Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Commentary

Bampton Classical Opera to perform Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors

Gian Carlo Menotti’s much-loved Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors was commissioned in America by the National Broadcasting Company and was broadcast in 1951 - the first-ever opera composed specifically for television. Menotti said that it “is an opera for children because it tries to recapture my own childhood”.

Kings College, Cambridge launches as curator on Apple Music

November 5, 2018, Los Angeles, CA: Today, King’s College Cambridge announces the launch of the College as a curator on Apple Music.

Royal Opera House’s Music Director Sir Antonio Pappano extends tenure to 2023

Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera House, has confirmed that he will remain in position until at least the end of the 2022/23 Season.

Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Opera to Present Caccini’s Alcina

The GRAMMY-Winning Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Opera Series presents Francesca Caccini’s Alcina on Thanksgiving weekend – November 24 & 25 in Boston and November 26 & 27 in New York City

The Royal Opera House lets everyone in on the act

The Royal Opera House today opens the doors to its transformed new home, following an extensive three-year construction project.

Two of Garsington Opera's 2018 productions to reach a wider audience

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce that on Saturday 6 October, BBC Radio 3’s ‘Opera on 3’, will broadcast the production of its first festival world premiere - The Skating Rink by David Sawer set to a libretto by Rory Mullarkey based on a novel by Chilean author Roberto BolaƱo.

Remembering and Representing Dido, Queen of Carthage: an interview with Thomas Guthrie

The first two instalments of the Academy of Ancient Music’s ‘Purcell trilogy’ at the Barbican Hall have posed plentiful questions - creative, cultural and political.

Bampton Classical Opera Goes to the Ball

I wonder if Cinderella realised that when she found her Prince she would also find international fame, becoming not just a Princess but also a global celebrity and icon. The glass slipper, placed loving on her shapely foot, has graced theatres, variety halls, cinema screens and opera houses - even postage stamps - and the perennial popularity of this rags-to-riches fairy-tale, in which innocence and goodness triumph over injustice and oppression, shows no signs of waning.

Glyndebourne announces new Artistic Director

Stephen Langridge has been appointed Artistic Director of Glyndebourne. Stephen is currently Director for Opera and Drama at Gothenburg Opera, Sweden, a role he has occupied for five years. He will take up his new role at Glyndebourne in spring 2019.

Beyond Gilbert and Sullivan: Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes and the Apotheosis of English Romantic Opera

Mention ‘nineteenth-century English opera’ to most people, and they will immediately think ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’. If they really know their Gilbert and Sullivan, they’ll probably remember that Sullivan always wanted to compose more serious operas, but that Gilbert resisted this, believing they should ‘stick to their last’: light, comic, tuneful satire.

Mascagni's Isabeau at Opera Holland Park: in conversation with David Butt Philip

Opera directors are used to thinking their way out of theatrical, dramaturgical and musico-dramatic conundrums, but one of the more unusual challenges must be how to stage the spectacle of a young princess’s naked horseback-ride through the streets of a city.

The Moderate Soprano : Q&A with Nancy Carroll and Roger Allam

Nancy Carroll and Roger Allam play Audrey Mildmay and John Christie in David Hare’s play The Moderate Soprano which is currently at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London.

Soprano Nadine Sierra Wins the 2018 Beverly Sills Artist Award

Soprano Nadine Sierra has been named the winner of the 13 th annual Beverly Sills Artist Award for young singers at the Metropolitan Opera.

The Grand Tour: A European Journey in Song

The seventeenth Oxford Lieder Festival (12-27 October 2018) will celebrate a rich tapestry of music, words and performance in European song and will showcase the pinnacles of the repertoire while exploring wider cultural influences.

An Interview with Soprano Lisette Oropesa

Lisette Oropesa sings Eurydice in Los Angeles Opera’s French version of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice that can currently be seen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Opera in Amsterdam in 2018-2019

The operatic tradition is not as old in the Netherlands as in other European countries, yet opera is a vital part of the Dutch classical landscape. Both Dutch National Opera & Ballet and the Concertgebouw are in Amsterdam, so the capital gets the lion’s share of the opera on offer.

Lyric Opera of Chicago to Premiere Fellow Travelers—A Preview

On 17 March 2018 Lyric Opera of Chicago will premiere the 2016 opera Fellow Travelers by Gregory Spears (with a libretto by Greg Pierce, based on the novel by Thomas Mallon. Mallon’s 2007 novel offered fresh perspectives on the paranoiac investigations of McCarthy-era Washington, DC, through the lens of a gay relationship.

A newly discovered song by Alma Mahler

It is well known that in addition to the fourteen songs by Alma Mahler published in her lifetime, several dozen more - perhaps as many as one hundred - were written and have been lost or destroyed.

Glyndebourne Opera Cup 2018: semi-finalists announced

The semi-finalists for the first Glyndebourne Opera Cup have been announced. Following a worldwide search that attracted nearly 200 entries, and preliminary rounds in Berlin, London and Philadelphia, 23 singers aged 21-28 have been chosen to compete in the semi-final at Glyndebourne on 22 March.

ENO announces Studio Live casts and three new Harewood Artists

English National Opera (ENO) has announced the casts for Acis and Galatea and Paul Bunyan, 2018’s two ENO Studio Live productions. ENO Studio Live forms part of ENO Outside which takes ENO’s work to arts-engaged audiences that may not have considered opera before, presenting the immense power of opera in more intimate studio and theatre environments.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

David DQ Lee (Photo courtesy Atma Classique)
24 Jun 2007

Countertenor David DQ Lee: Winning Hearts and Minds at Cardiff Singer of the World

Perhaps it is a sign that, at last, the countertenor voice has come of age in the hearts and minds of both audiences and the opera establishment.

Above: David DQ Lee
Photo courtesy Atma Classique

 

If we take the bi-annual Cardiff Singer of the World competition as a litmus test, we can see that in the last 3 competitions, in 2003, 2005 and the recently completed 2007 there has been a small but steady increase in the voice-type’s presence on the finalist’s stage and an ever-better result. From Matthias Rexroth four years ago, to Sergejs Jegers in 2005, to this year’s winner of his Concert competition on the 12th June, David DQ Lee, a pattern of ever increasing success is emerging.

What the Korean-Canadian countertenor also demonstrated with verve and style last week was his ability to present repertoire not traditionally associated with the voice-type and make it his own. His mix of excellent technique, careful preparation with text, instinctive musicality and a strong stage presence that could inhabit any role or poetic ideal required, was a winning combination with both judges and the audience, and again demonstrated how far the music world has come in its perception of countertenors. If David DQ Lee has in large part others to thank for this growing acceptance of repertoire covering some 300 years, then he is the first to acknowledge that debt. It was this — and other debts — which he was happy to discuss when I caught up with him in Cardiff just days after his Concert win.

We met in a local café and he was obviously delighted with his success, even though he was not one of the five to reach the Grand Final. His reaction was both charming and good humoured: “It’s wonderful, I’m even getting recognised in the street here, which hasn’t happened to me before and people are saying “well done” and “I loved your performance, good luck!” Although of course I’m not difficult to spot here in Cardiff as I’m Korean, and have big streaked hair!” At just twenty nine years old, he is at that crucial stage in any opera singer’s career when he is both competing in competitions and learning fast by taking smaller roles in big houses, or bigger roles in small houses. All to play for, and a time to consolidate everything learnt so far and to push onto the next rung of the ladder. And David DQ Lee has a lot of musical experience in his past already which is a good foundation for that future.

He had a difficult childhood, with parents divorced when he was six, followed by having to leave even his mother and move at just thirteen from Korea to the west coast of Canada to live with a guardian and with no maternal guidance at all. This might have been too much for many young people, but it has been, he thinks, the very best thing that could have happened as it taught him self-reliance, adaptability and the importance of getting on with people no matter where he found himself. Just as important was his deep involvement in, and training by, the World Vision Korean Children’s Choir as a boy soprano and later the British Columbia Boys Choir where he led both the alto and bass sections, switching nonchalantly between octaves at a moment’s notice using both his countertenor and bass-baritone. This very high level of choral and voice training has been an essential element in his vocal development, he says, and also gave him an essential sense of family with his choral colleagues as they travelled the world together. “Yes, they were my family really and I made friends in the Choir, as a small boy, that I still have today….it was a wonderful time in my life and I’m so grateful for everything that it gave me”.

What his time with the Korean and Canadian choirs didn’t give him however, was any great knowledge of the great baroque operas of Handel or the role of the modern countertenor voice in them, and David himself admits that it was that memorable film of 1994 “Farinelli il Castrato” that actually booted him into a whole new world of singing and his present burgeoning career on the opera stage. It was only watching that film, when the famously-morphed voices of countertenor and mezzo soprano launched into the wonderful aria “Lascia ch'io pianga” from Handel’s Rinaldo that Lee realised that the song, which he had learned to sing as a boy soprano as just an isolated solo piece, actually had a history, a place, and a future in baroque opera. Suddenly he knew what, and how, he could realise his ambitions as an artist and musician and it was like being propelled out of a starting gate into a whole new race for artistic fulfilment. “I was in tears listening to that aria….this was it! Of course I later found out about that voice in the film being “manufactured”, but still I knew now where I was going and I went out and bought every CD I could find of the countertenor voice and baroque opera arias — Derek Lee Ragin, Drew Minter, James Bowman, Michael Chance…..David Daniels wasn’t recording then so I discovered him later. Those first four countertenors became my role models and inspiration early on and then one day I came across a copy of Opera News dedicated to baroque opera with a big piece on the rise of Daniels as an operatic countertenor after his success in Tamerlano — so everything began to fall into place in that last summer of High School for me and I decided to go on to the Vancouver Academy of Music.

Of course, I was the first countertenor they’d had! I had to audition, so because I was unsure of how they would view me I offered four songs — two alto baroque arias and two bass-baritone ones. It really freaked them out and I’m sure they didn’t know what to do with me. Anyway, after I was accepted, I suggested that they could assign anyone they wanted as my teacher, any voice type, and I’d accept it. I was really lucky as I was assigned to a mezzo soprano, Phyllis Mailing, who took me on and taught me just like any other singer with no concessions. That lady became just so important to me. She was not just my teacher; she was my mentor, my friend, and actually became my Canadian “mother”, a mother I’d longed for but not had from the age of 13 to when I was 18 and met her at the Academy. At that time she was the only person who could tell me off, tell me what to do - you know, she would never let me sing in that old choral “white” tone: she’d say “what are you doing? Use your vibrato, use your muscle, that’s how you get your support”. She taught me like any other mezzo, and I know that if it wasn’t for her, I would not be here now. She passed away in November 2004 and that was a terrible blow to me. I sang at her funeral, and I shall never forget her. I am sure she watches over me now”.

Judging by reaction both there in Cardiff and around the globe, David DQ Lee’s natural talent was well guided indeed, and I asked him about his plans and hopes for the future. Did he think he would continue to offer a wide range of repertoire in recital as well as furthering his opera career? “Absolutely, I love to sing the French art song repertoire in particular and I do study many, many singers’ interpretations when I first approach a piece. I like to immerse myself in the text, and gradually come to a way to make it my own. That’s how I like to work. I’m so grateful to David Daniels for opening up this rep both on CD and in recital and showing it as perfectly acceptable for a countertenor to sing — and why not? It’s just outdated preconceptions of the voice type that hold people back. I’m a huge admirer of him for doing that, as well as of his amazing artistry and beautiful voice. And the other person I really admire is Rene Jacobs as a conductor: he’s so alive, so intense and makes beautiful music”. And more opera? “Oh yes, I do hope so. I’m singing the title role of Radamisto in Hamburg again in the autumn, and I’ve enjoyed doing Tolomeo in Cesare in Vancouver — I’d love to sing that role again soon, it’s such fun and really suits me I think. I’ve a concert in Madrid this September — excerpts from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater at the Teatro Real and then I’m also going to sing the role of Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus at Santiago Opera in Chile. Yes, quite a trek, but they asked me to do it after I won the Francisco Viñ International Singing Competition in Barcelona and it should be fun down there — I can pretend to get drunk on vodka and lurch around the stage! Something else which is important to me is to try to expand the knowledge of baroque repertoire in my home country of Korea and I’m going to sing my first Glück’s Orfeo ed Euridice there soon.”

Finally, where would he like to see himself in five years time? “I like to set myself goals, with deadlines, and I guess it would be to be singing at both Covent Garden and the Met — no point not being ambitious….I think it’s possible.”

© Sue Loder 2007

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):