A Conversation with Andrew Garland, Part 2.
LH: You love to sing Dandini.
AG: Yes. Talk about Papageno being an Everyman--those two characters have that in common. That may be the most they have in common. Their circumstances are really quite different. Papageno does not want to strive for greatness, and he is avoiding it at all times. Dandini wants to be something, although I'm not sure he has an end game. What happens after you get whatever it is that you wanted? In acts one and two there are no consequences for him...
LH:... and lots of coloratura.
AG: Lots of coloratura.
LH: Was there a lot of coloratura in La calisto [opera composed in 1651 by Francesco Cavalli and presented by Cincinnati Opera]?
AG: I could have used some more.
LH: I don't know that opera and I'm not sure how many people do.
AG: No. Fortunately, the casting for that opera was so very good. Of course, Evans Mirageas is one of the best casting agents out there.
LH: Yes. I knew him years ago when he worked for Sarah Caldwell. He was excellent and very smooth.
AG: So, you know how good he is at matching a role. He said to me, "I have the luxury of casting whomever I want. If I think so-and-so is perfect for this role, I will get them." Calisto has so many principals and he got them all dead right. My role was the high, light baritone who could sing coloratura and physically run around the stage and still perform.
LH: Which is one reason you work out.
AG: Yeah, and let me point out that the stage director, Ted Huffman, told me one year in advance that I was going to be shirtless and running around the stage.
LH: And you said, "Get me to the gym."
AG: Yes, get me to a gym. Stage directors are reading this. The good ones already know it. So, I knew I had to be in good shape. In fact, I see certain colleagues running around, getting a little winded, and then singing their material. You know what does that to you, as well. Any Rossini comedy, just plan on the fact that the director is going to make you run around and then sing demanding, long phrases. You can negotiate that a little bit but, let's face it, a lot of the regional audiences want to see that. With Mercutio [La calisto], you don't sing very much in the sword fighting scene [gestures as if sword fighting]...
LH:... did you know how to do that?
AG: Cincinnati. I took one full year of stage combat. I still have that in my muscle memory. But, Mercutio, jumping around the stage, then has to sing a difficult 16-bar phrase. You have to be able to do that.
LH: Well, you're obviously able to do it. And then you sing Schaunard... a lot. I always think of him with a deeper voice.
AG: I know a couple of bass baritones who are very versatile, and they can sing both Schaunard and Colline. A few things about Schaunard. I've sung him much more than any other role.
LH: You're doing him again in Denver.
AG: Yes, doesn't that work out nicely? This will be my fiftieth or fifty-first performance. Stephen Lord cast me as Schaunard my first Boston Lyric show. He thought it might be a little low for me, but there was no problem. He's filled with conventional wisdom. Schaunard's often the younger, "fresh out of the intern program" baritone. He has to be a different timbre from Marcello. Traditionally your Marcello is that Verdi dramatic baritone. If Schaunard steals the show in his particular scene, and if he adds to the jovial nature of acts one and two and deepens the heartbreak that happens in act four, that's great. If he doesn't, it doesn't matter. He's a lowrisk hire. I am going to perform one of Marcello's scenes in a concert the end of November. I'm singing a concert for the winners of the Geneva Opera Competition. On the program is the act three quartet. It will be my first time performing Marcello in public. It's a good way to ease into it. I think it's about time. I'm 40...
LH:... and just beginning.
AG: Right. Just beginning.
LH: I was so sorry that I had had back surgery right before the 2014 NATS Conference, when you were everywhere.
AG: The one that was in Boston.
LH: It was in 2012 that you won the NATSAA.
AG: Right. The whole 2014 Conference is on YouTube, thanks to the efforts of [NATS Executive Director] Allen Henderson. He sent about a hundred emails and, finally, someone handed over the content of that. I'm grateful to him for securing that, so it could be put up on video.
LH: Did winning NATSAA lead to your first performance with Warren Jones?
AG: No, my first performance with Warren Jones was under the aegis of the Marilyn Horne Foundation.
LH: How did you get connected with the Marilyn Horne Foundation?
AG: You can apply or be invited to audition. If you're accepted, you will be on their roster. That means you will be sent out to perform residencies in hand-picked communities that did not have an opera company in town, but had schools that were very receptive to what they were doing. Ahead of time, these communities will work with the music teachers. They will send a basic curriculum, including such subjects as what is art song. They'll be briefed on that in the weeks before you show up. Then you give these "informances." That was good. That's about the most honest audience... little kids. If you can get them to care at all about anything you are doing, then you've done something.
LH: For five years, Sarah Caldwell sent me around New England doing opera previews before her touring company arrived to perform. I was supposed to have all fifth graders, but sometimes I would have a gym full of kindergartners or a fancy home full of adult fundraisers. You just had to look at your audience and do what seemed appropriate. The little kids would cover their ears when I started to sing, so I related it to baseball. That was in the time of Jim Rice, so I would say he was pretty normal size but had to learn to hit the baseball out of the park. I said that opera singers often had to perform in very large halls without a microphone, so they had to learn to sing loudly enough for everyone to hear them. They never covered their ears again.
AG: I love it. Can I steal that?
LH: Of course.
AG: Oh, great.
LH: But you can get anybody to care about what you are doing, especially if you are a little bit goofy about it. I think it's so important to introduce fun. Then you catch them. I sense that you do that.
AG: Well, I learn a lot. I know exactly what you're talking about. You can do the first part of a recital in a very focused way, and then you can show a little bit of your flawed self.
LH: I wouldn't call it flawed. I'd call it real.
AG: You know what I'm talking about. Real. There you go.
LH: That's one reason that, when I do a recital, I always talk--about the composer, about the music, because it makes you real.
AG: I remember, when I was at Shirlee Emmons's program in Santa Barbara, we spent the whole week talking about recitals. She said, "A recital should be like you are entertaining guests in your own living room."
LH: I sat on the NATS Foundation Board with her.
AG: And did anyone listen to her?
LH: You have sung in quite a few world premieres. Do you find much flexibility in the composers?
AG: Oh, yes. I have been fortunate to work with composers who are only flexible when you need them to be. It never gets to the point where it's too flexible. I've worked less directly with composers when I was in the opera chorus. So, I have heard some composers not helping the rehearsal process. Of course, there are varying degrees of flexibility. Let's take Tom Cipullo with the cycle America 1968. He had a lot of the ideas sketched out before he started working with me, but he completed the songs with me. I may have done myself a disservice by observing those "no breath" marks and maintaining the tessitura. Now, he'll expect everyone, including myself, to sing it that way.
LH: Right. You never want to be too good, because you don't have the option to sing it less well.
AG: Right. One summer I stayed on the campus at UMass and I worked painting dorm rooms. My foreman, who was younger than me, said, "Don't paint too much, because then they'll expect you to do that the next day." Lee Hoiby kept editing his own stuff, to the point where it was a little silly. But, I mostly don't question the final draft. He would mail me another draft. I would X out the page, just so I would know it wasn't the final draft. When he wrote those songs for Leontyne, he asked David Garvey, "May I change this note?" David said, on behalf of Leontyne, "Lee, changing a note is like breaking and resetting a bone." When the Manhattan School of Music performed Hoiby's opera A Month in the Country, at the rehearsal before the performance he wanted to change some scenes. Those students learned those revisions right away.
LH: It's like working with Sarah Caldwell. The challenge always was to remember what was the latest staging. I went to a week-long workshop in Delaware where the composers were Lee Hoiby, John Duke, and Ned Rorem.
AG: Oh, my.
LH: If there were ever three contrasting personalities, it was they. It was very interesting and productive.
AG: Did you know about the New York Festival of Song, "Ned at 90"?
LH: No. I didn't.
AG: His 90th birthday was October...
AG: Ned attended that.
LH: I wish I had known. I have known Ned very well. Tell me about The Book Collector.
AG: That was a great idea--to write a prequel to Carmina Burana. If someone is doing a staged Carmina, here you have a set, composed almost entirely of projections. From a logistical perspective, the only difficulty is that they both require ballet. But, if you are going to stage Carmina you have the ballet...
LH:... so you might as well use it.
AG: I think most, or all, of the company appears. Pretty soon a video will be available. There are some wonderful Gothicesque textures. The story is compelling. You have a man who is more and more devoted to his book collecting. His daughter has fallen in love with his rival, the man who has purchased the five books that he cannot get. It's a compelling story. If you have an audience that's ready to hear Carmina Burina, they'll be warmed up. The 3-D projections are impressive, making a flat plane look like a room that goes back thirty feet. You can see the rays of light coming through the window with the digital specks of dust floating in the air. You can even see a split screen, where the tenor and the baritone are singing about their plights at the same time. The viewer can edit his own version of that.
LH: Do you think it will be done?
AG: I hope so. This particular piece by Stella [Sung] is worth hearing again. Oh, and I changed the very last note to a high F (#). That was kind of a no brainer. She's one of those composers who was there every rehearsal and only there when you needed her. She didn't feel a need to change every little note. Nor was she just generally happy about everything and letting sloppy artistry go by. She was after telling the story and guided us through that. Same with Dinner at Eight, having Mark Campbell and William Bolcom at every rehearsal. This wasn't their first rodeo, so they were very much about telling a story. Mark was the perfect dramatist. He knows the story that needs to be told here. If something about it, either in your singing or the staging or the note needs to be told differently, he would just say so. There were always very enlightening sessions with those two. There were, however, composers who were present all the time and their presence was not helpful. All you are dealing with is their own insecurity of their work.
LH: Why is this requiem that you are premiering in Houston called The Conquest Requiem?
AG: It is the story of Cortez as told by Cortez's mistress and illegitimate half-Spanish half-Aztec son.
LH: What's the music like?
AG: Have you heard any of Gabriela's [Lena Frank] music?
AG: I premiered a couple of works of hers. They're heavily influenced by Central American sound. In the orchestra are two Central American marimbas... not your classical orchestra marimbas. There are some very raw, powerful sounds. There are also some beautifully sensitive textures, and some very heart-breaking close harmony.
LH: How many soloists are there?
AG: There are two. I play the son. There are also some wonderful effects. At the very end you have the two marimbas playing together. [Andrew plays them on the piano and sings.] The sounds are otherworldly. It is so well written.
LH: How do you learn these contemporary pieces? Do you record them?
AG: Yes. I recently have gotten an app on my phone with multiple tracks, so I can lay down the left hand and then the right. Before that, I would just go with whatever I thought would make sense in learning the music.
LH: I used to do a lot of contemporary music, but that was in the days when cars had cassette players. I could just record the song and play it over and over in the car. It really helped.
AG: Of course, now, composers can just send you a sound file and that makes it much easier. If we get a piano reduction and sound files, we promise to be very well prepared. If they don't send us these, we cannot promise that we will be very well prepared and happy with them.
LH: I'm interested that you sing English, when you are working on songs by American composers, with a slightly different inflection than with the texts by non-American composers. How do you do that? How do you decide what is the proper accent for the text?
AG: In acting, you find ways in which your character is similar to you and ways in which your character is different from you. When you have a character in a song, it's the same thing. You have some considerations for the language. "Where is this person from? How might he or she speak English?" But, you don't want to be putting on so much of a mask--this isn't opera with full make-up and costumes--but you have to consider lyric diction and sounds that will project into whatever hall you are performing in. You have to make all those considerations. So, if your character is from the south in the 1950s, the words that are written for him must reflect that. Since that is his vocabulary, the way that he would express himself and the way others would hear him would be in that accent.
LH: I have not heard your CD of folksongs arranged by Steven Mark Kohn. Did you do a lot of that with the folksongs?
AG: That's an interesting question. You know, some people have commented that they appreciate the level of inflection. And that's good. Whether you acknowledge that or appreciate it, that's something that doesn't get in the way of the storytelling... in fact it enhances the storytelling. You feel more like you are seeing and hearing the character than someone who is just performing the music. Certainly, in one of the last songs it should have a Texas inflection. There are also three speakers--the narrator, God, and the devil--and they all have to have different ways of speaking. Of course, God has a Texas accent... right?
LH: Of course She does.
AG: Very well said. And, of course, the devil has a snooty, upper-class, northern accent. Right? [laughter]
LH: Of course.
AG: For the recording we ended up going with a little more even colored presentation of the text.
LH: Was that Donna, again?
AG: Yes. We didn't have a whole lot of characters' voices or extreme colors in the recording. While I was disappointed that I didn't get to do all my tricks that I do in live performance, I think it's a good thing because I find that a lot of students are learning these songs via that recording and, had I done something so specific there, they might imitate that.
LH: I'm assuming they're published.
AG: Oh, of course,
LH: Are they difficult?
AG: Not at all, which is why I think every first year student could, and should, do them. They're folk melodies. They're largely unaltered folk melodies, and they're not too rangy. First-year students... not a great musicreader yet... not a great range... should sing them. And yet, they're worthy of the international concert stage.
LH: Steven Kohn has had an amazingly varied career.
AG: Yes, he has.
LH: I really loved reading all about him... everything from jingles to opera. Do you memorize easily?
AG: I'll tell you one thing. My wife remembers the lyrics to every popular song that she's ever heard. I can't do that. WHY CAN'T I DO THAT? I could make money doing that. I find my process is that I have to force myself to vary my repetition... vary the aspect that you focused on each time you repeat the phrase. There's no substitute for repetition but, if you can vary the repetitions, memorization comes faster. I also have to try not to fall into the trap of memorization for memorization's sake. It's the working on the music, and its many aspects ,that results in the memorization, and not the other way around.
LH: And the text.
AG: Well, of course.
LH: You are--from everything I've read and from listening to your American Portraits CD--a great communicator. But, isn't that what singing's about?
AG: That's the idea.
LH: I mean, play the violin if you're not going to communicate the text.
AG: That's the whole point. Let's not disparage violinists.
LH: No, I'm not. I'm just saying that we have text and they do not, so let's express and communicate it.
AG: Right, right. Although, you reminded me of a little story that works off of Boston Baroque. I am so fortunate to have done so much great work--great, on their part--with them. I'll never forget the very first time I rehearsed with them... just strings... it was Messiah. I would sing a phrase a certain way and the whole violin one section would respond with the same phrasing that I just did. I said, "How in the world did you do that?" Some years later I was riding the subway home with one of the violinists and I said, "How do you do that?" She said, "We're really good with text."
AG: Now they've been performing Messiah every year for 40 years. In 1992 they got a Grammy award for their recording of it. So, they know that piece well. For that particular piece, they know all the words. But, even with newer pieces, they all make an effort to get to know the text, in English or not.
LH: That is so special. Not every group does that.
LH: Speaking of Corinne remembering all the words to popular songs, I have had everybody I could pin down listen to your rendition of "Soliloquy" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel. It is wonderful. I love it, I really do. Have you done much crossover work?
AG: I'll program musical theater selections on a concert program.
LH: But, you haven't done a lot of on-stage musicals.
AG: No, I've never done a full Broadway musical production. Of course, singing on Broadway is an entirely different career. You need a different manager... a different network...
LH:... and you have to use a microphone.
AG: Yes, that's the very least of the adjustments you would have to make. It's about getting known for doing something. But, also, if you're singing eight shows a week, I can imagine you would need a microphone.
LH: But I don't think the real quality of the voice comes through if you're using a microphone.
AG: Certainly not in the same way. I know some people who sing on Broadway, but I know very little about what it takes to get there. I just know it is a different job. You need to be known for doing that. You need to go to auditions. You need to make different connections. I think the least bit of difference is the way that you sing. It's essentially saying, "Why don't you change your job?"
LH: You know the name Kristin Chenoweth?
AG: Of course.
LH: I'm interviewing her in a couple of weeks.
AG: Oh, I'm so jealous of you.
LH: She doesn't give many interviews. Her agent asked me to send my questions by email and she would answer the same way. I said that I don't do that, that I have to look at the person and get my next question out of his or her answer. So, they have granted me an interview. Did you know that she was a winner of the Met Auditions, and was awarded a full scholarship to the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts? Before school had started, she then got the lead in a musical at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn, New Jersey--where I used to go as a child--and gave up the scholarship for music theater. I must say, however, that she certainly has done well.
AG: No kidding. I knew she had some classical background but not to that extent. I'm not surprised to hear it.
LH: I have loved talking to you.
LH: I hope I get chance to hear you soon.
AG: Yes. I'm sorry to say that I'm not singing back here [Boston] until February of 2018.
LH: Well, I will look for it and surely be there. Thank you so much.
AG: Thank you.
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|Title Annotation:||THE VOCAL POINT|
|Publication:||Journal of Singing|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2017|
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