Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Interviews

Oxford Lieder Festival: in conversation with Julius Drake

In October 2014, the Oxford Lieder Festival - under its imaginative and intrepid founder, Sholto Kynoch - fulfilled an incredibly ambitious goal: to perform Schubert’s entire corpus of songs - more than 600 - and, for three marvellous weeks, to bring Vienna to Oxford. ‘The Schubert Project’ was a magnificent celebration of the life and music of Franz Schubert: at its core lay the first complete performance of Schubert’s songs - including variants and alternative versions - in the UK.

Interview with Star of Florencia en el Amazonas, Elizabeth Caballero

Lyric soprano Elizabeth Caballero’s signature role is Violetta in La traviata, which she portrays with a compelling interpretation, focused sound, and elegant coloratura that floats through the opera house as naturally as waves on the ocean.

A Chat With Baritone Brian Mulligan

Maria Nockin interviews baritone Brian Mulligan.

An interview with Tobias Ringborg

I arrive at the Jerwood Space, where rehearsals are underway for Garsington Opera’s forthcoming production of Idomeneo, to find that the afternoon rehearsal has finished a little early.

A Conversation with Sir Nicholas Jackson

With its merry-go-round exchange of deluded and bewitched lovers, an orphan-turned-princess, a usurped prince, a jewel and a flower with magical properties, a march to the scaffold and a meddling ‘mistress-of-ceremonies’ who encourages the young lovers to disguise and deceive, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring has all the ingredients of an opera buffa.

A Chat With Up-and-Coming Conductor Kathleen Kelly

Kathleen Kelly is an internationally renowned pianist, coach, conductor, and master teacher. She was the first woman and first American named Director of Musical Studies at the Vienna State Opera.

Atsuto Sawakami — Sponsor of Italian Opera in Japan

Atsuto Sawakami is a slightly built man in his late sixties with impeccable, gentlemanly manners. He communicates a certain restless energy and his piercingly bright eyes reveal an undimmed appetite for life.

Mark Stone — Oxford Lieder Festival

‘Lieder v. Opera’? At first glance it might seem to be a pointless or nonsensical question.

Oxford Lieder Festival 2015 - Sholto Kynoch interview

Last year's Oxford Lieder Festival made something of a splash when it encompassed all of Schubert's songs, performed in the space of three weeks. This year's festival, the 14th, which runs from 16 to 31 October 2015 has a rather different, yet still eye-catching theme; Singing Words: Poets and their Songs.

For Odyssey Opera, No Operatic Challenge is Too Great

For a company founded in 2013, Odyssey Opera has an astounding track record. To take on Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is ambitious enough, but to do so within only a year of the company’s founding seems almost single-minded.

A Chat with Tenor René Barbera

American tenor René Barbera is fast making a name for himself as one of the top bel canto singers in opera houses around the world.

Stefano Mastrangelo — An Italian in Japan

I’m interviewing Stefano Mastrangelo in the immediate aftermath of his conducting La Traviata for the Chofu City Opera in Tokyo on 22 November 2014; he conveys an air at once of tiredness and exhilaration.

Sara Gartland Takes on Jenůfa

Sara Gartland is an emerging singer who brings an enormous talent and a delightful personality to the opera stage. Having sung lighter soprano roles such as Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette and Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata, Gartland is now taking on the title role in Leoš Janáček’s dramatic opera Jenůfa.

A Chat with Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer Jennifer Higdon

American composer Jennifer Higdon has won many awards for her imaginative music. Her percussion concerto received the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Falling in love with Wolf-Ferrari — An interview with Friedrich Haider

Bratislava in Slovakia might seem an unlikely place to come across the opera I gioielli della Madonna (The Jewels of the Madonna) a 1911 rarity written by the Italian/German Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, a composer best known for his one-act opera Il segreto di Susanna ( Susanna’s Secret) and his comedies based on Goldoni.

Jac van Steen in Conversation

Last year’s Strauss anniversary year — 150 years since his birth — offered, at least in the United Kingdom, a typical number of opportunities and frustrations.

A Chat with Julia Noulin-Mérat

Julia Noulin-Mérat is the principal designer for the Noulin-Merat Studio, an intrepid New York City production design firm that works in theater, film, and television, but emphasizes opera and immersive site-specific theatre.

A Chat with Anita Rachvelishvili

Anita Rachvelishvili recently performed the title role in Carmen broadcast by The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD. Here she drops by for a little chat with our Maria Nockin.

Dolora Zajick about her Institute for Young Dramatic Voices

"Although there are now more people on this planet than there have ever been before, there are fewer dramatic voices. Something is wrong with that equation. I thought there needs to be some sort of helping hand so that dramatic voices don’t fall through the cracks in the system as they advance through their various stages of development."

Anna Prohaska, one of Europe’s most promising sopranos

Anna Prohaska sings Sister Constance in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites at the Royal Opera House. In the same month, she’s also in London to sing a recital with Eric Schneider at the Wigmore Hall, and to sing Henze with Sir Simon Rattle at the Barbican Hall.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Interviews

Austin Kness
01 Jul 2010

Baritone Austin Kness on his way

Baritone Austin Kness, an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera recently spoke with Opera Today critic Michael Milenski.

Baritone Austin Kness on his way

An interview by Michael Milenski

 

On the subject of role preparation Austin would admit that he had not read Goethe’s Faust in preparation for his three lines as Wagner in Gounod’s opera of the same name. When not serving simply as a baritone of convenience for SFO productions he seems to be typecast — just now he sang Handsome’s few lines in Puccini’s Fanciulla del West.

Austin is in his second year as an Adler Fellow, one of ten young singers in residence at San Francisco Opera who will become the stars of tomorrow. The alumni of this finishing school are among the crème de la crème of today’s opera luminaries, like Deborah Voigt and Patricia Racette who are appearing just now with Austin in Fanciulla and Faust.

Playing an Adler Fellow is a new role for Austin, that of a little fish in the big San Francisco Opera pond. Back in Cedar Rapids (west of Chicago and east of Des Moines, for those of us who know Iowa as a state you fly over on your way to New York) Austin sang solos in church and played defensive line backer on his high school’s varsity football team.

In his last high school year he decided to take some voice lessons. His prospective teacher had but one caveat — he must agree that he would continue vocal studies as his university major. That he did in a small music department in a minor university where he became a star.

With a bachelor of music in voice in hand his career prospects were hardly defined, so he worked as a bank teller for two years before determining that he would be in fact a singer. He continued working as a teller while pursuing a master’s degree at University of Indiana, and recalls with pleasure being recognized as Don Giovanni while cashing checks.

IU is an opera factory (they say), and it is prestigious. Though, like opera schools everywhere, women outnumber men twenty to one (Austin’s calculation). So with this limited competition he immediately was thrust onto the main stage in the lead role of William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge (a 1999 opera that made the rounds of major American opera stages). Mozart’s Count followed and finally the Olympus of baritone roles, Don Giovanni was thrust upon him.

Preparation for this role was exhaustive. He worked with IU coach Christian Capocaccia, first speaking the text, then speaking it in rhythm, singing without pitch, singing it with Mozart’s pitches, and finally putting all these pieces together. Veteran opera impresario and stage director, Tito Capobianco was there to stage the Giovanni, Austin appreciated his coaching on traditional operatic ideas of period postures and movement. In his Giovanni preparations he came across a video of the role sung by fabled bass Cesare Siepi to the Leporello of Ingvar Wixell — “those guys could sing!”

It is a big world out there, and Austin began discovering it with a summer at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. While there he had remarkable revelations — the Academy’s Liederabends and the scope of opera at the Arena di Verona. He perceived as well that singers and musicians in Europe are accorded a respect unknown in the U.S.

His steps into the bigger world included a summer as a young artist at Des Moines Summer Opera where for the first time he worked alongside professional singers. The speed and ease with which these professional productions reached the stage impressed him, as did the alternative staging format of Des Moines Summer Opera (not the traditional proscenium theater). This foray into American regional opera gave Austin renewed admiration for the elevated production standard of IU opera productions.

Austin’s studies at IU have been trumped by the invitation to be an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera. Here too he is impressed by the professionalism of his colleagues, watching the remarkable confidence of divas Patricia Racette and Deborah Voight. He notes as well how artists with less confidence cope with the tensions of role and production preparation. There are some tricks of the trade he has gleaned — like the axiom that you try the ideas of conductors and stage directors before trying to impose your own.

Austin has enormous admiration for singers who are successful. He denies envy of tenors who for example get more applause and make more money, and says he sings falsetto only come scritto and that he never imitates sopranos just for the fun of it. He does admit resenting the fact that sopranos and tenors always seem to be the competition winners.

The Adler Fellows do offer opportunities for stardom. Austin is the Impresario in Mozart’s tiny comedy that has made the rounds of impromptu venues in the Bay Area. Austin can be funny, very funny indeed in his dealings with two Adler Fellow mini divas. He says this role was greatly expanding because it is mostly speaking, a medium completely new for this young opera singer (even though back in high school Austin wanted nothing more than to be a musical comedy star).

In this first blush of artistic maturity Austin has his eye on roles like Gounod’s Valentin, Rossini’s Figaro, and the early Verdi bel canto roles. His dream is to sing Onegin. Nothing yet is in the bag, and it is still a bit premature to sign on with artist management. In the meantime he is working hard on his Russian with SFO Opera Center coaches, and learning from every minute of his life as a young singer at San Francisco 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):