Conversation Piece:

Bass-Baritone  JOHN  DEL CARLO

By Bruce Duffie

Though quite versatile, Bass-Baritone John Del Carlo has decided to concentrate mainly on a few roles that are particularly well-suited to his voice and body-type, especially buffo characters that are quite jolly but can also tug at your heart.  His career does take him to opera houses around the world, though the big houses in the United States get to enjoy his artistry most.

A large, burly man with a chubby face that is perfect for a goatee, it is obvious when he walks onstage (or into a room for an interview) that, like a large animal, he could easily maul you to death, but would much rather be playfully goofy and have a great time laughing and joking.

In January of 2000, he was back in Chicago for Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, Jr., with Felicity Lott, Thomas Allen, Bonnaventura Bottone, Rebecca Evans, Joyce Castle and Timothy Nolen, conducted by Leopold Hager.  [Names which are links refer to my interviews elsewhere on this website.]  I'd seen the performance a few days before our interview, so we began right there . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:  You looked like you were having such a tremendous amount of fun!

John Del Carlo:  Oh, absolutely.  Every time I do the part of Frank, it's one of those roles where you just have a great time.  It's work, but it's fun work.  Once the preparatory work is done, and all the learning of the part, which has been done over for a long time, many, many years, you just settle into it, and just settle into the groove, as they say, and have a great time with it.

John Del Carlo (center) as Frank with Dame Felicity Lott
and Bonnaventura Bottone at Lyric Opera of Chicago

BD:  Do you find that all your roles are like this, that you settle into a groove and then have a great time with them?

JDC:  [Laughs.]  Not all of them.  No, no.  There are a few that cause some consternation.  But for the most part, once I get over the rehearsals, and the jitters of opening night, and so forth, I kind of settle right in, and just go for it.

BD:  You sing a lot of comic roles and you also sing some heavy, serious roles.

JDC:  Yeah, a few.  I actually started out about 1987, '88, singing some Wagner here in Chicago, with Marek Janowski conducting.  I was doing Kothner in Die Meistersinger, and he asked me if I had sung any other Wagner repertoire, and at that time I had not.

BD:  But you're supposed to respond, "Yes, of course!" and then immediately buy the score.

JDC:  That's it.  That's it.  Go buy a score.  [Chuckles]   Actually he asked if I had ever thought of singing Wotan, and I said I hadn't.  So he said, "I think your voice is good."  Thomas Stewart and William Johns [two very experienced Wagner-singers]  were in the Meistersinger at the time, and I asked them their opinions.  They said, "Why not?  Why don't you give it a try?"  So I re-learned the monologue from The Flying Dutchman which I had sung many, many years ago as an audition piece, and I auditioned for Janowski on the stage.  He said, "I really like this.  I think we can go somewhere."  A year later, I ended up in Cologne, where he was going to perform with the Gürzenich Symphony, singing Wotan in Die Walküre and the Wanderer in Siegfried.  Later I did them with the Opera, and ended up having a three-year guest contract as a result of that whole experience of singing Wagner. So I sang Wagner and Rossini and Donizetti, all in three years' time.  I must say, though, that I don't sing the Wotans any more.  I've let them go because the comedic roles, for me, have been so successful.  But who knows?  People keep asking me to sing Hans Sachs.  Oh my, what a role that is!  I would take some time off to really learn it correctly.  But I'm so booked now in these comedic things that I feel I should keep heading in that direction, because it feels right to me.

BD:  When you sing Kothner, do you pay attention and begin your work on Sachs while you're there?

John Del Carlo (second from left) as Kothner in Seattle,
with Gabor Andrassy, Julian Patrick, Archie Drake, Timothy Mussard and Norman Smith (l-r)

JDC:  If I were going to sing it professionally, someplace, I would work on it with Bernd Weikl, for instance, who's a great Sachs, or Jan-Hendrik Rootering, another great Sachs.  I talked to him about it and they're very open to it, and very, very helpful.

BD:  There's a sort of camaraderie there?

JDC:  Yeah, exactly, because there are not that many around.

BD:  So now you're concentrating on the comedic roles.

JDC:  Right, right, right.

BD:  Then the big question:  how do you make sure that a comedic role does not become slapstick?

JDC:  Make it real.

BD:  [Surprised]  Real???

JDC:  Make it real.  From the heart, from the mind.  Don't play to make it funny.  Just do what the text says.  Be what the text says.  Sing what the text says and what the music denotes.  How did Rossini write the particular part and why is it that way?  And don't overdo it.  Don't play to "play" comedy, but just play it.  And if you have that honesty, for me, at least, then it comes across.

BD:  [In a provocative tone]  Are these real guys?

JDC:  These are real people, yes.

BD:  Bartolo's a real guy?

JDC:  Absolutely.

BD:  Mustafà is a real guy?

JDC:  Oh, absolutely.  Yes.  When I walk on the stage I'm no more John Del Carlo.  I'm the character.  I come into the character.  I think, "Why would he do that?"  I'm thinking in terms of the character, what he would do in that position, why would he sing that, why would he say that.

BD:  You want to know your motivation.

JDC:  Motivation, right.  I think it's very important for us to listen to each other as actors and singers.  If we don't listen to each other there's no way for us to interact.  I heard an interview with Robert De Niro on "Inside the Actors Studio," and he said that so often the actors aren't listening to one another.  And I thought, "Yes, you're absolutely right!"  There are so many times when everybody's up there doing their own thing, and they're concentrating, but they're not listening to what others are saying.  So how can we talk to one another?  How can we act?

BD:  [Feigning surprise]  Oh, my God!  You've gotta pay attention???  [Laughter.]

JDC:  Yeah.  Definitely!  Definitely.  [Laughter continues.]

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  Are you glad that this is a great era for the mezzo soprano, so that a lot of your roles come back for you?

JDC:  Oh, absolutely.  Oh, yes.  No question there.  The more the merrier.  [Chuckles.]

BD:  Tell me a bit about Alidoro.

JDC:  Oh, Alidoro in Cenerentola.  Ah, that's quite a role.  Of course, we all know that the original aria in the score was not written by Rossini, but by a student of his.  The interpolated aria was found three or four years later and then added.  So at the premiere, the aria of Alidoro was not the aria that you hear now.  "La del ciel nell'arcano profundo" is now sung more often than not.  Alidoro is quite a character.  In one production I did, he actually was the magic godfather.  He performed magic, and had puppets.  The other characters were all puppets in the beginning.  Cinderella was in her closet, and I manipulated the scene.  It was a Frank Corsaro production, I believe, and it was quite lovely.

BD:  Very inventive

JDC:  Yes, very inventive, and that was fun, because it gave me a little bit more to do as the character in the opera.

BD:  Do you like it when the director will actually find more things for you to do when you're not singing?

JDC:  Yes, because the actor in me loves that.  If I didn't have a singing voice, I'd be an actor.

BD:  Really?

JDC:  [Chuckles.] At six foot six, I'd be an awfully big one, but I'd be an actor, nevertheless, because I really, really enjoy it.

BD:  Have you ever done any straight acting?

JDC:  I never have.  I dream about it all the time.  I mean, I think about it.  I would really like to do it, but it would have to be a certain type of character that would fit me, my body type, and so forth.  [Chuckles.]

BD:  Are you glad you're not a high tenor?

JDC:  Yes.  I love the tenor voice, but I'm glad I'm not.  Definitely glad, yeah.  I remember one time, years ago in San Francisco where I grew up, Beverly Sills was doing Fledermaus, in fact.  I was in the chorus then.  Back in the early '70s I spent about three seasons in the opera chorus, and she looked at me.  We were standing backstage, and she says, "Are you a tenor?"   I said no, and she says, "Doggone it!  Wouldn't it be great if I had a tenor the size of you?"  [Laughter]

BD:  So, are you a baritone, or a bass?

del carloJDC:  I'm a bass-baritone.

BD:  Let me ask you about another role that you've recorded:  Mustafà.

JDC:  Mustafà.  A wonderful, wonderful character part.  Full of of energy; full of life.  He wants to get the Italian girl.  He will do anything, will manipulate anything to get her.  It's a fantastic part.  I really, really like it.

BD:  But in the end he wants to go back to his wife!

JDC:  Yes.  Well, he has his little fling and his fantasy comes to reality because of the ship that they capture.  But other than that, he's back to Earth.  I had a wonderful time recording it with Jenny Larmore and Raúl Giménez, and Alessandro Corbelli and Jesús López-Cobos.  It was a wonderful experience.   Jenny told me the other day in New York--we were there for the Gala-- that it's selling really well.

BD:  Are you pleased that your records sell well?

JDC:  Yeah, well, they're not "mine."  It's really for Jenny.  But I'm glad.  That's really very much of a plus.  I'm actually not very prolific in recordings.  I would like to do more, but the opportunity has to present itself.  Another one I made was with Maestro Bonynge.  We did a little known opera called The Bohemian Girl, by Michael Balfe.  He was Rossini's favorite baritone, by the way, for Barber of Seville.

BD:  Perhaps we can get you to do a song recital.

JDC:  Ah, perhaps.  I've not done a lot of recitals.  I'm usually on the stage acting and singing.

BD:  So basically you're an opera singer, then.

JDC:  I think so.  Yeah.  I would categorize myself as that.

BD:  Do you like traveling all over the world?

JDC:  It's wonderful.  The traveling is nice, but there's a caveat.  Being away from the family; being alone you know, that's the hard part.  That's really hard.  People sometimes say, "Oh, what a great life you've got, and you get to travel to all these places."  Of course, they're doing their nine-to-five jobs, and travel, to them, would be exciting.  But in essence, though, it's a tough life.  It's really a tough life.

BD:  They wouldn't mind doing it for a couple of weeks a year, but...

JDC:  ...but try nine months out of the year, or ten months.  Not all at once, of course, but, you know, that's hard.

BD:  Then do you make sure that you limit your engagements, or schedule vacations?

JDC:  We try.  I try.  These next couple of years are tough.  All of a sudden I've found myself one engagement after the other.  I'm away for five months, then I have a month at home, and I'm away for another four months.  I'm think I'm going to be more careful as we go forward, and pay a little bit more attention to that kind of schedule.

BD:  It must be a good feeling, though, to know you're in demand.

JDC:  Oh, absolutely!  I've had to turn down several things.  I had to turn down Cenerentola at Covent Garden because I couldn't go.  I was already contracted elsewhere.  They asked me for Magnifico.

BD:  Do you like being booked so far in advance?

JDC:  Well, yes, absolutely.  There's peace of mind to say the least, and to know that you've got work, and it's good work.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  You come back to a lot of these roles.  Are you still learning new roles also?

JDC:  [Thinks for a moment]  Yes.  Magnifico will be a new role for me.  That's probably the biggest one I've got to learn right now.  The others are all repeats.

BD:  Is it nice to come back to a role that you know, and have played?

JDC:  Yes, because it feels like a glove.  It fits, you know.  There are things that happen and since I'm a little older and have a little more experience, I might do some bits differently.

BD:  Do you go back and restudy parts?

JDC:  I restudy some, vocally and dramatically.  There are all kinds of things you can add, and I really listen to the conductors.  I try to learn to keep it fresh in all aspects.  Falstaff is one of those.  I think that's probably the most interesting role for me, character-wise, and music-wise.  Every time I've done it I've learned something new with every conductor and every director.  I'm looking forward to it again.

John Del Carlo as Falstaff (center) in San Francisco

BD:  Do you like some of these odd directions that directors are taking these days?

JDC:  They haven't taken any of those odd directions in the operas that I've been in.  Some of the modern pieces, yes, but I've not been in many of those.  Midsummer Night's Dream was interesting at the Met, but I haven't had that much experience with these strange goings-on.

BD:  Maybe they don't do so much strange stuff in comic operas.

JDC:  That's what I'm thinking.

BD:  Does this enter into whether you accept a contract or reject it - if it's a comic role or a serious role?

JDC:  No.  If the role suits me, regardless of whether it's serious or comic, I will accept it if I feel I can do a good job with it, and it suits me vocally.  That's the first thing I look at - how does it look, and what's the character after.

BD:  You're a very jovial fellow, and you sing these jovial roles.  Is there any role that's perhaps a little too close to the real you?

JDC:  Oh, let me think.  Hmm... that's a good question.  [Thinks for a moment.]  Dulcamara, maybe?  [Laughter.]  Although I don't sell any elixirs or anything...

BD:  You're not a quack singer, are you???  [Laughs.]

JDC:  No, I'm not a quack singer, but I think there's some of my personality in each one of those parts.  Mustafà, Bartolo, I think there's a little bit of me in each one of them.

BD:  Is this maybe what you look for, a little part of you, and then expand it?

JDC:  Yes, sometimes I do that.  You draw upon your experience, as in life, of course.

BD:  So you bring what you can of your own to it.

JDC:  Exactly.  Part of my character, and what I've known, what I've done, and what works for me.  And then we build upon that with every director and conductor.  I'm always open to something.  If it makes sense to me, and it looks good, and it's part of what I feel the character, I go for it.

BD:  So you're very open and pliable.

JDC:  Absolutely, yeah. You really almost have to be, in this business.  Each person knows what works for himself or herself.  Each person knows, but at the same time, if you've done a role many, many times, a new conductor or director might ask for something new and different.  Then if it works, it's magic, and it brings another life, another quality to it

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  Do you sing differently at all for the size of the house?

JDC:  No.  I used to, and I found that that was difficult, and that bothered me.  Now I just sing with my own acoustics, and sing with my own feeling, regardless of how big the house is.  As a young singer that's the tendency, "Oh, gosh, a big house, four thousand people, I've got to sing louder, or sing out..."  You end up tiring your voice out and having some troubles.  I learned that a long time ago, and I don't do that.  It's hard, though, sometimes, when you have a big house, big orchestra, four thousand people out there...

BD:  How are the acoustics here in Chicago?  You've sung here several times.

JDC:  They're great.  Excellent.  Don't have to do anything other than what's normal, what you normally do.  It's really easy to sing.  It's like the Met; San Francisco.  They have that little spark of life on the stage even when the auditorium is full of people.

BD:  We, the audience, will soak up a lot of the sound.

JDC:  Exactly.  It does quiet it and deaden it a little bit.  But for the most part it's very good.  It's excellent.

BD:  How much of your career is in the United States and how much in Europe?

JDC:  Quite a bit of it is in the United States, and there is some work that's going on in Europe.  I just finished my debut at Covent Garden last year in a concert version of Un Giorno di Regno.  It's an early Verdi work, and it was great.  We got good press.  Because of the reconstruction of the building, we did a concert version at Royal Albert Hall.  And then I'm going to La Scala in May of this year for Swallow in Peter Grimes which I did at the Met.  That'll be my debut there.  So, who knows, that might open some doors.  Paris has asked for me, but, of course, I'm busy.  You have to get the right role.  [Chuckles.]

BD:  That's right.  Have you looked at Balstrode at all?

JDC:  No.  I possibly will.  It is very, very possible.  People have asked me.

BD:  Is it a little too high?

JDC:  No, I don't think it is.  It's more a matter of the character, and also of the time to learn it.  That's the problem if you have one piece of work after the other, after the other...

BD:  [Jokingly]  Learn it on the plane.

JDC:  [Playing along]  Yeah, exactly.  Learn it by osmosis.  [Laughter.]

BD:  Are the audiences different in America from Europe?

JDC:  Depends on the city.  Usually the major cities, such as Chicago, New York, San Francisco, they're all very, very enthusiastic.  In Europe they are enthusiastic, too, but it just depends on the city.  Sometimes I find them a little bit more over the top in Europe.  I mean, over the top in the sense that they really go a little crazy.  And other times they're subdued.  It depends on what the opera is, and the city that you're in, I think.  I haven't sung in Munich or Vienna yet, so I can't say for those cities.  But certainly Cologne.  I sang in Ireland one time, and at Covent Garden.  They love opera there.

BD:  Is it becoming more universal because of recordings and television?

JDC:  I believe so.  Yeah.  And now the Web. You can actually find homepages of singers. Record companies put them up for their singers.

BD:  Are you optimistic about the whole future of opera?  It's going in so many directions these days.

JDC:  I still think it's a viable art form, and it's obviously alive and well.  You just have to look around you.  In all the major cities, and in some of the smaller cities in America, we have a very healthy appetite for opera, and that's from the young people, too.  That's very important, I think.  When I was small, I remember the first opera I saw, when I was maybe in the sixth grade, was, of all things, Fidelio.  This was in San Francisco, where I grew up, and we were invited to the opera house.  I should preface this by saying the kids always used to make fun of me in grade school, because I had this big voice and I used to sing.  They'd tease me and say, "Oh, you're gonna be an opera singer, ha, ha, ha!"  I said, [in a contemptuous tone of voice]  "I'm not gonna sound like those people; they go [sings a low note with overly wide vibrato]  'ooh, ooh, ooh'"  with all those big wobbles and things.  That's what I heard up in the choir loft when they do masses and stuff.  So we saw Fidelio, and I can remember the baritone singing "Ha! welch ein Augenblick," and this spray was emanating from his mouth.  You could see it in the lights.  And that's one of the things I remember as a child, listening to this guy, and watching the spray come from his mouth.  But we were being exposed to opera at that early age.  And of course I had the bug, anyway, not for opera, but for singing.  I think that's important, to have the young kids exposed because it puts the seed in there.

    [:Photo at left: John Del Carlo as Don Pasquale with the Houston Grand Opera]

BD:  You've got wife and child.  Does that help you understand the psyche of the young family trying to go to the opera?

JDC:  Oh, sure.  I ask my daughter if she'd like to go to the opera.  She's now 16 and usually says, "Yeah, okay; all right, I'll go."

BD:  Should you take her to one that Daddy's in, or should you take her to one that Daddy's not in?

JDC:  Both.  She's seen probably more of the ones that I'm in.  We've taken her to a few.

BD:  Is it better for her to say, [in a very blasé, jaded tone of voice]  "Huh, Daddy's an opera singer," or [excitedly]  "Ooooh, daddy's an opera singer!"

JDC:  [Laughs.]  It depends on who she's talking to!  If she's talking to her friends of the same age, she would probably say, [in a blasé tone of voice]  "Oh, daddy's an opera singer."  If she's talking to somebody she doesn't know, or an adult, she would say it enthusiastically, I hope.  But she's pretty used to my goings-on in the house, and practicing, and all that.

BD:  Have you tried to interest her in music, or keep her away from music?

JDC:  We've sort of taken a neutral path because she does have a wonderful singing voice, and she's a wonderful actress.  I'm saying that, of course, because I'm her dad, but she does have that talent.  I can see it, and so can my wife.  I don't know if she'll take it and go with it, but we're encouraging her to take voice lessons, and she's started piano, but I don't really know if she'll go into it.  I've told her many times, it's a difficult life.  She's thinking about pop singing, and I told her that's fine, but she'll have to get with a voice teacher and get into a band.  You have to do the things that prepare you for that.  It's pretty hard.  I heard an interview with Céline Dion, and I remember her saying how often she sang in groups as a child.  Her whole family was musical, and she would constantly have lessons with teachers, and so forth.  So I think there is some validity to that.  It just depends on the person and the teacher, and how they accept it.

BD:  Of course, you've got to get your daughter into opera.  I mean, with a name like Del Carlo...

JDC:  [Speaks his surname with an Italian accent]:  Del Carlo.  Right.  That's absolutely correct, yeah.  [Laughs.]  We'll prod her along a little more.

BD:  When you go to Germany you don't change your name to Karl, do you?

JDC:  No, but actually it's a funny thing that you mention it.  When we were making a recording, the producer asked me, "What do you think about changing your name from John to something that Europeans would recognize?"  She was the head of the Rome Opera and I asked her what she meant, and she said, "Well, how about [pronounces name in an Italian accent]:  'Gianni Del Carlo' or 'Giovanni?'"  I said I had always thought of 'Giovanni,' so I rolled that around in my head, and I asked a few people, and they all said, "No, no.  Better keep it as 'John.'  Everybody knows you as 'John.'"

BD:  Is this part of your persona, though, that you have to put on all of these different characters and identities and everything?

JDC:  You mean on the stage?

BD:  Yes.  Does it invade your private life?

JDC:  No.  No, not at all.  [Chuckles]  When I'm off the stage I come back to earth and I'm John.  I'm myself.  It doesn't affect me.

BD:  How long does it take to throw off whatever character you've portrayed that evening?

JDC:  It depends how difficult, and how big the part is, I guess, or how involved you get in it.  A smaller role is not as much time onstage.  You still have to do it, but maybe you're not in every single scene.  Every role, in and of itself, gets a lot of energy going, but for the most part I'm on a pretty even keel.  When I get off the stage, I have to calm down.  I can't go to sleep right away when I go home.  I have to stay up at least two hours and have to eat something.  It's terrible for the diet, but I try to curb it now.  But still, it's hard.  It's hard.

BD:  Speaking of which, you've done more than just the Verdi Falstaff, I understand.

JDC:  Yes, I've also done Salieri's Falstaff.  We did that in Germany, for German television, and that was quite interesting.  Definitely not Verdi, and definitely not Mozart, but it was Salieri.  It was actually quite good.  There were very, very funny scenes in it.  I enjoyed it.

BD:  Have you ever done the Nicolai?

JDCThe Merry Wives of Windsor?  No.  I've never done that.  I would like to do that one.  I think that would be fun.

BD:  You could put together several Falstaff operas:  there's the Verdi, and the Salieri, the Nicolai, and one by Vaughan Williams called Sir John in Love.

JDC:  I'll have to keep that the back in the back of my brain.  It's a great part.

BD:  Get yourself a commercial for Falstaff Beer and just be the traveling Falstaff.  Get identified with it completely.  I assume that this is what you do when you're researching a role, you let the mind wander in the part.

JDC:  Right.  Especially with the text.  That, to me, is the most important.  That and the music underneath the text.  I always go back to the idea of what did the composer want?  Why did he write a certain rhythm?  What are the harmonies there, and all that.  I continually think about how to play off of the other person.  For me that's so important.  Once I understand my character, when I ask another character a question, I look in their eyes and I want to have something in return.  Then that gives me, as the character, something to go on even further.  That, to me, is so important.

BD:  Sometimes, as in this Fledermaus, you've actually got spoken dialogue as well as music.

JDC:  Yes.  Most of the time, though, you have recitative.  Recitative, to me, is like spoken dialogue. That's where all the action happens.

BD:  Do you have to reset the voice for speaking instead of singing?

JDC:  Yes.  We were talking about that in rehearsal the other day, and we were saying how difficult it is, if you have a lot of dialogue, that it does affect the voice, because when you speak, you don't use the same muscles.  You really don't.  The role of Baron Zeta in The Merry Widow has lots of dialogue.  Not too much to sing, but lots of dialogue, so I'm very cognizant of being very careful about speaking in a way to make it sound natural, but yet at the same time not "studied," you know.   I use a Hungarian accent, but I have to make sure that it sounds natural.  For me, in a role like that, it is very important to try to make the spoken words really natural, and not stentorian.

BD:  You don't miss it, though, when you don't have dialogue, do you?

JDC:  No.  No.  Not at all.

BD:  Do you miss it when you're not singing in English?

JDC:  I used to, before I knew the languages better.  But now that I know languages a lot better I don't mind it as much.

BD:  Do you work on your diction a little more when you're singing in English for an American or an English audience?

JDC:  Yes.  Yes.

BD:  Ever sung Boris Godunov?

JDC:  No, no.  [Chuckles.]  I think that it might be a bit too low.  But perhaps when I'm a little older, maybe.

BD:  I take it you're looking for the long career.

JDC:  Yes, yes.  I'd like to do this as long as possible.  And with my type of voice, in my fach, in my repertoire, I think I can.  I think you can do character roles till you're quite older.  God willing, and if everything works.

BD:  It's your responsibility to make sure everything works.

JDC:  Absolutely.  Absolutely right, yes.

BD:  So you take care of yourself?

JDC:  Yes.  No partying.  None of that stuff that I did when I was younger.  Not that I did that much, but, you know, you have to really be aware of sleep, and so forth, and not do a lot of talking.  I don't do a lot of talking when I'm in the performing mode.  Rehearsal mode is difficult, because you rehearse three or four hours, break for lunch, and then you're back to rehearsals, and by the end of the day, you've put in eight, ten, or twelve hours.  Physically, it's almost more difficult to do the rehearsal period than it is to do the actual performing, because you have the few days off to rest between performances.

BD:  I'm very careful when I ask for interviews.  I try to stay away from the day before a performance, and never on the day of a performance.

JDC:  Thank you, Mr. Duffie; I appreciate that.

BD:  Are you at the point in your career you want to be at this age?

JDC:  Yes.  Yes, I am.  I'm very happy with what has happened.  I wouldn't have said that maybe five, six, eight, years ago.  I would have said I want to do more.  I want to sing here, I want to sing there, but now it's happening.  So I'm very pleased with that.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  Let me ask about one last role.  Tell me about Bartolo.

JDC:  [Speaks the name in an Italian accent]  Bartolo.  [speaking in a somewhat sarcastic tone of voice]  Ah, what a guy!  [Laughs.]

BD:  [Chuckles.]  Is he a nice guy?

John Del Carlo as Bartolo (left) with Mark S. Doss as Basilio at Lyric Opera of Chicago

JDC:  He's...well, actually, not too.  If you really want to dig into the words he really isn't.  He's kind of a very stern man, and he wants his way.

BD:  He wants the girl!

JDC:  He wants her.  He wants her, very badly.

BD:  Does he want her because he's interested in her, or is it that he just wants the money?

JDC:  I think it's a little of both.  Some directors want to play him very, very serious.  I find that it's really not a "buffo" role.  But when I do it, I kind of give it a little bit of humanity.  I try to bring a little bit of warmth to it, along with that stern attitude.

BD:  Why didn't he stay with Marcellina?

JDC:  Ah, good question.  Is it a wandering eye?  I don't know.  He's, what, 55 or 60?  Maybe, like you said, money's a factor.

BD:  Now, of course, in the second drama, which is The Marriage of Figaro, it comes out that he's Figaro's father.  Can you play that at all in the first drama, The Barber of Seville?  Does that enter into it at all?

JDC:  Not for me, no.  But I suppose one could think about that and utilize it in some fashion.  It would have to be somewhere in the text, and there's really nothing there.  Each one is set separately even though the connection is there.

BD:  Have you also done the Mozart Bartolo?

JDC:  One time, and it was many, many years ago in Hawaii.  [Pronounces it in the Hawaiian manner, with "v" sound in place of the "w".]

BD:  I think it's one aria, and that's about it.

JDC:  That's about it.  Yeah.

BD:  Thank you for giving us so much of your time.

JDC:  Well, thank you, Mr. Duffie, it was my pleasure.  It's always a pleasure to be in Chicago with this great company.  Chicago Lyric Opera is fantastic.  Fantastic people and rehearsal department, and everybody.  I say that with the utmost sincerity.

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© 2000 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in a conference room at the Opera House in Chicago on January 13, 2000.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB five weeks later.  The transcription was made and published in The Opera Journal in  2005, #4 (December), and posted on this website at that time.  It was slightly re-edited and links were added in 2015.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as 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 like 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.