
in the Court he approaches Countess Ceprano, and he approaches
her in a proper manner,
educated, subtle, and with a certain amount of flavoring in his
words. Then we have Gilda, whom he approaches with a kind of
first love, a student love in an innocent way.
BD: Is he
trying to recapture his youth?
always searching. He says he can notice things very well by which
situations he finds
himself. When these elements are here, and by this amount of
thought, he knows
perfectly well he’s doing. Of course he enjoys doing it, and
then he enjoys seeing what results he gets. So he is almost
pushed into virtue. He thought he would see himself through this
relationship, so let’s see what’s
there! He dives in and experiments, and he was
happy for one month. But then we have this other element, the
animal element in him.
why he goes to Maddelena?
Right. He goes to Maddelena, and that’s the way he
treats her as well. He tells Sparafucile he wants two things
— your sister and some wine!
So if you do these three colors together, then
you can make this figure work in a certain manner, although he remains
a jerk! He’s very unpopular character, although everybody
knows La donna è mobile.
When you put this aria in concerts, everybody cheers! They’re
happy to hear that, but in the opera it doesn’t happen at all
because people are more aware of the character. Then they maybe
more aware of that he’s saying terrible things about women! So he
has to fight against this
personality, and the key is not to over-do this mean
side of him.
BD: Now have
you retired this part? You’re not
going to accept engagements for him anymore?
FA: It’s not
a farewell forever, but I will try not to accept it anymore. I’m
to accept parts that I enjoy more, and parts to widen my way.
I’ve been thinking about Don José for a certain amount of time,
and I might give it a try. But into the Italian repertory I’m
going further. I want to go to Forza
del Destino and Don Carlo and Andrea
Chénier. Those are the three goals I want to achieve
in the next
years. I have been running after Trovatore for a couple of years,
and I have had three engagements already. But for some reason,
of the three have been postponed, and I look at that as an omen that
the part too hard! [Both laugh]
BD: After all
the planning and thinking and rehearsing, is singing fun?
FA: When you
are in shape, yes. When you’re
not in shape, you better avoid doing it.
BD: So you
make sure you’re in shape as much as
Yes. One of the themes is by changing the repertory and leaving
the relaxed life that
I would have had this last eight years as a Mozart, Rossini, and
Donizetti singer. Because I have to learn my repertory again, I
have to throw away the work of ten years.
surely you’ve built on that work?
it was not a definite break
that I said now no more Mozart or Rossini or Donizetti parts
from here on. But I was putting a year of work to five new
roles, which means that all of the time that I could have had to let my
voice recover from singing performances I
was using to learn. So it was really a challenge for
me. I noticed that I was weaker and was more susceptible
to get ill, and I wasn’t getting enough rest vocally. So that was
a big danger I didn’t count on and I didn’t plan for because I was
singing very much, up to 125
performances a year... besides recordings, besides rehearsals and all
these other things. It was very, very much, but it was a lot of
repertory. As to what would have happened if I don’t move on, I
could have kept relying on my old repertory, singing the parts,
learning maybe a new part and enlarging my
concert repertory. That could have been it, but I feel I did
the right thing, and I’m happy with it. And by achieving
my goal it showed I did the right thing and I went the right way.
Good. I wish you lots of continued
FA: Thank you
© 1984 & 1990 Bruce Duffie
These conversations were recorded in Chicago on November 24,
1984, and December 6, 1990. Portions were broadcast on WNIB in
1987, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1998, and 2000.
A part of the first interview was transcribed and published in Nit & Wit Magazine in
September, 1986. This full transcription was made in 2015, and
posted on this
at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una
Barry for her help in preparing this website
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been
transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975
its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His
interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since
and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well
on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.
You are invited to visit his website
for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of
other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also
to call your attention to the photos and information about his
grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a
century ago. You may also send him E-Mail
with comments, questions and suggestions.