Magazine article Opera Canada

Alexander Hajek

Magazine article Opera Canada

Alexander Hajek

Article excerpt

It's hard to believe that Alexander Hajek, the picture of robust health on a sunny springtime Manhattan afternoon, wound up a singer because of illness.

"Shall I give you the whole picture--the ten-cent version?" the Toronto-born baritone asks me, sounding good-naturedly resigned to the impending narration. "Well, in Grade 2 I had throat cancer. I came home from school one day and said, 'M.om, I can't breathe so well? So I went to Sick Kids Hospital and they gave me a 50-30 chance, and my morn, prepared for the worst, asked me, 'What do you want to do?'--sort of like her own Make-A-Wish Foundation--and I said, 'I sure would like to see The Little Mermaid.' So I saw the movie, and after about the 10th time I got the cassette and started singing along with it, and my morn looked over at me and said, 'Wow, that's kinda good!' And a little after that it was Phantom of the Opera, and then 1 went to see the Canadian Opera Company do La hoheme. Nearly 20 years later, I was covering Marcello there, and I stepped onto stage and thought, 'Ohmigod, it's the same production.'"

In between, of course, he kept on singing. Toward the end of high school, his guidance counselor "plopped a lot of forms in front of me, from juilliard, Curtis--a lot of places I'd never heard of. But 1 remembered Robin Williams mentioning Juilliard someplace, and I thought, 'Oh, maybe they teach you to be funny!"' So he traveled south to NewYork City and did Juilliard as an undergraduate ... then as a grad student ... and finally as a member of its Opera Center: a total of nine years of schooling--not to mention time spent in the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio. "I did the trifecta," he comments wryly. "Now I'm ready to face the great big operatic world."

It may not be Juilliard's doing, but Hajek certainly knows how to be funny. He's made his mark there in sonic challenging comic roles: last fall, for example, he sang in both halves of a double bill of Gianni Schicchi--the title role--and L'heure espagnole. where he played Don Inigo Gomez in "the hottest costume I've ever worn--fat suit, corduroy on top of that and a bald cap with a wig on top. I lost 18 pounds doing that show.

And I've already lost 10 doing this one." "This one" is Don Giovanni, his valedictory at Juilliard, which opened in April just a week after we met. He was cast as Leporello, in the Vienna version of the score--"more for me, less for the tenor? …

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