Tenor / Administrator David
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie
Lloyd, Tenor With City
Opera, Dies at 92
By MARGALIT FOX
Published in The New York Times
February 12, 2013
David Lloyd, an American tenor who sang leading roles with the New York
City Opera in the 1950s, died on Friday in the Bronx. He was 92.
His death, at Calvary Hospital, was confirmed by his son, David Thomas
A lyric tenor, Mr. Lloyd was equally well known as a recitalist and an
oratorio singer. He was praised throughout his career for his
insightful musicianship, as in a 1961 recital he gave at Judson Hall in
New York of works by Purcell, Brahms, Fauré and Tchaikovsky.
Reviewing the recital in The New
York Times, Raymond Ericson wrote that
Mr. Lloyd’s “contributions to the musical life of New York have been as
numerous as they have been splendid.”
Mr. Lloyd made his operatic debut with City Opera in 1950, as David in
Wagner’s “Meistersinger.” He sang regularly with the company throughout
the decade and occasionally thereafter; his roles included Pinkerton in
Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” the Prince in Rossini’s “Cenerentola,”
Alfred in Johann Strauss’s “Fledermaus” and Pedrillo in Mozart’s
“Abduction From the Seraglio.”
Notable roles elsewhere include the title part in the United States
premiere of Benjamin Britten’s comic opera “Albert Herring,” performed
at Tanglewood under Boris Goldovsky in 1949. With the NBC Opera
Theater, Mr. Lloyd sang in televised productions of Humperdinck’s
“Hansel and Gretel,” Prokofiev’s “War and Peace” and other operas in
the 1950s. As a soloist, Mr. Lloyd was heard with some of the country’s
orchestras. His European engagements included the Glyndebourne and
David Lloyd Jenkins was born in Minneapolis on Feb. 29, 1920. (He
dropped the “Jenkins” early in his career, at the suggestion of his
management.) He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Minneapolis College
of Music and
later attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he
studied with the Metropolitan Opera baritone Richard Bonelli. During
World War II, Mr. Lloyd served as a Navy pilot.
Mr. Lloyd had a second career as an arts administrator and teacher.
From 1965 until 1980 he was the general director of the Lake George
Opera Festival in upstate New York. (The festival is now known as Opera
Saratoga.) From 1985 to 1988 he directed the Juilliard American Opera
Mr. Lloyd’s first wife, the former Maria Shefeluk, a violinist, died
before him, as did a son, Timothy Cameron Lloyd, a composer. Besides
his son, David Thomas, he is survived by his second wife, Barbara
Wilson Lloyd, and a grandson.
His recordings include Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” and Handel’s
“Messiah,” both with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein,
and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with the Boston Symphony under Serge
Usually my interviews with performing musicians have taken place
in conjunction with their appearances, mostly in Chicago. I make
the distinction of performing musicians because quite a number of the
composers have been contacted by telephone for the conversation.
Be that as it may, it came to my attention that David Lloyd would be in
Chicago to judge a singing competition for up-and-coming artists.
Though his time here was short and his agenda was packed, he graciously
agreed to meet with me for a chat.
His long experience as both singer and impresario gave him a nearly
unique perspective on both his task as judge and his responses to my
As we were setting up for the recording, we spoke briefly about his
wide-ranging repertoire, and we pick up the discussion as it moved into
the realm of newer pieces . . . . . . . . .
Bruce Duffie: Have you sung much new
music, or did you confine yourself mostly
to established repertoire?
Oh, I did quite a bit of new
music. I was the first American Albert in Albert Herring.
I did the Spring Symphony of
Britten for first time in America. It was supposed to have been
the first time ever, but Britten pleaded with
Koussevitzky to let Peter Pears do it in Belgium at the World’s
Fair. I did Christopher Columbus
with Mitropoulos [Mack Harrell as Columbus, also Dorothy Dow, John
Brownlee, and Norman Scott, New York Philharmonic, November,
1952]. That was by Milhaud. He redid it after that
. San Francisco finally did the
revised version. [Lloyd
would also be in Elektra, the
pirated recording of which is shown farther down on this webpage.]
Another opera I did with the
New York Philharmonic and Mitropoulos was Wozzeck.
BD: You were
the Drum Major?
DL: No, at
that time I was Andreas. I also did Lulu with Sarah Caldwell.
That’s sort of new... or at that time it was.
BD: It’s the
newer style. You spent quite a
bit of your time, though, doing Baroque and lighter music.
DL: Yes, lots
BD: Before we
go into that, how is it different
for someone trained to use the voice very lyrically to then sing new
music which is so very angular?
DL: That’s an
interesting question. I never
thought of it that way. I just did it. [Laughs] I
didn’t turn anything down, I guess. In the book by Rudolf Kloiber
[Handbuch der Oper] where there is a list the Fachs among German opera houses, I
found I’ve done things from every Fach.
But I didn’t know about Fach,
so you can’t blame
me. In those days, we singers were not typed so
much. We were not put in pigeon holes. You got a job and
you did it. I did an awful lot of performances of Das Lied von der Erde, The Song of
the Earth by Mahler. I
never recorded that, though I wish I had. I did
it with Ormandy, with Koussevitzky, and I did it with Thor Johnson in
Cincinnati and I did it in Denver
with the Denver Symphony with Vladimir Golschmann.
BD: Is it
better to stick with a Fach,
a particular group
of roles, or to just simply be a tenor and sing anything
that is written in your range?
were invented by German impresarios because
in the smaller houses, if they got twelve singers, one of each Fach,
they can do almost any opera. We didn’t have enough opera
companies here in the U.S., or enough
opera going on when I was doing most of my singing to be
choosey. Somebody said to me, “You should do nothing but David,”
because I’d had a success with David in Meistersinger at the City
Opera. After my debut in 1950 he said, “You should do nothing but
David and Pedrillo in the
Abduction from the Seraglio.
Just do those two roles.”
Well, in this country I would have starved to death because
nobody was doing either one of those very much. Meistersinger was a rare item in
days. I was invited to do it at the Met, but my manager wouldn’t
let me do it because they wouldn’t give me the first performance, so
they turned it down. At that time my manager, Arthur Judson, was
heavily with Rudolph Bing, who was new.
eventually changed managers?
DL: Finally I
left, but the thing is, in those days you didn’t say, “Oh, that’s
not for me. That’s not good for my voice.” First of all, we
never did things enough times to have it be bad for your voice. I
remember running into a girl from my home town who said
she was just back from Germany where she had done eighteen
Marschallins. I don’t think I ever did
eighteen of anything. I did a lot of Beethoven Ninths, which
is not particularly in my type, and Song
of the Earth, which is not
my type. I’ve done an awful lot of those. I’ve done light
roles like Pedrillo, but I’ve also done Belmonte in that opera.
back to my question, then, is
it better now that voices are type cast, or is it, perhaps, better to
sing all things?
DL: I don’t
know if it’s better or worse, but singers are type cast these
days. As we sit and judge singers in contests,
we say, “That, of course, isn’t for him or her. They
shouldn’t be singing that. That’s the wrong repertoire.” If
they did the wrong repertoire all the time, that probably
would be very hard on them. Or maybe it would suddenly become the
repertoire because they’ve learned how to do it and sound the right
way. I don’t know. People would say,
“Yes, you should stick to a certain type of role. When you’re a
certain age and you have a certain kind of a voice, you should only do
that.” I had a light, lyric, tenor voice, I suppose, although I
always thought of myself as more dramatic than my voice was, and I felt
more dramatic than my voice was. I probably had a light,
lyric tenor that became more of a lyric tenor. At City Opera I
did all sorts of roles. I did Butterfly,
and Traviata, so they thought
of me as
somewhat of a lighter tenor than Rodolfo and Walther von
Stolzing. I was David. That’s how I started out. It
was a big
success, and I was type cast. [Laughs]
BD: Tell me a
little bit about David.
What kind of a character is he?
terrific. He’s an apprentice to Hans
Sachs the cobbler, and he loves his master, works hard for him not only
as a cobbler, because that’s the way they did things, but also as a
singing student. As he explains to Walther von Stolzing, he
gets them all mixed up sometimes, how to make a shoe and how to
sing. There’s an awful lot of notes in that part.
It’s a long part. Not as long as Hans Sachs, but David is very
substantial, and it’s the plum
for comprimario tenors. If they rise to David, that’s the utmost.
BD: Is it
appropriate that David be promoted to Gesell
[journeyman] in the end?
Yes. He gets to be a mastersinger
eventually, I guess. He doesn’t get that in the opera, but that’s
where he’s heading.
BD: But at
the time Sachs promotes him,
is David ready for that?
promotes him on stage, yes. There are various categories. I
can’t remember all of them, but he gets promoted up to Gesell, and he gets a slap in the
face as a result!
BD: In the
end, though, is he happy getting
yes. That’s definitely something he
wants, and Magdalena wants him, too.
they’re happy in the fourth act?
acts is long enough! [Both laugh] But after the
opera, yes. She’s an older woman, so I’m sure he’s very happy
BD: Is she an
older woman who has had
someone, or an older woman who has gotten left out?
DL: I think
she’s just an older woman,
period. She’s the maid of Eva Pogner, who marries Walther.
BD: So she
hasn’t had anybody?
DL: We don’t
hear about it, but they call her
Die Alte [the old one] in the
opera. She’s probably a spinster.
days we seem
to be delving into the characters and their psyches, and all of the
ideas behind the people being portrayed on stage. Is this good,
this too much work?
DL: The research is
very important, just so it doesn’t interfere with your singing.
It gives color to the
singing. I remember when I did the part of Pierre in War and
Peace of Prokofiev. [The
role had been sung by Franco Corelli at the Italian premiere on May 26,
1953, in Florence.] That was a newer
and it was the premiere of that opera in this country on NBC
Television [January 13, 1957]. I read the Tolstoy novel, and then
I went through it
again and underlined everything that was in the opera. I had such
feeling for that character that I could think his thoughts in case
somebody wrote more music for the part! I felt very happy
about that role, and I saw our performance of it recently at the Museum
of Television. It came out pretty well.
Prokofiev write appropriately for that
DL: Oh I
think so, yes. Yes. He caught
the spirit, definitely.
BD: Are there
times when you delve into
the character and you realize the composer has made a mistake in
carving the character that he does?
DL: I hadn’t
thought about that. I think Don José is great. I’ve
loved doing that
part. That may be my favorite part. I did that a lot, and
at that time I’m sure it was wrong for my voice. But I’m not
going to give them back a dime.
[Both laugh] I never really thought about whether a character was
wrong. It becomes something else. When it’s a
combination of somebody’s words and somebody’s music, that’s really 95%
of the character, maybe even 99%. The other thoughts you have are
because of research and because of your studies as
an actor, and how you think this character would move or walk.
Once I did Dmitri in Boris Godunov,
who is described as having one arm
shorter than the other, and being red-haired. I looked at myself
mirror and realized I had brownish hair at that time, so it was a
rather quick decision that I made to do
something about that. This was in
Chattanooga, Tennessee. They didn’t have a make-up artist there
that would help you out, so I went to the dime store and got some red
dye. It didn’t turn out very well. It was
all over the pillow in the hotel, and I’m sure they’re still looking
for me. [Laughs] But I wanted to be honest to the character
as he is described in the opera.
BD: Do you
expect the audience
to know that Dmitri would be a red-haired man?
DL: Oh, I’m
sure today they would. At that
time, in Chattanooga, maybe there wouldn’t be anybody that would have
known because they had never done Boris
there. This particular production was in English, so they could
hear the description.
BD: Who was
singing the title role?
DL: It was
Chester Ludgin, who jumped in at the last
minute for Ezio Flagello. Ludgin, who was a baritone primarily,
did a wonderful Boris Godunov.
was a stalwart of City Opera for many
is the word. The
first time I met Chester — and we talk about it still to this day — he
in doing Frank in Fledermaus.
Nobody had ever seen him in that
role on that stage, and it was one of his earliest roles, as a matter
of fact. He was wonderful! The rest of us really stood
around and worried about what he was going to do next. But he
knew what he was going to do! He had had a rich
experience in the Amato Opera Company, so much experience that he was
right at home on the stage.
BD: In opera,
where is the
balance between the music and the drama?
personally feel the music must come first
because it gives the mood. It gives you the clue to everything
do, really. Listen to the introduction to an aria, for instance,
Fernando’s in Così
The introduction, the first notes he
sings [demonstrates lovely soft notes]. You can’t come banging in
like Tristan when that music says this is a very effete young
man. This is a
fancy, lacy-colored music, lacy-sleeve music. Don’t attack it
you were Florestan. That’s another role I’ve done a great deal of
should never have done!
BD: That’s loud
and heavy, but short.
short, right. I did it with the
Boston Symphony in a concert version. I also did it early on in
history of the Washington opera, in a Nazi version.
BD: You were
the good guy, and Pizzaro
was a Nazi?
right. They didn’t have swastikas, but that was the
idea. I guess they didn’t have money for the great kind of
period costumes, so they updated it. That’s usually in back of a
the updatings of operas, the money.
BD: Or lack
DL: Or lack
of it, yes, mostly.
BD: How do
you feel now that we’ve moved into
the age of the stage director. Is this a good thing or a bad
thing, or just a thing?
Goldovsky gave a talk yesterday, and he said that to do it differently
is necessary. To do it well
is good enough, but just to be different gets a little
tiresome. I’m not a very
good audience member, and sometimes it works just right. Ted Mann
from Circle in the Square came up to the Lake George Opera. That
is Part Two of my life, where I was impresario for eighteen
years. Mann did Gianni Schicchi,
and he set it in the
Sacco-Venzetti period. By putting those people somewhat closer to
our time, the greed in that opera seemed to become more
real than when people are in the period costumes, or even a Commedia
dell’arte period, like City Center did at one time. So to
when updating an opera worked because the message in the opera
was very real. Somebody dies, and where’s my inheritance?
that opera is all about — greed — and
that became more immediate and
more intense, I thought.
mentioned you were an
impresario. Were you, perhaps, a more benevolent impresario,
having been an artist on the stage before?
DL: I would
like to think so. I had a
great deal of sympathy for singers, of course. On the other hand,
they couldn’t fool me, because I’d tried all their tricks. [Both
laugh] But I understood them, and tried to be
compassionate about them. I tried to create an atmosphere that
would make them work the best. If they had an ability from one to
ten, I tried to provide a condition whereby they’d get maybe from eight
to ten most of the time. That was really what I tried to
do. I spent an awful lot of time with my apprentice program
because that seems to be what interests me most, and that’s where I am
today. I am the director of a foundation that helps singers.
advice do you have for the young singer
DL: Sing in
tune and be intelligible. After that we’ll talk about it, but get
that first. Getting the balance of the sound of the word and
the sound of the tone you’re singing it on is something I wish more
would do. There seems to be a big desire to
want to overpower everybody with the size of voice. I just
auditioned singers for the Met here today in Chicago, last weekend in
San Francisco, and the weekend before that in Los Angeles, and
I think the majority of singers are out there to impress you with how
large a sound they can make. Music sometimes suffers, and
the language and the tempered scale get distorted, when the main object
is, “Wow! Listen to the noise I can make.”
protesting] Don’t you need a huge amount of sound to fill
the Met, and Chicago, and San Francisco?
What is needed is a clear sound in tune, with a
very clear word sound that goes along with it. We have the
responsibility as singers to communicate both poetry and melody.
We’re the only ones that can do that. Clarinets or violins can’t
do that. We can communicate poetry and melody, but when you go
out for sound, you neglect the poetry. Of course, singers are
music students, and they’re naturally going to pay more attention to
those notes, and try to make them big and round and pear-shaped.
Whether it’s O, Ah, A, E, shape or not just make
it big and round and pear shaped. For us as adjudicators it gets
kind of tiring after a while, and then somebody will come
along and sing beautifully, sing the language as it should be stressed,
with the strong words getting the strong accents and the weak words
not getting any stress but flowing between. It is the same
with the strong syllables and the weak syllables, not [stressing all]
SYL-LA-BLES. But when they go for big sound, it’s
syl-la-BLE. It’s just [speaks it naturally] syllable.
Auditions are tiring
to listen to, no matter how big and gorgeous and round and
beautiful the singers are. It isn’t the language anymore,
especially English, because
that has more stress in singing than any of the other sung
languages. They all have a certain amount, but French has
sung and experienced
voices for many years. How are the current and near-future voices
coming along? Do they compare favorably or unfavorably with those
of today and yesterday?
I think favorably, certainly
potentially. We didn’t hear Caruso today nor did we hear
Ponselle, but we heard some people that with the right care and feeding
can probably go very far in that direction. There is an enormous
amount of singing talent. Certainly,
there’s an awful lot more people today trying to be singers, and in
order to be a singer today you can’t do what I did and go out on
community concerts. I sang 75 one year. There aren’t that
many concerts to be sung, and not many people want to hear full
recitals anymore. Oratorios are still going on, but there seemed
to be a lot more when I was singing. In my time I sang about 70
times with the Boston Symphony, doing
orchestral things for voices including Bach cantatas in their
Bach-Mozart Series at Tanglewood. I also sang about 50 times with
the Philadelphia Orchestra, and about
the same number of times with the New York Philharmonic because there
many things for singers to do. Mitropoulos got there and did a
of operas. I did a lot of concert versions with him.
opera work in concert?
because the words and the notes are the most powerful thing in the
opera. So you miss the scenery
and the costumes and the stage direction, but, gee whiz, Eve Queler
packs the house in New York, and one of our judges for the Sullivan
Awards today has the same thing in Toronto, Canada. He says it’s
30-some years he’s been doing concert opera. He does unusual
things, which also attracts people. He doesn’t try to do Traviata
in concert. I don’t see any point in doing concert opera
that’s being done very well in stage versions, but it works,
Are you pleased with the recordings that are
available of your voice?
never been pleased with my own
recordings. I’m just getting around to hearing most of
remember when I recorded the St.
Matthew with Bernstein, I’d had the
flu and I’ve never been able to listen to it. My wife says it’s
that’s what you should do — trust
probably should. I was so uncomfortable
making that recording, and of course they couldn’t wait for me to get
over the flu. Nobody else had gotten it. There weren’t that
many people around that could have jumped in at that time. I
listen occasionally now to the Britten Serenade for Tenor,
Horn and Strings. I enjoy very much a tape that was taken
Arlecchino of Busoni that
Mitropoulos did in concert. He staged it,
and we were making entrances in back in Carnegie Hall through
all sorts of doors. So we sort of acted that one out.
That, I liked. I liked my singing there. It was very
BD: Did you
sing differently for
microphone than you did in concert?
I never became a good microphone
singer. I just sang what I did usually. For instance, in
we did Joan of Arc and a few
things. We would do it three or four times in
Philadelphia, then take it to Washington and Baltimore and Carnegie
Hall, and then go down and have a recording session. All the
people on the recording sang
exactly the same.
BD: Did you
adjust your voice at all for a
small house or a big house?
consciously. I was still just trying to
sing words and notes. Sometimes I would get a feedback from a
that would give me a false sense of security, and I might relax a
little bit and the intonation would sag. The
same thing would be true in the operas in the sense that if the house
dead, then I might force a bit. I think that was a
BD: You say
that you just accepted all
kinds of roles. Were there any roles at all that you said, “I
just can’t do it, and won’t do it?”
DL: There was
one that came at me in the last minute. I was told, “You’ve got a
week to learn Gottfried von Einem’s The
Trial.” I remember there was a 10/8 section in it, and I
was doing several other things at the same time, and I felt like I
was letting down the City Opera and Joseph Rosenstock. I said, “I
just can’t do it. I’m
sorry but I can’t do it.” I hated to turn it down, and I
may have turned down a couple more things like that because I just
didn’t have time. They came about at the last minute because
somebody conked out or something. On the other hand, I’ve jumped
in a couple of times, too!
Are there any roles that you wish you had gotten
the opportunity to learn and sing a few times?
DL: I haven’t
thought of it, but I’m sure there
are. Some operas have come along recently. I haven’t sung
a while. Since I became an impresario there hasn’t been much
time. I have begun to hear operas and think I wish I could
have done that one. I would like to have done Chenier, and I’d
like to have done Manon Lescaut.
I did Manon. Yes, I
there are lots of them.
BD: Tell me
about des Grieux.
DL: Oh, I
like him very much. The role is wonderful to sing. “Ah!
Fuyez” is just marvelous, and the Dream is so beautiful. I
sang a contest here in Chicago. They gave me the choice of either
the Dream or Celeste Aïda for my
number. I had been the winner of a previous contest that had been
started by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
They did it in a small place, the
Philadelphia Football Stadium, which was only 97,000 seats! [Both
laugh] But they filled it. There I sang “Vesti
la giubba”. I shouldn’t have sung that. I still
have this thought about being a bit of a heroic tenor, or at least a
spinto. Anyway, the
contest here in Chicago was at Soldier Field! One hundred
thousand people and I was doing the Dream
Manon??? That just didn’t seem right. So I chose to do “Celeste Aïda”. Another
tenor also sang it, and he won. There were three judges, I
Charles Thomas liked me. The other two were Helen Traubel and
Edith Mason, and they said, “He shouldn’t be singing that
[Both have a huge laugh] So it caught up with me! But back
then I thought
they were crazy. I started off wrong. I auditioned for the
Met auditions when I was eighteen or maybe nineteen. I told
Wilfred Pelletier later on about this. He was the judge. It
was at KSTP Minneapolis/St. Paul, my home town, and he was sitting in
booth, because at that time the Met auditions were primarily
radio. He said, “What are you going to sing?” and I
said, “Siegmund’s love song from Die Walküre.”
“Oh, all right,” he said. Then he
said, “Do you have anything lighter?” and I
said, “Yes, I have ‘Vesti La giubba.’”
He said, “Oh, my
God!” I heard this over the radio, over the speaker. So
he said, “All right. Go ahead.” So I sang it, and he said,
“You must go home and learn Mozart, and get a high C, and come
[Laughs] I thought to myself that fellow doesn’t really
I’ve listened to Melchior and he went on for many, many years after
that. [Laughs] That’s why I got started off on the wrong
track. I just wanted to get into that dramatic stuff. I
thought if it has to be opera, Wagner is the only music really worth
singing because there just wasn’t much else around.
BD: This was
in 1940 or so?
DL: This was
1937 or ’38, yes.
BD: You had
Wagner many Saturdays from the Met.
right. That’s right.
after year after year
with Melchior and Flagstad.
BD: So you
sang David. Did you sing any other
DL: I did a
Walther [Meistersinger] in a
concert version with the Kansas
City Symphony. George London was Sachs. His
widow, Nora, was at the contest today. We’re still giving a
London Award as well as the Sullivan Awards. That’s the
I’m the director of, the William Matheus Sullivan Foundation,
Inc. We just call it Sullivan because there is no other
foundation called Sullivan.
To read my Interview with Edward Downes, click HERE.
To read my Interview with Theodor Uppman, click HERE.
[With a gentle nudge] You will have to make sure there’s also a
yes. As a matter of fact, the Gilbert
and Sullivan Society came to me, quite naturally, asking for help.
BD: Is that
something that an opera singer should
and Sullivan? Sure. “A
Wandering Minstrel, I” is beautiful for tenor, and a lot of other
roles, too. I didn’t do them, but during my years as a teacher in
the Opera Department at the University of Illinois, I couldn’t
find anybody to do the Major General. I had my eye on it, so I
it with my kids. That worked out all right. I didn’t have
to age. I just naturally looked the right age. [Laughs]
DL: When it works,
there’s nothing better. It
is a wonderful experience! All the nerve endings light up when
you see a singer who is singing well. They become much better
looking than when they’re in repose. They glow. They really
do, and even if
they may be a little bit on the ugly side as just ordinary people,
when they’re singing well they become beautiful to look at as well as
listen to. It’s strange. I’ve noticed that.
means that they’re
DL: Yes, and
it’s working. It’s
functional energy, and when a singer’s in trouble, they’re fighting
themselves in a way and there’s combat going on inside.
BD: Should a
singer become the character, or
should a singer simply portray the character?
DL: When you
say, Rodolfo, you are going to sing those notes and those words, and
Rodolfo’s character, primarily. Rodolfo does certain things
either because Puccini says so, or the librettist says so, or the
says so. What you
add to it is your own personality. Singing Rodolfo’s words,
Rodolfo’s notes, you’re almost all the way there, if indeed you’re
doing that. Doing what the director says, and what goes with the
music according to the composer’s wishes, that’s getting you much
closer. Then there is every little thought you can have, so that
work up a sub-text for Rodolfo. What was he doing before this
scene started? There’s already something going on,
something that’ll get you away from portraying general emotions,
general sadness, not something
specific but general joy.
BD: Does it
make him human?
DL: I don’t
know as I’ve answered your question very
well, but the primary consideration is to communicate
those notes and words by lending your own humanity to it; by
taking a big breath and then thinking those thoughts that you’ve well
established in your mind. Along with those thoughts, you can
color that a lot by delving into who Rodolfo was. Read the
various stories which give you hints, and then develop your own story
about Rodolfo, which is
justified by everything he does, and even everything that Puccini
writes while he’s on stage. This brings out his character.
There’s a lot given in the opera about Rodolfo. Mimì
quite a bit about him in the third act. She says this,
and this, and this, and this, and then Marcello says you’re this, and
this, and this, and this... so you write those things down.
These are things that have been said about you, and you can then work
it all up
together. It’s a big pot that you throw these things into to make
BD: So then
it won’t really be a huge surprise when
Mimì articulates some of these things, or Rodolfo articulates
right. You can’t be just a nice tenor. You’ve got to really
take these things into consideration, and it is unusual, sometimes, to
find a tenor who’s willing to do
that. He just wants to be a hero, no matter if he’s sometimes a
lousy guy and is mean to Mimì, and jealous, and all these things
are said about him. It’s got to come out.
BD: Thank you
for being a musician.
DL: Oh, well
thank you, Mr. Duffie. I don’t
know if I had much choice. I had it all around me as a
youth. My mother was an accompanist in Minneapolis,
played for a lot of the singers there, and those that came
through. I kind of got attached to it, and I said I wanted to be
singer. You can do that if you’re interested. Even if you
have a great natural voice you can become a singer. I’ve
known several people who have had pretty long careers doing that, and
there are those with the natural voices who have short careers
because they sing themselves out. But don’t be
discouraged if your voice isn’t as big as someone else. I never
got the lead in the
operettas. There was one kid who had this big, booming voice, and
he always got the leads because he had that beautiful voice. I
envied him and I wanted to sing so badly
that I finally sang. Now I want to help other singers.
BD: It’s great that
you’re sharing your knowledge
Yes. I enjoy that very much. We have
awards. Last year here in Chicago, 22 Sullivan awards were given
at $5,000 each to the winners. Then they sang for all the opera
at the Lyric on the main stage. Then this year they will not
only get awards at the National Convention of Opera
America in San Diego, but besides that they will get role
grants. They’ll get $5,000 to begin with, and whenever they
get a contract, they submit a copy of it and they get money to help
prepare the role. That can go on for several years.
Great! That’s kind of replacing the system in Europe where you’re
taken on by a
house, and the house provides all of this.
Yes. We have wonderful things in this
country now that have developed, like the Lyric Opera Center for
American Artists, and the San Francisco Opera Center, and the Houston
Opera Center, and programs of that kind where they take people
in and pay them when they sing. They teach them as they
sing, they prepare them, they coach them and they give them
languages. They have special performances with just these young
artists, and these programs are doing very well. Ardis Krainik told
me herself that she’s so thankful, and that
she’s leaning on them more and more. If somebody gets sick, one
of them goes in and suddenly a new star is born. In San
Francisco they have the Merola Opera that they start them in.
They do the Western Opera Tour, they do the Brown Bag Operas, and
get to be Adler Fellows. That’s sort of like the ones here, and
time they get on the main stage in a role, they’ve got a lot of fans in
that area that have heard them.
perhaps more important, some experience.
DL: And lots
of experience. That’s one of
the big values of it — they get on stage with
the big fellows, the big
cheeses, and watch them and see what they do right — and
wrong — and they learn that way.
BD: So you’re
optimistic about the
future of opera?
BD: Thank you
for chatting with me today. I
DL: It’s a
pleasure, Mr. Duffie. Thank you.
© 1991 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on November 15,
1991. Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1995 and 2000.
This transcription was made in 2015, and posted on this
at that time.
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.