Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tenor Roulette

A friend said something on Facebook the other day about his upcoming Troyens ticket: So I am playing tenor roulette, then? And two of us replied, with opera, you're always playing roulette.

Yes, that's right. You just never know who will cancel or why. The last SFO Jenufa lost its Jenufa and Kostelnicka less than two months before the run. Janice Watson had just learned Eva for the SFO Meistersinger, and she had a new baby, and Jenufa was too much for her. Patricia Racette stepped in. Elizabeth Connell, scheduled for Kostelnicka, had to head for England, where her house had been burglarized. Kathryn Harries took that role.

See also: that Otello that Ben Heppner was supposed to sing here, where I think four tenors subbed for him, and the Tristan in NYC that was billed as "Heppner & Voigt, together at last!" Except that they were both in and out for most of the run.

We're now 4 performances into Troyens, and so far it's Bryan Hymel 2, Corey Bix 2. Everyone is hoping Hymel will be back on stage for performances 5 and 6; if not, Bix will be singing.

I was idly thinking of who, among living tenors, even knows the role, which is set on the high and heroic side. It's not like trying to find someone to sing Rodolfo, which is in the repertory of every lyric tenor.

Here are the lucky few, several of whom are no longer capable of singing the part, for reasons of voice, age, or health. (Several added as an update following a comment from the invaluable and well-informed Rob Gordon.)
  • Jon Vickers (in his late 80s, rumored to be in poor health)
  • Giorgio Lamberti (retired)
  • Placido Domingo (there is no way)
  • Gregory Kunde
  • Ben Heppner (retired)
  • Bryan Hymel (felled by the SF fog?)
  • Corey Bix (covering Hymel)
  • Marcello Giordani (more or less fired from the part in favor of Hymel at the Met in 2013; retired the role when he dropped out of the run)
  • Brandon Jovanovich (Rumored to be learning the part and said in an interview that he planned to sing Enée)
  • Roberto Alagna (sang it in Europe in 2013 and 2014)
  • Jonas Kaufmann? An article on Hymel indicates that Kaufmann was to sing the ROH production.
  • Lance Ryan
  • Richard Crawley 
  • Sergei Semishkur
  • Leonid Zakhozhaev
  • Viktor Lutsyuk
Undoubtedly somebody else in Europe. Who sang Enee at...was it Deutsch Opera, Karlsruhe, or both, a few years back?
Surely I'm missing someone. And if my name were, say, Stuart Skelton, I'd think about learning this part. He and Jovanovich have that rare combination of vocal weight and purely beautiful sound, and they sing an overlapping and somewhat unusual repertory. They are the two tenors I would most want to hear as Enée.


Robert Gordon said...

Lance Ryan sings Enée on the Valencia/Fura dels Baus video. He also sang Siegfried on the Valencia Ring, and did it pretty well (judging from the video). He has also sung Siegfried at Bayreuth. But lately he has been getting bad online word of mouth. My opinion is that no one should sing both these roles: anyone who is good at one of them is likely to damage his voice by singing the other.

The Mariinsky is the only theater currently (maybe the only theater in history) that has Troyens in regular repertoire, that is, that runs up occasional performances, both staged and in concert, in the course of its mixed repertoire. The tenors listed on the Mariinsky website for Enée over the last five or so years are Lance Ryan, Richard Crawley (who's he?), Sergei Semishkur, Leonid Zakhozhaev, and Viktor Lutsyuk. Semishkur seems to have given the most performances.

The Mariinsky brought its Troyens to the Edinburgh Festival last year (using the Châtelet production) and got poor reviews for it. So perhaps their quality is not very high -- but they certainly compensate with quantity.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I am astounding that any company would even try to keep it in repertory. How could you manage the rehearsal time for bring-ups? How would the chorus keep up their end?

Operabase has Richard Crawley singing a number of dramatic roles, including Otello and Lohengrin, at various companies through 2014, from the Teatro Colon to much smaller and less visible organizations.

Lisa Hirsch said...

(I updated the posting based on your comments and some thoughts of my own.)

Robert Gordon said...

In the last decade or so the Mariinsky has increased its operations enormously, and now operates on a scale unique in the world: two fully equipped opera houses and a modern concert hall, all back-to-back, all busy all the time. And somehow they usually manage to have an opera or ballet company on tour somewhere in the world. They must have something like a triple sized orchestra at least. Look at the schedule of performances on their website: it's astounding.

The two new halls were built after my brief visit (in 1999), so I don't have any experience of them, but judging from the images I've seen they are impressive.

I suppose all this is possible because of Gergiev's organizational skills and relentless energy, and of course with steady support from Vladimir Putin, who unlike most Russian/Soviet leaders is actually from St Petersburg, and takes care of his city. I would like to think that the Gergiev/Putin connection is a marriage of convenience, and if so I am willing to forgive Gergiev: he may have sold his soul, but at least he got something for it. (I don't think Anna Netrebko has the same excuse -- she barely lives in Russia anymore, and certainly doesn't need anything from the Russian state.)

Lisa Hirsch said...

Wow. That is astonishing. I did not realize the size of their operations.

JSC said...

Insider sources say Hymel is out for the duration of the run. I hope they turn out to be wrong, but Toi toi toi to Corey Bix for Thursday and next Tuesday, both of which I have tickets for.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Aaaaaah, I hope the inside sources are wrong, but definitely check the date of that last ticket. It's for Wednesday, July 1.

JSC said...

Yes, sorry. I meant Wednesday. :-)

Darrick Chen said...

Is it me or did anyone else think Mr. Bix looks like Mr. Hymel?

I went to the Saturday, June 20 performance and thought it was a good try by Mr. Bix. There is something wrong as his voice goes higher. I thought his middle voice was very fine. The very top was okay as well, but somewhere on the way from the middle to the top there are notes that to me sounds flat. He kept doing this, so maybe that's just the way it's supposed to sound. But whatever note it was, it came out sounding flat and wobbly; not like G Jones wobbly, but it flutters, like he can't keep it on pitch.

I also didn't understand why so much of the ballet was kept. I must confess I don't care for ballet, so whenever it's in opera, my mind wanders. In Troyens it seemed really long and could have been cut to save time. The only ballet sequence I like is the polanaise (sp?) in Onegin, Act 3 - the Court Ball scene. I love that.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Looking at photos of both Bix and Hymel - yes. I had chalked it up to beard and possibly a wig, but...their faces are similarly shaped too!

The vocal issue you hear - maybe a passagio problem?

I like the ballet music, just wish they'd used choreography for all of it!