Magazine article Opera Canada

John Relyea

Magazine article Opera Canada

John Relyea

Article excerpt

There are worse ways of testing the vocal waters with unfamiliar repertoire than a guest appearance with the New York Philharmonic, as John Relyea discovered at the Bravo Vail! Festival in Colorado this past summer. Having portrayed neither King Phillip II in Don Carlos nor the corresponding roles in Simon Boccanegra and Ernani oil stage, he took his first step towards impersonating all three characters by singing their great arias at the Gerald P,. Ford Amphitheatre under the direction of Lorin Maazel. "I won't do these roles yet," the fast-rising bass explains, "but I know I'm destined for the Verdi repertoire. To me, it is a question of portraying them at the right age. My last teacher, Jerome Hines, did them in his 20s, but he was of a different time."

Just entering his 30s, Relyea is still a young man lay low-voice standards, content to caper about the stage as Rossini's Alidoro ha La Cenerentola (his Metropolitan Opera debut role), Puccini's Colline in La Boheme (his Covent Garden debut role) mad Bizet's Escamillo in Carmen (his Paris Opera debut role).

Werdi is healthier for the voice than some people realize," he suggests. "Besides, there are not so many opportunities in Rossini or Handel to sing a nice long phrase. Yon don't get much of a chance to sing legato if you are a Mozart bass, either, tie was kinder to his sopranos. But Verdi, Donizetti, Belfini--in their music you get the chance to spin out your sound and use colors. In terms of coloratura, I find Handel comfortable because the coloratura is scale-oriented. Rossini's coloratura is harder, more arpeggiated. Sarastro [in Die Zauberflote] is the only exception to my generalization ha Mozart, and I'd welcome the opportunity to do this role even now. I may only be 31, but I have children, so I've already been a patriarch of sorts."

Sarastro is, of course, a role associated with another low-voiced Relyea, John's father, Gary, whose influence he willingly acknowledges. "Singing starts with imitation," the junior Relyea says with a smile, "so I could hardly have avoided his example. It took a while for me to find my own voice, after I went to study at Curtis [the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia].

"By the time I went to study with Jerome Hines, three and a half or four years ago [the celebrated American bass died in February], I came across his last book, which talked about his concept of technique. He talks about the transitions between registers. He liked a seamless column of sound, from top to bottom. …

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