And so we thought we'd begin with the return of our occasional series called "10 Questions With..."
Up first is tenor Piotr Beczala who makes his company debut with us as Rodolfo in La boheme. Mr. Beczala became the talk of the opera world when he sang in the Met's broadcast of Lucia di Lammermoor earlier this year and the phone hasn't stopped ringing.
In between these calls Piotr was able to sit down and answer some questions we had for him.
And so, without further ado, the first installment of San Diego Opera's 2010 "10 Questions With..." which if you are a better counter than me, will realize there are actually eleven...
San Diego Opera (SDO): First, welcome to San Diego Opera. Of all the artists making a debut with us this season, you’re the one that everyone seems to be talking about; it seems everybody saw your Met movie broadcast of Lucia di Lammermoor. Is there anything new in your life that you would like to share with us?
Piotr Beczala (PB): Not really, it was funny for me to receive such an incredible number of e-mails from every corner of the world and from so many opera fans who had not known me before ... which expresses how important it is to be a part of today's mediaworld too! One single performance as Edgardo made me more popular than 10 years on international opera stage! However, my schedule has no space left for all the projects which were offered to me after my "discovery" in February.
SDO: You sing Rodolfo with us, a role that you are singing more and more. You sing it at Covent Garden before joining us in San Diego and then take it immediately to the Met in New York. Can you can tell us a little bit about the character in your own words?
PB: Rodolfo is a tenor part which was sung by every important operatic tenor in opera history since the world premiere of "Bohème" in 1896. I sang the part for the very first time within one series in Amsterdam 2001, but have put it aside for a break of 7 years. In 2008 I did it again at San Francisco Opera and it is one of my most frequent roles on opera stages today as well as for the future. I just love both the story and the music, the part of Rodolfo is written for a lyric tenor with a good middle and a secure top register. One can basically show everything: tender, soft colours in act 1 as well as more dramatic attitude in act 3. Rodolfo is a great guy, romantic, nice, honest and easy by heart, he really loves Mimi but due to the difficult living circumstances their relationship becomes impossible.
SDO: Is there a part of the character Rodolfo that you relate to?
PB: I like the characters like Rodolfo or Lensky very much, "romantic anti-heroes" very human , very normal , close to real life!
SDO: Is there a moment in this opera that is a favorite of yours?
PB: I love every moment, of course the aria and the final duet from act 1, but the scene in act 3 is my absolute favorite, it is heartbreaking.
SDO: Tell us about your introduction to opera? When did you first hear it? What made you realize this was the path you wanted to pursue?
PB: I started late, with already 19 I began as a chorus-member and only then started my music education as a singer. After 6 years at the conservatory I got my first job at the Linz Theatre in Austria. Having sung Tamino , Belmonte, Werther, Alfredo an many other roles there, I realized that it would most probably work for the future ... After moving on to Zürich it was clear to me that this was indeed my way to go ... But this was in 1997 ...
SDO: Being a professional Opera singer you spend a lot of time traveling, meeting different people, exploring new locales. What do you like best about this aspect of your job?
PB: It becomes more or less some sort of routine and after a while you know most of the places and there remain only few to be newly discovered; this is the case with San Diego for me. I have never been there yet, but I know from some friends that it is a great place! I do enjoy very much meeting new, interesting people, mostly musicians, I always like learning more about music, the art and life in general!
SDO: What do you like the least?
PB: Travelling! Packing after the last performance of a series, putting all the things into the luggage (always much too much!), waiting at the airport, flying into another city, entering another hotel room or apartment ... and thinking of my beautiful house at home which is empty and so far away .... Fortunately my wife is always with me and she creates some sort of "home" in every place!!!
SDO: We must admit there is more to life than opera. So, do you have any hobbies?
PB: I like reading books, playing golf, I love oldtimers and watches.
SDO: Is there a book next to your bed? If so, what is it?
PB: The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
SDO: What is in your cd player/iPod right now that is not opera related?
PB: Soundtracks of James Bond Movies ...
SDO: If you were not an opera singer, what would you be?
PB: The Captain of a Ship!!!
***Piotr joins Anja Harteros and Priti Gandhi in January, 2010 for La boheme. I think we'll be hearing more of him over the next few months.
In the meantime, take a listen to Piotr and enjoy.