Eric Owens

Eric Owens at Cal Performances

Eric-owens_01_credit_dario-acosta* Notes * 
Cal Performances presented baritone Eric Owens (pictured left, photograph by Dario Acosta) in recital with pianist Warren Jones on Sunday. The first half of the performance consisted of German Lieder and the second half French chansons. Owens and Jones started with Wolf's Drei Lieder nach Gedichten von Michelangelo, which were performed with sensitivity. The four Schumann songs that followed were all rather dark, especially Muttertraum. The three Schubert songs that rounded out the German section of the program seemed sinister. The French section of afternoon had a more dream-like quality, particularly the three songs by Debussy. Ravel's Chanson a boire had particular appeal. Owens was able to establish an immediate rapport with the audience, and though he was not always precise in his intonation, his winning musicality more than made up for this.

* Tattling * 
The audience was fairly quiet. The encores were Purcell's "Music for a While" and Robert Lowry's "Hanson Place." For some reason, I found the former somewhat surreal to hear from Owens, perhaps because the last four times I have heard this piece live it has been performed by counter-tenor.

SF Opera's I Capuleti e i Montecchi

Capuleti-montecchi-sfopera* Notes * 
A new production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Act I Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) opened at San Francisco Opera on Saturday. Conductor Riccardo Frizza had the orchestra sounding rather jaunty. The horn, clarinet, harp, and cello all gave solid performances. There were moments when the orchestra was much louder than the singers, but it seems that the stage direction is more at fault than the conductor or musicians.

This co-production with Bavarian State Opera, directed by Vincent Boussard, features a spare, stylish set designed by Vincent Lemaire. Unfortunately, the opera calls for three different scenes in each of its two acts, and the set had to be inelegantly rearranged simply bringing the curtain down in-between each change. This gives audience members a chance to chat or check their electronic devices, and this inevitably bleeds into the actual performance.

As for the set itself, the gleaming black floor is sleek, but often squeaks as people move across it. The metal stairs of Act I Scene 3 and Act II Scene 1 keep certain singers too far upstage to be heard well. Having supernumeraries parade in stilettos up and down these stairs is also noisy. Christian Lacroix's gowns are bold, often bright, confections. The lighting design, by Guido Levi, is stark and dramatic, and works nicely with the abstract images on the various walls. The surrealistic details of the production involving saddles, flowers, sculptures, and even a sink were confusing to the audience.

Eric Owens made for an authoritative Capellio. Ao Li made the most of the small part of Lorenzo. The role of Tebaldo seemed quite difficult, and Saimir Pirgu sounded powerful but choppy. He did clearly portray anger in his early scenes and sorrow in Act II Scene 2.

The stars of the show were clearly Joyce DiDonato (Romeo) and Nicole Cabell (Giulietta). DiDonato has a warm, resonant voice, and sang with a beautiful fluidity and a notable ease. Cabell's voice is brilliant and flexible, but seemed anchored and precise. The final duet between the two leads was both devastating and stunning.

* Tattling * 
A couple of women and their daughters in the balcony, Row J Seats 106 to 112, were the picture of bad-behavior. Not only did they take photographs of the performance, they talked, posted to Instagram and Facebook, and texted all evening long.

Lost in the Stars at Glimmerglass

KarliCadel-LostFinalDress-1765* Notes *
Lost in the Stars, composed by Kurt Weill with book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, opened at the Glimmerglass Festival (Act I pictured left with Sean Panikkar as The Leader, photograph by Karli Cadel) on Sunday afternoon. This opera is based on South African author Alan Paton's novel Cry, the Beloved Country. Somehow the opera feels a little naive, the characters are not particularly nuanced. This co-production, directed by Tazewell Thompson, is with Cape Town Opera, where it was performed last November. Michael John Mitchell's set is clean and his costumes attractive.

The orchestra sounded spirited under the baton of John DeMain. The chorus was strong. Chrystal E. Williams sang a hilarious "Who'll Buy?" in Act I, and the list of fruits and vegetables were amusing to hear. Sean Panikkar (The Leader) sounded bright and powerful throughout the performance. Eric Owens convinced as Stephen Kumalo, though the role seems to sit a bit high in his range perhaps. He was very good about keeping the South African accent in his voice even whilst singing.

* Tattling * 
There was too much talking in the balcony when only the orchestra played. The audience appeared rather moved by the performance, however.

Das Rheingold at the Met (Cycle 2)

Met-rheingold-2012* Notes * 
A second Ring cycle began with Das Rheingold (Scene 4 pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) last night at the Met. Robert Lepage's production involves a series of about 24 jointed panels that can be arranged in many different configurations. Known as "The Machine," Carl Fillion's set is not unlike a huge shape-shifting robot. The scene changes were certainly resolved in breathtaking ways. However, the main drawback is not that "The Machine" is slightly noisy, snapping here and there, but that it placed the singers awkwardly upstage or on terrifying rakes where they do not seem as able to project well. The lighting, designed by Etienne Boucher, is attractively simple. The video images, from Lionel Arnould, evoke nature and space. Only the rainbow bridge was busy, with its dancing strings of multicolored light. François St-Aubin's costumes did not appear markedly different from the previous Ring production, traditional, perhaps taking on the aesthetic of comic book superheros in the armor of the Gods.

The orchestra sounded clear and secure under Fabio Luisi, and the tempi were moderate. The brass was clean. The singing was consistent around. Wendy Bryn Harmer was an incredibly hearty, bright Freia. Franz-Josef Selig (Fasolt) and Hans-Peter König (Fafner) turned out perfectly respectable performances. Adam Klein did not quite sparkle as Loge, but since he stepped in at the last moment for an ailing Stefan Margita, it is understandable. Patricia Bardon's Erda had an ethereal quality that was appealing. Stephanie Blythe was a sympathetic Fricka, warm with the right amount of steeliness. Eric Owens impressed as Alberich, his renunciation of love in Scene 1 was poignant, and his curse in Scene 4 haunting. As Wotan, Bryn Terfel's voice has a beautiful richness to it, but seemed a touch light at times.

* Tattling * 
An usher attempted to seat a pair of latecomers in Family Circle after the music had started. Unfortunately one of their seats had been taken, and there was a flurry of whispered instructions. A watch alarm sounded at 9pm and 10pm. Some were having respiratory issues, loud nose blowing and sniffles were heard, as were the usual crinkles of cough drops being unwrapped.

Wozzeck at Santa Fe Opera

  Wozzeck-act3* Notes *
Santa Fe Opera's revival of Wozzeck last Saturday was nothing short of impressive. The orchestra had a full and intense sound under David Robertson, only occasionally overwhelming the singers. Daniel Slater's production has a fine, stark clarity. The Fool (played by Randall Bills) as Wozzeck's double was artful. The set, designed by Robert Innes Hopkins, makes good use of the space, and is enhanced by Rick Fisher's lighting. The scene changes were smooth. There were just a few moments when the humming of motors or the impact of edges against one another could be heard. The costumes, also from Hopkins, are smart and use an attractive palette of colors. The stylized choreography from John Carrafa is sharply defined and suits Berg's music.

The singers were strong. The chorus was together and sounded almost strangely beautiful. Stuart Skelton was menacing as the Drum Major, yet his voice was appealingly warm and bright. Eric Owens was quite funny as the Doctor, with a rich, powerful sound. Robert Brubaker also made for a humorous Captain, his voice is pingy and cuts through the orchestration without being shrill. Nicola Beller Carbone (Marie) showed a range of emotions through her voice, her singing in Act III, Scene 1 was particularly lovely. Her physicality throughout the opera was admirable. Richard Paul Fink (pictured above in Act III, Scene 4, photograph by Ken Howard) gave a visceral and captivating performance as Wozzeck. Fink excels at Sprechstimme, and he inhabited the character completely.

* Tattling * 
It rained 30 minutes before the performance, and lightening was visible during the opera, but thunder was not noted. There was minor electronic noise in the form of watch alarms at 10pm. Standing room was not crowded. Some of the latecomers were audible, but not bothersome. I did have to use all of my powers of concentration to ignore the ushers whispering in the last five minutes of the opera.

Das Rheingold at the Met (Lepage)

Met-rheingold An account of the final performance of Das Rheingold this season at the Metropolitan Opera from the Unbiased Opinionator.

* Notes * 
Director Robert Lepage gave an extensive interview in New York City last fall about his conception of the Ring. He spent considerable time in Iceland, and said that no one who lived in the Icelandic hinterlands for any length of time could ever doubt the existence of gnomes, giants, or mythic Gods. Hearing him speak, it is impossible to doubt his seriousness and integrity.

Unfortunately, the production's stage machinery, designed by Carl Fillion, seemed to overwhelm the evening. The set consists of gigantic, undulating planks, which morph into visually paradoxical, Max Escher-like planes. Complex, computer-generated effects and lighting were projected atop this. Only Wagner's gigantic score seemed unsubjugated by this restless behemoth. Particularly distracting were the all-too-visible cables from which the soloists were suspended as they moved in hazardous sideward and slanted trajectories across the cantilevered components of the set.

The audience applauded and tittered in delight at the cavorting Rhine-mermaids and their taunting of Alberich, and certainly Wagner would have approved of this. The dragon/dinosaur transformation, aided by the Tarnhelm, was also very effective.

Of the cast, Eric Owens' tremendous Alberich dominated the show, even though he seemed to tire during his final curse. It is a rare evening when Alberich is a more powerful dramatic and vocal presence than Wotan. The admirable Bryn Terfel's rendition of the God lacked the heft and thrust required of the dramatic bass-baritone voice type for which this role was conceived.

Stephanie Blythe, a singer in a class unto herself, poured out tremendous waves of sound, yet failed to capture the hectoring character of Fricka, as she agonizes about the fate of her sister Freia (sung with steely power by soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer), who is held as a downpayment by the giants Fafner and Fasolt for their building of Valhalla. Ms. Blythe seemed to fashion her vocal expression according to the surface contours of Fricka's vocal line, and not to the underlying text. Beautifully, in fact, overwhelmingly well sung, her rendition seemed lacking in dramatic comprehension of the character.

On the other hand, Bayreuth veterans Gerhard Siegel (Mime) and Hans-Peter Koenig (Fafner) inhabited their roles in such a fashion that one never thought of vocalism. They performed their roles with a perfect unison of text, powerful vocalism and dramatic intent. Patricia Bardon's dark-hued, threatening rendition of Erda's "Weiche Wotan" was, for this reviewer, the highlight of the evening.

Another Bayreuth veteran, Arnold Bezuyen, captured the essence of Loge, part scheming diplomat, part crooked lawyer, although one was often distracted and concerned for him as he slid down and then scaled backwards the steeply angled set. Tethered by a cable, his freedom to gesture and act with his body was severely inhibited. Possessed of a solid character tenor voice, he seemed somewhat underpowered in the large Met auditorium.

Having heard many performances of the Ring conducted by James Levine, it is difficult for this reviewer to make a fair assessment of Fabio Luisi's reading. Luisi drew from the Met orchestra an almost chamber music-like, transparent performance that served the singers well, but one missed the elusive combination of weight, grandeur and forward momentum that Levine achieved in this music. The brass section was uncharacteristically fraught with mishaps.

No doubt the composer would have been delighted to have had at his disposal the modern machinery used in the Lepage Ring, machinery which would have freed him from the two-dimensionality of the set design and lighting available to him at the time. One wonders, however, if he would not have employed these resources in such a way that the protagonists of his music-dramas were not relegated to the visual and dramatic background. One awaits eagerly the upcoming Walküre for a further assessment of the new Met Ring.

Hercules at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Eric-Owens-Lucy-Crowe-Marckarthur-Johnson-in-Hercules-Dan-Rest * Notes *
The cast for Lyric Opera of Chicago's Hercules is nothing short of impressive. The Thursday matinée performance seemed well-attended, even the lecture from director Peter Sellars was rather full. Sellars certainly expressed a strong conception for how he staged this oratorio, and has both respect and understanding for the work. However, sometimes it is difficult to see past all the artifical miming, especially with the chorus. While the movements were humorous, I suspect one is not supposed to laugh at the lines "Jealousy! Infernal pest!"

The set is attractive, not unlike an elaborate, classically-informed water feature in an outdoor mall. The lighting was rather literal, red when fire or passion was mentioned, blue and green if water was invoked. The costumes were somewhat puzzling, the women looked like they were SCA members in their casual wear, the men vaguely like they were from the Pacific Northwest.

The orchestra lacked crispness in the overture under Harry Bicket. There were parts that were more focused and pretty, and those that were less so. The cello in "There in myrtle shades" was overwhelming, and the first brass part during the triumphal march was somewhat sour.

The chorus was slightly off from the orchestra in the second choral number, especially when the choral soloists sang. The singers did their choreography well. The last chorus, "To them your grateful notes of praise belong," was moving and beautiful.

The principals were all exceedingly fine, both in acting and in singing. Despite being ill, Richard Croft (Hyllus) sounded warm and sweet, though quiet at times. Lucy Crowe was brilliant as Iole, her voice is gorgeous, and "My breast with tender pity swells" was one of the best arias of the afternoon. David Daniels made the most of Lichas, sounding clear and lovely. In the title role, Eric Owens showed a full range of emotions with his scant three arias. The last was particularly stirring. Likewise, Alice Coote effectively displayed her dramatic abilties within the constraints of the Baroque form. Her Dejanira is incredibly human, and her voice has strong low notes and striking high ones.

* Tattling *
A phone rang during the first half of the show. Many audience members in the boxes fell asleep, at one point there was quite the chorus of snores. Worse yet, an elderly couple in Box 9 kept speaking during the music, once in the overture, once during Daniels' first aria, and once during Crowe's first aria. Thankfully, they responded fairly well to being asked to be quiet, and they left at intermission.

Santa Fe Opera's 2011 Season

July 1- August 27 2011: Faust
July 2- August 26 2011: La Bohème
July 16- August 19 2011: Griselda
July 23- August 25 2011: The Last Savage
July 30- August 17 2011: Wozzeck

Santa Fe just announced that their new chief conductor is Frederic Chaslin and what is coming up for the 2011 season. Bryan Hymel and Dimitri Pittas share the role of Faust, opposite of Ailyn Pérez. Ana María Martínez and David Lomelí sing in La Bohème. Meredith Arwady, David Daniels, and Amanda Majeski sing in Vivaldi's Griselda. Daniel Okulitch and Anna Christy are the leads in Menotti's The Last Savage, which is to be sung in English. Former Adler Fellow Sean Panikkar will also be in this opera. Richard Paul Fink sings the title role of Wozzeck, with Nicola Beller Carbone as Marie. Eric Owens will be the Doctor and Stuart Skelton the Drum Major.

Season | Official Site

Eric Owens Reception

Eric-owens-porgy The Opera Standees Association held a small reception for Eric Owens yesterday evening in San Francisco. Owens is in the midst of having a great success in Porgy and Bess at San Francisco Opera, and the last performance is tomorrow. Despite this, and his recent Met debut, he remains refreshingly humble.

Eric discussed the excitement of live performance, how each night in a particular run will be different, and how having 3,000 people in the audience is part of it. He played Robert Levin's Curtis Commencement speech to us, which champions new music. We pontificated on which new operas might make it to the standard rep: Ainadamar, Dead Man Walking, and Little Women. A lively conversation about how it is more difficult to do a contemporary opera the second time, rather than the premiere, ensued.

We also got to hear about how Eric Owens became a singer, how he played oboe professionally but ended up at Temple University for voice as an undergraduate, and how he got into the Curtis Institute for Music for grad school after a year studying with Armen Boyajian. It is clear he is both tenacious and persistent. It was also particularly interesting to hear what music Owens loves, as he was a fan of opera before he ever thought he would be a singer himself. Charmingly enough, he did standing room at the Met as a teenager, first Tosca, then Götterdämmerung and Der Rosenkavalier.

Porgy and Bess at San Francisco Opera

Porgybesssf * Notes * 
Porgy and Bess had a strong opening last night at San Francisco Opera. Francesca Zambello's production works well, the set, from Peter J. Davison, is particularly striking. The scene changes were nearly flawless and Mark McCullough's lighting impeccable. Having the opera set in 1955 was not at all a distraction, though one is not sure the audience really noticed. Denni Sayers' choreography fit the singers, though the part at end of the hurricane scene seemed gratuitous.

John DeMain lead the orchestra skillfully, and there were only a few moments in which the singers and musicians were slightly off from each other. The singing was very uniform, everyone was fully engaged, and the chorus sounded lovely. Angel Blue (Clara) sang "Summertime" perfectly cleanly, though perhaps a bit coldly. This did make for a nice contrast when Laquita Mitchell (Bess) reprises this song in Part Two. Mitchell also has a clean, brilliant sound, though with a slight metallic harshness at the top. As Serena, Karen Slack was heartbreaking in "My Man's Gone Now."

Lester Lynch was terrifying as Crown, cruel, and with a powerful voice. Chauncey Packer danced his way through the role of Sportin' Life with aplomb, unctous and charming. His "It Ain't Necessarily So" with the chorus was impressive. Eric Owens (Porgy) had a promising role debut, though he did start off underpowered compared to the sopranos. Perhaps he was pacing himself for the end, which was incredible. The plaintiveness of "Bess, o where's my Bess?" built up to a glorious "Oh Lord, I'm on my way."

* Tattling * 
The music is much more dissonant than one might expect, yet is put together deftly. The audience seemed absorbed by the work, there was only a bit of talking, but no electronic noise.

At intermission I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Ameer, author of Life's a Pitch, who represents Eric Owens.

Porgy and Bess Panel Discussion

Porgy-panel3 Yesterday evening chorus director Ian Robertson moderated a panel discussion on Porgy and Bess, which opens next Tuesday at San Francisco Opera. The panelists included choreographer Denni Sayers, soprano Angel Blue (Clara), soprano Karen Slack (Serena), baritone Kenneth Overton (Frazier), tenor Calvin Lee (Peter), baritone Eric Greene (Jake), tenor Chauncey Packer (Sportin' Life), bass-baritone Eric Owens (Porgy), and conductor John DeMain.

The panelists were asked to speak about the piece, their roles with in it, and the like. It was interesting to learn where the performers had sung before and how they felt about George Gershwin, authenticity, and the possible demeaning nature of the work. The cast seemed to have a strong commitment to this opera.

Maestro DeMain had much to say about Porgy and Bess, unsurprising given that he has been conducting the work for over thirty years. He compared this opera to Boris Godunov, as it too is a "folk opera," and Carmen, as both have dance rhythms throughout. DeMain also mentioned that Porgy and Bess is both a numbers opera and makes use of Leitmotivs.

The production was described by the choreographer, as she has worked on it since the beginning, with the Washington premiere. The stage director, Francesca Zambello, is concerned, once again, with making the work relevant to the contemporary audience. In this case, she has set the work in 1955, bringing us closer in time to the characters.

There were a few amusing moments during the evening. Chauncey Packer spoke about how after a performance someone told him "It's horrible what you did to that girl!" At another point Angel Blue explained that she could imagine singing Bess, as she had nothing in common with the character, to which someone on stage quipped "Not yet."

Doctor Atomic Live in HD Met Simulcast

DoctorAtomic * Notes * 
Penny Woolcock's new production of Doctor Atomic was shown as a simulcast over the weekend. The set design, by Julian Crouch, was somewhat busy, and involved a wall of cubbyholes meant to be offices. Andrew Dawson's choreography was likewise overwrought at times, as when dancers held contortions within the small office spaces. Video was used as well, and as is the pitfall with such things, it was somewhat distracting from the music at times. Catherine Zuber's costumes were pretty, one especially appreciated how she put the red-haired Sasha Cooke (Kitty Oppenheimer) in pinks and fuchsias.

Alan Gilbert conducted energetically, and the cast was uniformly strong. Sasha Cooke was a bit harsh at times, but she had lovely moments as well. Cooke is also quite beautiful, even glamorously so. Meredith Arwady was wonderful as Pasqualita, as she was in Chicago. Thomas Glenn (Robert Wilson) Eric Owens (General Leslie Groves), Richard Paul Fink (Edward Teller) all gave performances consistent with their work in San Francisco and Chicago. Gerald Finley was especially good as J. Robert Oppenheimer, his aria in the finale of Act I was absolutely gorgeous. It was also unhampered by strange, mime-like choreography.

* Tattling * 
The sound and picture stopped for a few seconds during the Bhagavad Gita chorus. The audience was mostly well-behaved, though there was some talking. My companion fell asleep and snored at least on one occasion. Also, someone tripped over her feet at one point. Worst of all though was someone's watch or cellular phone alarm. It rang about 80 times during the beginning of the second act. The alarm sounded about 10 times at a time every few minutes.

Post L'elisir Talk (1/5)

Much was said about the faltering economy. Porgy and Bess has been cast, though not all the contracts have been signed. Eric Owens will be Porgy and Laquita Mitchell sings Bess. The cinemacasts continue next Spring, with The Magic Flute, Lucia, Elixir, and La Bohème. As for next season, there will be a Richard Strauss opera conducted by Luisotti, but it is not Die Schweigsame Frau or Capriccio. (Gockley declined to name which opera it was but we've heard Salomé mentioned several times on different occasions.) The next world premiere is planned for 2011-2012.

Eric Owens Interview

Eric-owens Bass-baritone Eric Owens is currently singing the role of the King of Scotland in Ariodante at San Francisco Opera until July 6. The Opera Tattler spoke to Owens last Sunday in San Francisco.

You started piano at 6, oboe at 10, and now you are an opera singer. Did you come from a musical family?
No, there aren't any professional musicians in my family. My mother had me take piano lessons, and I'm very glad she did, but at the time it wasn't exciting, practicing and all that. It's a funny story about how I got started with oboe. In junior high my older brother was in band, and I started off on clarinet. At one point an oboe became available because the oboist graduated, and I thought I'd take it up. Since there was only one, I knew I would be first chair. It is a great instrument, but you spend a lot of time making reeds, more time doing that than actually practicing. It makes oboists a little crazy, not that opera singers are exactly sane.

So how did you move from playing oboe professionally at 15 to studying voice?
I loved opera from when I was 10 or 11, but only started singing in choir in high school. The choir director pulled me aside to say I might have something there as far as my voice was concerned. So I took voice lessons at the end of high school and studied voice at Temple University.

Your San Francisco Opera debut was as Lodovico in Otello in 2002, and I remember that as being a crazy production because Ben Heppner withdrew. How was that experience?
It was very exciting! We practically played guess the tenor each night, since there were four different singers as Otello in that run. Pat Racette was a trooper, she barely rehearsed with some of them!

I did not realize you were even in Ariodante, because I was blinded by the prospect of Susan Graham, Ruth Ann Swenson, and Ewa Podleś. When I did notice my first thought was General Leslie Groves (from Doctor Atomic) is singing Handel? The music is so different. But obviously from the panel discussion and from your singing you love Handel. You were able to name Carestini as the castrato that first sang Ariodante and Gustavus Waltz as the first person to sing your role, the King of Scotland, so you did your research. How do you sing such different music? It's easier to research for newer operas, because many of the characters are historical, such as Leslie Groves, and there are tons of documents to look at, in English. That's much simpler than trying to find out information on operas based on older texts, you might look at a source text that isn't exactly in modern French for example, and perhaps that’s more difficult.

As for preparation, I'm lucky to have a strong foundation for my technique from my voice teacher, and I don't go about preparing for a role much differently even though the styles are very different.

In looking at your repertoire, I see you have performed some Handel, starting with Achilla in Giulio Cesare. What other Handel operas have you sung in besides this and Ariodante?
I've sung in Hercules (Hercules) and Jeptha (Zebul). Most of my career has been in the United States, and the Handel-craze is mostly in Europe. I'm not a singer people necessarily associate with Handel, not like David Daniels or Joyce Di Donato. Some singers specialize, but I couldn't do that, it would drive me crazy to sing, say, Rossini, all year long.

I read the score with last night's performance of Ariodante, and I have to say, I have an immense respect for all the singers and musicians involved. I could barely keep up and I was just reading along, I can't imagine having to play or sing that quickly.
Last night I had a moment when I just looked around and there I was, Ruth Ann's dad on stage, and it all sort of sank in and we don't always take time to appreciate how amazing it is.

I believe they cut one of your arias in Ariodante, is that right? It's a rather long opera, even with the cuts it is the longest opera at SF Opera this summer.
Yes, they had to make some cuts to keep it manageable, like you said, it is long. So they've cut some arias, part of a duet, and the ballets. I think they ended up cutting 30-40 minutes of music.

How was creating the role of General Leslie Groves in Doctor Atomic? Did you know you have the best line in all of opera?
I do?
"Three pieces of chocolate cake, 300 calories."
It was great working with John Adams and Peter Sellars. When I sing the line about the cake, it is like having a therapy session in front of a few thousand people, since I'm not exactly a small guy. Groves didn't get to be the top military leader in charge of the Manhattan Project by being nice, but that part is meant to humanize him, and I think it does.

You just had your Lyric Opera of Chicago debut with this role, and you will be singing Leslie Groves at the Met this October. Is it your Met premiere? Are you excited about being in a simulcast?
Yes, that will be my Met premiere. It's all very exciting, especially since it is a totally new production. I am also singing Sarastro at the Met in December.

Is it the production with all the puppets in it?
Right, it's the Julie Taymor production of The Magic Flute.

Could you talk a little about your experience in Grendel? I know it had some issues, it was supposed to have a world premiere at LA Opera on May 27, 2006, but it had to be pushed back to June 8, 2006. Do you think you'll sing it again?
Grendel really changed the trajectory of my career. You know, I usually end up playing the father or the king, and I don't think people knew I could sing something like Grendel, where I'm on stage for nearly 3 hours. It was a great experience.

The production had a lot of computers and motors, and they weren't talking to one another by the time we were supposed to premiere. That part was frustrating, so much time was taken up by tech that we didn't have all the time we needed to rehearse all the way through.

I know Julie Taymor wants Grendel to be performed again, and I hope they do it in the next 10 years, while I can still sing it.

The reviews were very good, Alex Ross wrote some really nice things about you in The New Yorker.
That was so great! I was a cartoon in The New Yorker. I think the only thing that could be better is being on Sesame Street. That would be so cool.