Magazine article Opera Canada

John Relyea

Magazine article Opera Canada

John Relyea

Article excerpt

John Relyea was devilishly diabolical as Kaspar in Falk Richter's production of Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischutz at this summer's Salzburg Festival (see p. 47). It is the latest in Relyea's growing and varied roster of "bad guy" roles, from Garibaldo in Handel's Rodelinda to the Four Villains in Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann. "It's happening more and more," says Relyea. "I like the energy of these characters. I like the focus. It's not necessarily easier, in general, to do those kinds of roles."

In fact, Relyea describes his Salzburg operatic debut this summer as "a baptism by fire." True, he'd sung Kaspar before, but only in concert and with much of the spoken German dialogue pared to the bone. His biggest concern going to Salzburg was not having done much spoken German on the stage. Early on, he was told there would be changes to the dialogue, and immediately assumed that text would be cut. But when he received the script last March, he discovered that Richter had made wholesale changes to Friedrich Kind's original dialogue. Relyea had his work cut out for him. "As a singer, you approach this language that you obviously know how to pronounce, but suddenly you're left with no music under you, and you have to address things like inflection. You don't sing consonants as you would speak them. It's a whole other ballgame." Relyea's fears about his German were quickly put to rest with the help of the cast as well as a language coach who attended every rehearsal. By the dress rehearsal, Jurgen Flimm, the festival's Artistic Director, could joke to Relyea that, "We couldn't find a German to do this role, so we had to go and find somebody else."

At this point, Relyea's career is burgeoning on both sides of the Atlantic. This season, he sings Banquo and Raimondo in new productions of Macbeth and Lucia di Lammermoor at New York's Met, then, in December, jets to London to sing Claggart in a concert performance of Peter Grimes with the London Symphony Orchestra. …

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