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Cyrano at Opera Carolina with interviews

October 30, 2017

  • date
    October 30, 2017
  • author
    Opera Lively
  • article type
    Press
  • category
    Opera Carolina News

Cyrano at Opera Carolina with interviews

Our partner company Opera Carolina will be presenting a contemporary opera on Saturday November 4 at 8 PM (a performance that Opera Lively will attend and review), and Thursday November 9th at 7:30 PM, in Charlotte, NC, USA, at the Belk Theater of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. The work is Cyrano, with music by David DiChiera, and a French libretto (with projected English titles) by Bernard Uzan, who is the stage director for this production. The opera premiered at the Michigan Opera Theater in 2007, and had subsequent performances by Philadelphia Opera and Florida Grand Opera. It is based on Cyrano de Bergerac, the famous stage play by Rostand that has inspired an opera by Alfano and several movies, such as Roxanne (spelled in the movie with two Ns) with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah.

What’s a beautiful young woman to do when she’s being wooed by two – one of whom knows just what to say but is too afraid to address her face to face? In David DiChiera’s tragicomic opera, the only thing standing between true love and the tender-hearted duelist and writer Cyrano is his prominent nose. Or so he believes. Despite his prowess with the pen and the sword, love eludes him. Cyrano lends his poetry to his more handsome rival to aid this suitor’s romancing of his beloved. The beautiful Roxane is seduced by the poetry of the words, but her true suitor remains unknown to her. Falling for the wrong guy has heartbreaking consequences.

For these performances, American baritone John Viscardi from New York sings the title role. The beautiful Canadian soprano from Québec Magali Simard-Galdé will be Roxane, and French tenor Sébastien Guèze sings the role of Christian. Opera Lively will publish mini-interviews with all three principal artists. Nine other singers staff the smaller roles. Steven Mercurio conducts.

Stay tuned to this space to read the three mini-interviews once they are available. Visit the company's website for more information at www.operacarolina.org and get tickets from the official Blumenthal Center ticket service, CarolinaTix: [click here]. This site initially offers subscriptions Opera Carolina's entire season (which is a good deal - Rigoletto and The Marriage of Figaro will follow) but if you then click on Events and scroll down, you'll be able to locate the performance dates and buy individual tickets for Cyrano. They cost between $21 and $154. A great deal is the Dress Rehearsal which sells under the name Student Night and costs only $8.21 for students under 18 and $10.56 for their adult companions. It happens on November 2 at 7 PM.

Dear reader, make sure that you catch one of these performances, because Opera Carolina never disappoints.

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Here is the first exclusive mini-interview associated with this show: hailing from Québec, soprano Magali Simard-Galdé(learn more about here by consulting her website, [here]. Questions by Luiz Gazzola. Reproduction authorized as long as the source is quoted and linked to.

Opera Lively - Your career, after your professional debut in 2015, is now evolving from comprimario roles into main roles. Here at Opera Carolina you are interpreting the lead female role in the opera. How exciting is that?

Magali Simard-Galdé - It is very exciting to sing my first lead role at Opera Carolina, and I am happy I get to do so after getting experience in smaller roles. I know better how to prepare for the performances and also how to pace myself during a longer evening of singing.

OL - This is a contemporary opera, and the librettist is the stage director for this production. How important was this fact in the preparation for your role?

MSG - The text is always the first thing I work on when I prepare a role. I do research on the role, the piece and the time period in which it takes place. I try to know as much as possible about the role. Having the librettist as the stage director is an advantage because he obviously is more than familiar with the text, which allows us to go deeper into the interpretation of the character.

OL - Please tell us about the psychological arc for your character. The final scene when she realizes the dying Cyrano is actually the man she loves given his intellect, must be very poignant.

MSG - Roxane is a very interesting character to play because she is very smart and very passionate. She starts as a “précieuse”, she is very attracted by Christian’s looks. The deeper she goes into emotion, the more importance the soul and the letters have, until in the second act she tells Christian she doesn’t care at all what he looks like, so that is the first big turning point for Roxane. The second one is obviously when after 14 years of grieving Cyrano gives her the opportunity of guessing that he was the soul behind Christian’s letters, which she does by recognizing the voice that she heard in the garden during the balcony scene. It is a very poignant moment to play, because Roxane is already in a very vulnerable state.

OL - Is the music for your character challenging in any way? This opera is new to me so I have no opinion formed on the score, and would like to hear from you some considerations about the music.

MSG - The music is very challenging mostly because of the range. It has a lot of big leaps and lots of high notes. It doesn’t sound so hard, which means we have to work harder to make it seem effortless. There are some beautiful lines and very touching moment so it is worth it to make is as beautiful as possible so the audience can enjoy it.

OL - Two summers ago I was in Aix-en-Provence for an extensive coverage of the festival, which I loved. I’m glad to know that you got to be a member of the Academy program. Please tell me about your experience there.

MSG - Aix-en-Provence first of all is like a paradise; the weather is absolutely amazing and the town is very beautiful as well. The spirit is definitely to enjoy life so I expected to have a good time in that sense, which I did. We also got a lot of exposure to the rehearsal process of such a high standard production : we definitely learned a lot watching the best do their jobs, whether it is singers, conductors, stage directors, stage managers, costumes, everyone is at the highest level there!

OL - I heard from other singers who play the violin, that this instrument is the best precursor for the singing of opera, and former violin players are better opera singers. Do you agree?

MSG - Violin is definitely a good precursor to singing, it has a lot of melodic lines and you have to create the music like with voice. That being said, I think any musical background is helpful to singing, since it allows us to have been doing music for a longer period of time.

OL - Given that I’m a physician who loves opera, I was interested in the fact that you were promised to a career in Medicine but chose opera. Can you tell us more about what brought you to opera, from Medicine, and from playing the violin?

MSG - What brought me to opera was actually my violin teacher who said I had the personality of a diva and that she heard from my laugh that I would have a good singing voice. She put me in contact with my first voice teacher, and I then realized that I had talent for opera and it was absolutely amazing to express my musicality with singing. I had always thought I would be a doctor, like my dad, since I was 5 or 6 years old, but I changed my mind at 19 years old and am really happy I pursued my dream of being an opera singer!

OL - Please tell us more about you as a person: hobbies, projects, extra-musical interests, personality, so that our readers get to know you better.

MSG - My main hobby is definitely living a zero-waste lifestyle. I am very passionate about science and ecology, so I try to incorporate this passion into living an eco-friendly lifestyle. I read a lot about ways to be more sustainable as a citizen and participate in the improvement of our society. I am very proud to say that my boyfriend and I produce less than one bag of chips of waste per month (we use chip bags as trash bags because we can’t find small enough bags, and also because it allows me to buy chips that I can’t find in bulk hehe) !

Having been a gymnast from the age of 4 til 14, I still enjoy watching competitions and gymnastics videos on YouTube. And I also work out on a regular basis to stay healthy both physically and mentally, especially with such a stressful job.

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Our second mini-interview is with American baritone John Viscardi who is singing the title role. Learn more about him by visiting his website, [here]. Questions by Luiz Gazzola; reproduction authorized, as long as the source is mentioned and a link to this article is given.

Opera Lively - You sang this role already with the Michigan Opera Theater. Since I don’t know this contemporary opera, I’m counting on you to walk me through the music a little. Please tell me about the vocal writing for your character, and the music for the opera in general.

John Viscardi - The music is beautiful - familiar yet unpredictable. It has this sweeping romanticism to it mixed with a modern tonality. The role of Cyrano is HUGE! As maestro Mercurio put it to me the other day, "Cyrano is like wall to wall wallpaper". From the show's beginning to its very end I'm there on stage. Vocally, for me, the part is incredibly compelling. It's written for a very high baritone, almost a low tenor. Having moved from tenor to baritone just four years ago, it's like the role was written for my voice. DiChiera wrote the beginning of the show very dramatically and slowly lightens up the role as the score progresses. I absolutely love how the vocal writing progresses along side the character; it's wonderful.

OL - Some patrons balk at contemporary opera. Not me, I’m a big fan – but I’d like you to tell our readers why they should come to see Cyrano just like they love to come to see works from the traditional repertory.

JV - Cyrano feels like an updated version of a classic French opera. It's a heart-wrenching and beautiful story told through singing and music. You'll find memorable tunes, big chorus numbers, massively emotional duets and a full, beautiful orchestration. The symphony sounds absolutely fantastic playing this score by the way. I am very impressed.

OL - Your character is a man with a deep and rich intellectual life and conflicting emotions. It must be very fun to portray him, from the acting standpoint. Please tell us about the psychological aspects of your character.

JV - I could talk to you about Cyrano's motivations all day long but I'll try to boil it down as much as possible. Cyrano is a man of deep conviction and unflagging honor. Respect, honesty, courage and knowledge are a few of the virtues he holds in high esteem. A great example of this is the first scene in the show where Cyrano refuses to let the actor Montfleury perform for a packed house, then spends an entire year's salary compensating every audience member for the cost of their ticket.

All of that being said, he has one tragic flaw, his nose. It isn't so much his actual, physical nose but his perception of it. This unbelievably courageous man, someone who fights a hundred men to protect a friend, fears above all else being laughed at for his nose. It is a motivating factor in every decision he makes.

OL - How did you prepare for this character, which is a new one, given the contemporary aspect? Did you go through the life of the real person who inspired Rostand’s play? Did you read it or watch it? What about the movies made about the character? And the older opera by Alfano? If you looked into the latter, how do you compare it with this work by DiChiera?

JV - I began studying the character of Cyrano about two and a half years ago. This was in preparation for my first audition for the creative team in Detroit. I dove in and was immediately taken by him. I started by reading and translating Bernard Uzan's libretto then reading two translations of Rostand's play. Back in January of this year, I began fully focusing on the character for my performances in Detroit. I watched every interpretation of the play that I could find online save for Alfano's opera. Surprisingly, I was reluctant to do so. I think this was for fear of imprinting in my mind a version of the opera so different from the one I was about to perform. Of all the movies I watched, the 1990 production with Gerard Depardieu was by far my favorite. His Cyrano is so incredibly strong on the surface yet tragically vulnerable! I've probably watched it four or five times.

OL - Please tell us about the path that led you to being an opera singer.

JV - I loved music of all kinds as a kid and began singing at a fairly young age. By the time I reached high school I was singing in three choirs, playing French horn in four ensembles and performing in the musical. It was at this time that I also began studying privately with a wonderful opera singer and my experience working with him inspired me to pursue singing as a career. It has been a crazy, wonderful road.

OL - Please tell us more about you as a person: hobbies, projects, extra-musical interests, personality, so that our readers get to know you better.

JV - I live in Philly with my wife Molly and 20-month-old son Jack. He is a wildly powerful inspiration in my life. An important thing to know is that I am a co-founder of ArtSmart. ArtSmart is a non profit organization that uses music to teach children how to apply creativity and critical thinking skills to achieve long-term goals. Currently, we provide free, weekly, private voice lessons to 42 students across three inner-city schools. Next year we are on track to expand the program to include 150 students across five cities. I was fortunate enough as a child to have had many positive opportunities that helped me arrive where I am today and I feel it is my duty to give similar opportunities to those less fortunate than myself.

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Our third and last mini-interview is with French tenor Sébastien Guèze who is singing Christian. Read about the singer by visiting his website [click here]. Questions by Luiz Gazzola. Reproduction authorized as long as the source is quoted and a link to this article is provided.

Opera Lively - I have asked your colleagues already about the music in this opera, so, please, tell me more about the production itself. What can the Charlotte public expect from this production?

Sébastien Guèze - The audience will travel 400 years into the past and vibrate with the sound of the musketeers. It will be a historical show full of action, passion and suspense!

OL - Christian is, theatrically speaking, a role that is unusual for a tenor, since he dies before the end, and it is the baritone who actually ultimately earns the soprano’s love, unlike the set-up we see in most operas. Does it make it more fun to interpret this role, in terms of acting range?

SG - It is true that except for Romeo, maybe Faust or Cavaradossi, the tenor finishes generally in good health an opera. There is always something special about dying on stage, between fun and a deeper feeling of sadness. It is very curious! Finally, it's like a little death then suddenly you stand up with a big smile saying: not yet, so we have to enjoy even more the life!

OL - I’m a lover of French opera, including the more obscure repertory, some of which you have interpreted. At one point in my “career” of an opera lover, I made a point of watching/listening to over a hundred French operas. Please tell us about what is special in the operatic tradition in your country.

SG - It is difficult to say exactly what the French operas bring with them. Without doing generalities we can say for example that Italian operas bring sun and prestige, like a dress style with a lot of decorations and a lipstick very red. In comparison, French operas will be more focused on elegance. The dress will be very simple but perfectly shaped and the lipstick very discreet, not too much; enough to think that there isn't any, but there is! I think it's from our tradition of the language where there was always a taste to play and take care of words like in Cyrano. It's all our historical background of castles, how to be seen at the court and be appreciated, walking on a line between falling into vulgarity and be made fun of, or in anger and be eliminated. We can speak about a French elegance.

OL - It is interesting that you studied International Business before you decided to dedicate yourself entirely to opera. Does this background help your career? If yes, in what way?

SG - I am always interested in seeing how each opera company that I am visiting is managed. What the political vision to develop new audiences is; the cultural actions to share art with the new generation; how the director is considering his team and artists to enhance the chemistry for the productions... For me these are the keys for an unforgettable show. How the theater works to improve the philanthropy... It's very important for me that as much as possible people come to the theater, and to have a theater with open doors, giving the pulse to the city like its heart. Also because art is there to create fiction where the audience can transpose themselves and imagine how they would react if they were in the same situation, what they would do if they got the same feeling as the character on stage. Opera situations are universal : hate, passion, love, war, revenge, happiness. The goal is to give keys to the audience to indirectly think about it and later on make the right choices for a better world!

OL - Please tell us more about what made you make this career choice and become an opera singer.

SG - I don't really know! I remember myself singing since I was 8 years old. I was not in the classical music world but when I discovered operas and my lyric voice around 18 years of age it was like love at first sight. The most important thing for me was to find a job where I would be happy to go everyday. Opera became my passion and I was lucky enough to be an opera singer starting my career!

OL - Please tell us more about you as a person: hobbies, projects, extra-musical interests, personality, so that our readers get to know you better.

SG - I will record my first CD next year! I got the inspiration for my program from concerts that I did, specially in retirement houses, what they enjoy to hear during an hour with a tenor! I deeply admire our old generation, I always think that I can't imagine how many things they did in theirs lives. I am fascinated about their feelings: regrets, happiness that they went through.

Now about me it's hard to say. I love to smile and joke, with a very positive mood. Unfortunately on stage I am playing more desperate loves and heartbreaking situations which are very interesting too. But I have already in a corner of my head the idea of singing later all the second roles for tenor which are totally crazy and funny, to conclude my career like I am in my life: on a smile!

Read the full article on Opera Lively's website.