Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Commentary

Jean-Paul Scarpitta in Montpellier

I met with the embattled artistic director of the Opéra et Orchestre National de Montepellier not to talk about his battles. I simply wanted to know the man who had cast and staged a truly extraordinary Mozart/DaPonte trilogy.

Interview: Tenor Saimir Pirgu — From Albania to Italy to LA

Maria Nockin interviews tenor Saimir Pirgu.

Claudio Abbado, Italian conductor, dies aged 80

Italian conductor Claudio Abbado, former principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, has died aged 80

Matthew Polenzani — Des Grieux, Manon, Royal Opera House

Matthew Polenzani reprises the role of the Chevalier des Grieux in Jules Massenet’s Manon at the Royal Opera House. “I love coming back to London”, he says, “It’s a very good house and they take care of you as a singer. And the level of music making is unbelievably high”.

Season 2014 at San Diego Opera

On Saturday evening January 25, San Diego Opera opens its 2014 season with Ruggero Leoncavallo’s verismo blockbuster Pagliacci (Clowns).

Maestro Joseph Rescigno Discusses The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman is a transitional piece because Wagner was only beginning to establish his style. He took some aspects from Carl Maria von Weber and others from Italian composers like Vincenzo Bellini.

Royal Opera House Announces Digital Theatre

The Royal Opera House has its own DVD arm, Opus Arte, and is developing quite a global following with its cinema broadcasts.

Patricia Racette on Dolores Claiborne

On a personal level, I feel that Dolores is almost like Emmeline grown up. Their circumstances are not exactly parallel, but they are both women at very different points in their lives whose stories involve dilemmas with life-changing outcomes.

Tobias Picker Talks About His New Opera Dolores Claiborne

With the help of Andrew Welch, a London theatrical producer who had adapted several of King’s works for the stage, including this one, I got the rights to both Dolores Claiborne and Misery.

Dolora Zajick on New Opera Written for Her

On September 18, 2013, San Francisco Opera will present the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s opera, Dolores Claiborne, which has a libretto by J. D. McClatchy based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name.

Ermonela Jaho — Singing and Character

Ermonela Jaho caused a sensation at Covent Garden in London five years ago, when she took over Violetta at short notice from Anna Netrebko.

Ignite at Wigmore Hall

What do you get if you cross Benjamin Britten, ‘one-page scores’, an innovative performing ensemble and ‘Wigmore Learning’ — the Wigmore Hall’s imaginative outreach programme which aims to provide access to chamber music and song through innovative creative programmes, online resources and events?

Marseille, Capital of European Culture

Marseille woke up this past January 11 stunned to find itself number two on the New York Times list of 46 places you should visit in 2013 (Rio was number one, Paris just made the list at number 46).

Rossini Maometto Secondo at Garsington Opera - David Parry speaks

Garsington Opera at Wormsley is producing the British premiere of Giacomo Rossini´s Maometto Secondo. Garsington Opera is well-known for its role in reviving Rossini rarities in Britain. Since 1994, there have been 14 productions of 12 Rossini operas, and David Parry has conducted eleven since 2002. He´s very enthusiastic about Maometto Secondo.

Michele Mariotti conducts La donna del lago

Rossini’s La donna del Lago at the Royal Opera House boasts a superstar cast. Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez are perhaps the best in these roles in the business at this time. Yet the conductor Michele Mariotti is also hot news.

Kate Lindsey at Glyndebourne

It would seem a logical step for the mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey to take on the role of the Composer in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.

Douglas Boyd on Garsington Opera at Wormsley

“Aim for excellence”, says Douglas Boyd, new Artistic Director of Garsington Opera at Wormsley, “and the audience will follow you”.

A Chat with Aida Designer Zandra Rhodes

When I spoke with Zandra Rhodes, she was in her large San Diego workspace, which she described as having walls decorated with her own huge black and white drawings.

An Interview with Virginia Zeani

Palm Beach audiences are famous for their glamour, but in recent years a special star has sparkled amid the jewels, sequins, feathers and furs (whatever the weather).

Bel Canto Queen Jessica Pratt

When the soprano Jessica Pratt first arrived in Italy, she had yet to learn the language or sing in a staged opera.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

Keith Jameson in the title role of Candide, New York City Opera
17 Dec 2008

Keith Jameson — Comprimario Extraordinaire

Most opera-world publicity is accorded star singers, but we take another tack here to look at American tenor Keith Jameson who has made a specialty of character or comprimario parts, while at the same time building a solid reputation as sophisticated musician and actor, a performer who can seize the moment and elevate a role to first rank for the time he is on stage.

Keith Jameson — Comprimario Extraordinaire

Above: Keith Jameson in the title role of Candide, New York City Opera

 

Appearing as the young Novice in Benjamin Britten’s shipboard tragedy, Billy Budd, in Santa Fe Opera’s 2008 season, Jameson proved what he can do most impressively. His young novice sailor first appears shirtless and scarred with lash marks, the victim of a sadistic master-at-arms (John Claggart), and the cruelty of life at sea; later, he must confront Claggart and plead for mercy at the hands of a sadist in a highly emotional scene. Sounds like a daunting assignment for a 40-year old singer who grew up in a small town in South Carolina. How does he do it, and how does he manage to look and sound a crazed lad of 25?

“I am at least as much actor as singer,” Jameson explained when I asked him. “The two arts cannot be separated.” He seems disarmingly mild off stage, modest of build with blue eyes and dark hair, an infectious grin and gentle mien, which can explode into unexpected fireworks onstage in the heat of performance.

“Ben Britten is my favorite kind of music and I hope to do a lot more of it,” Jameson said. Thus far he has sung Peter Quint in Turn of the Screw, and in Britten’s Curlew River, as well as some of the British master’s choral and sacred music, and has his eye on the ingénue role of Albert Herring, in that captivating comedy of village ‘types’ and coming-of-independence. “I almost want to live in England, and specialize in Britten and in Baroque music,” Jameson admits. He would doubtless be welcome, with musicianship grounded in far more education than most professional singers enjoy.

After music and vocal studies at college in South Carolina, Jameson joined the Eastman School at Rochester, N. Y., and earned a Master’s Degree in conducting and Doctorate of Musical Performance in voice. “I tried choral conducting and a bit of teaching, but my real love is singing. I most love to perform on stage and make acting and musical expression become one unified experience – for both performers and audience. I just live for it,” he beams. Jameson continues to refine his art and with good results. “For about a year now I’ve been working with a new teacher in New York, opening the voice, and that volume you heard in the high range in Billy Budd is a result. Vocal growth has opened a wider horizon for me.”

Jameson_TurnOfTheScrew.pngKeith Jameson as Peter Quint, with Lisa Houben as Miss Jessel, in The Turn of the Screw, Opera Royal de Wallonie in Liege, Belgium, April 2007 [Photo courtesy of ORW]

“ When the Novice is dragged before Claggart he is a terrified, humiliated boy, and he begs for mercy, virtually for his life. He’ll do anything to avoid further physical cruelty,” Jameson explains. In the face of the boy’s screaming agony, Peter Rose, the powerful English bass impersonating Claggart, maintained an almost eerie cool, his low-keyed response creating a tremendous tension in the scene. “It’s hard work to set up such extreme contrasts and takes stamina and real acting; that is why I loved doing it. And playing against Peter Rose is something special,” Jameson found. Few in his Santa Fe audience knew Jameson could sing with such passionate power, so his recent performance proved an exciting revelation.

Jameson sees plenty of years ahead as operatic tenor, but when I asked if he eventually planned to become a teacher, his reply was immediate: “No indeed, I want to run an opera company” (This guy is full of surprises!) “I’m serious,” he continued. “I have started a small chamber music festival, January each year a time that needs a seasonal pick-up – and I present at my Southern home town a musical stage performance, some sacred music and a program of pure chamber music, and I want to make that grow into a music festival in due time that specializes in presenting American opera.” He cites the example of another character tenor and former Santa Fe performer, Darren Keith Woods, who switched from performance to management and is now the successful general director of the Ft. Worth opera, which he converted from conventional company into an annual opera festival. “Darren has shown us how, so here is hoping,” Jameson said. “But I have many roles to play and many songs to sing before that happens.”

Dr. Jameson has earned an exciting professional future, whatever form it takes.

J. A. Van Sant © 2008

Jameson_Mikado.pngKeith Jameson as Nanki-Poo and Anna Christy as Yum-Yum in Jonathan Miller's production of The Mikada, New York City Opera and English National Opera [Photo courtesy of English National Opera]

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):