Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ten Questions with David Portillo

David Portillo, Tenor. Photo by Brian Kuhlmann
With a smile a mile wide and a humble personality, it's been a treat to get to know Houston native David Portillo this week. The cast arrived on Monday morning for the first day of music rehearsals with only two and a half weeks until opening night. While it's easy to get caught up in the pressure of learning staging, staying healthy, traveling, and always being "on" for press, David handles it all with charm and ease.  

We asked him about his role in La Cenerentola, what he's working on outside of San Diego, and a few off topic questions to mix things up a bit.

SD OPERA (SDO): What was your last gig before coming to San Diego?

David Portillo (DP): I am (currently) participating in a world premier of an opera titled 'Breaking the Waves' at Opera Philadelphia. I am playing the role of Dr. Richardson, the sympathetic aid to both protagonists of the story. The opera is based on the story from the movie of the same title directed by Lars von Trier.It was composed by the incredible Missy Mazzoli and libretto was written by Royce Vavrek.This piece has been so exciting to be a part of the past year-and-a-half in a couple of musical workshops, and last month of rehearsing the gorgeous production directed by James Darrah has been such a completely fulfilling journey.

SDO: In your own words, can you tell us a little about your role in La Cenerentola?

DP: Don Ramiro is a prince who is searching for his true love. As directed by Alidoro, he goes to Don Magifico's house dressed at his valet in order to find her. He immediately falls in love with Angelina because of her beauty and goodness. The rest of the opera he spends trying to win her love despite the oppression from Angelina's stepfather, a confusion of characters, and much beautiful music.

SDO: Do you personally relate to your character? If so, how ?

DP: I do believe Ramiro is a noble and genuine in his search for someone who is truly in love with him. I think that makes him very sympathetic, and his love for Cenerentola is very pure. That is a very good trait that I like in his character. He also is strong enough to fight back against the mean Don Magnifico to help his love.

SDO: Are there any dream roles that you would love to sing and why? And since we're dreaming it doesn't even need to be in your fach.

DP: I love the role of Tom Rakewell in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, and would love to sing his beautiful music and take the long character journey. He starts as a poor student who meets a 'Mephistopheles' character who takes him to success and popularity, then eventually to downfall and a madhouse. A similar role that I would like to sing is Gounod's Faust. Also, Nemorino in L'Elisir d'Amore is an filled with beautiful music that I would love to sing.

SDO: What was your introduction to opera and how did you decide this was the path you wanted to pursue?

DP: My introduction to opera wasn't until my senior year of high school when I visited my future undergraduate school and saw Cosi fan tutte performed by students at the school. It was a great way to enjoy future peers' performance, and hear what music I was going to be working on for my future voice lessons. I didn't know that this technique of singing and repertoire would be pivotal to my future, but I remember that night at the theater very well.

SDO: Who is your favorite opera singer in the game right now?

DP: As a tenor, I am a big fan of Lawrence 'Larry' Brownlee for his amazing facility in Rossini and bel canto repertoire. Sandrine Piau is a French soprano whose voice melts my heart, and Gerald Finley has a stunning presence and voice in everything I've ever seen. One of my favorite sopranos I've sung with is Susannah Biller who is singing Clorinda; she's an incredible singer.

SDO: Fill in the blank: "If I was not an opera singer, I would be __________"

DP: A choral director. I know, that's not that interesting. I was a choral education major in my undergraduate school, and I still love choral music. Singing with others is a passion, and I would try to do it as often as possible. That, or a travel agent.

SDO: Do you have a book next to your bed? What is it? If you’re not a reader, how about a video game or NETFLIX series?

DP: There's always an opera score or music that I'm trying to learn or memorize next to the bed. I'm not much of a reader for fun, but I love television and movies. I'm obsessed with re-watching episodes of Parks and Rec and the Office.

SDO: Name three bands or artists on your iPod that aren't opera related.

DP: I like to listen to a little bit of everything, but currently I am enjoying Dolly Parton, Drake, and Bjork.

SDO: What are you most looking forward to doing in San Diego while you’re in town?

DP: I am looking forward to being near the water and beaches. La Jolla is a destination that I would like see for many different spots, Pacific Beach, and the Mission Beach walk are also on the list. Also, I am going to HAVE to see the San Diego Zoo.

SDO: Just for fun - Would you rather always know how or always know why?

DP: Oof that's a hard one. I'd want to know how. Since I'm thinking about singing and that's all I think about apparently because I'm a tenor.. but in life I guess once you know learn how to do something, a lot of the reasoning behind why it's done, who it affects, and why it's needed is answered. But again I'm primarily thinking about technique.

SDO: Would you rather be a dragon or own a dragon?

DP: I would rather BE a dragon!

SDO: A burgler is in your house, what do you hope they steal?

DP: I have a cow-skin rug that I'm not very fond of but I have held on to it for awhile because of sentimental reasons. But every time I look at it, I ask myself "why am I keeping this?". I don't really know where to take it. So there's that, LOL. I think I needed you to ask me that so I can have the motivation to actually do something with it!

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