• Interview with Alexey Lavrov singing Silvio and Aleko for Opera Carolina

    Opera Lively is continuing the coverage for our partner Opera Carolina's double bill of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Rachmaninoff's Aleko, which is having its US professional premiere by a major company. Escaping the usual Cav-Pag, it is indeed an excellent idea to pair these two operas with similar storylines and even some musical moments that appear to cross-reference each other (which is certainly coincidental because they were composed simultaneously, miles apart).

    The show will run three times at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in downtown Charlotte, NC, on Sunday April 10 at 2 PM, Thursday April 14 at 7:30 PM, and Saturday April 16 at 8 PM. Tickets ranging from $19 to $150 can be purchased by clicking [here].

    We came to expect from Opera Carolina over the ideas exquisite musical and production values, and this double bill appears indeed intriguing, because it marks the start of the planned long-term collaboration between the Charlotte company and New York City Opera. Michael Capasso, who resurrected NYCO, is stage-directing the pieces. Maestro Meena will be manning the podium, and we know that his presence guarantees the musical excellence of the performances.



    The singers are also very exciting, and we are interviewing three of them (spanning five roles). We have already published our pieces with soprano Elizabeth Caballero who portrays the two leading ladies in each opera - Nedda in Pagliacci and Zemfira in Aleko (read her interview by clicking [here]), and the one with American tenor Jeff Gwaltney who will be singing Canio (read his [here]).

    Today we are bringing to our readers Russian
    baritone Alexey Lavrov who will be singing both Silvio and Aleko. Then we will publish a review of the show.

    Please continue to support our excellent Opera Carolina by attending this fabulous double-bill.


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    Singer: Alexey Lavrov
    Fach: Baritone
    Born in: Komi Republic, Russia
    Recently in: just two days ago, at the Met as Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale
    Next in: Silvio in Pagliacci and the title role in Aleko at Opera Carolina
    Website: alexeylavrov.com

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    Artistic Highlights

    Metropolitan Opera House roles

    As a member of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program:

    He had his debut in the 2012/2013 season when he appeared as the Herald in Otello and the Flemish Deputy in Don Carlo, and has since appeared there as Count Dominik in Arabella, the Huntsman in Rusalka, and Yamadori in Madama Butterfly.

    As a fully trained professional artist:

    Mr. Lavrov sang at the Met as Schaunard in La Bohème, Silvio in Pagliacci and Malatesta in Don Pasquale.

    Other Appearances in the United States

    Malatesta in Don Pasquale at the Cincinnati Opera
    A recital with the Friends of Chamber Music Society of Miami with Ken Noda



    Appearances Abroad

    Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette at the Festival Internacional de Ópera Alejandro Granda in Peru

    Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre in Moscow

    Silvio in Pagliacci and Robert in Iolanta at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg

    The title role of Eugene Onegin at Germany’s Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg Festival

    The title role of Eugene Onegin on tour with the Mikhailovsky Theatre in Japan

    Donald in Billy Budd at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Chile

    A Flemish Deputy in Don Carlo at the Théâtre du Capitole Toulouse, France

    As a member of the Young Artist Program at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre he sang Moralès in Carmen, Shchelkalov in Boris Godunov, and Robert in Iolanta.

    Education

    Mr. Lavrov studied voice at the Republican Art College, Syktyvkar and the St. Petersburg State Conservatory. He was a Young Artist with the Bolshoi in Moscow and with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

    Awards

    His many awards include 1st Prize at the 2014 Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition, the 2014 Hildegard Behrens Foundation Award, the 2014 Musique et Vin Festival Prize, winner of the 2010 Hariclea Darclée International Voice Competition, second prize from the Byulbyul International Vocal Competition, third prize at the 2014 Loren L. Zachary National Vocal Competition, fourth-prize winner of the Concurso Internacional de Canto competition in Buenos Aires’s Teatro Colón, and a diploma from the International Rachmaninoff Competition.

    Critical Praise

    The New York Times: "The rich-voiced baritone Alexey Lavrov offered a riveting interpretation of four excerpts from the set… He infused them with dramatic fervor and characterful nuance."

    El Comercio, Lima, Peru: "Russian Baritone Alexey Lavrov is a brilliant presence… He has created a confident Mercutio, a restless joker, fresh and young, clear from his first moments on stage. This, as well as the power and beauty of his timbre make him a great talent."



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    The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Alexey Lavrov

    This is our interview #195. Copyright Opera Lively. Reproduction of excerpts is authorized for all purposes as long as the source is quoted and a link to the full piece is provided. Reproduction of the entire interview requires authorization - use the Contact Us form. Photos are fair promotional use (we do not know the names of the photographers; will be happy to include if we are told who they are).


    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - Aleko and Pagliacci premiered only two days apart, respectively on May 19 and 21, 1892. The plots are remarkably similar, and even some of the music; for example, the short, rhythmic overture in Pagliacci reminds me a bit of the Men’s Dance in Aleko, although of course they do belong to different stylistic schools, musically. Dramatically, the Russian opera also addresses commoners as characters, in a sort of verismo approach as well, just like Pagliacci. So, it’s a very clever pairing for Opera Carolina, and it is remarkable that the company is doing Aleko’s US professional premiere. Please, let’s start by comparing and contrasting these two pieces. Tell us about your views on the music and the drama in the two operas.


    Alexey Lavrov - The fact that the two operas premiered at the same time is only partially a coincidence. It was mostly influenced by the extremely successful world premiere of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana that happened only three years before that. The idea of a short but dramatically very intense opera based on a real and truthful story about simple people inspired a lot of composers. As a result of that we have the similarity of the plots, although it is just pure coincidence. Rachmaninoff’s libretto was based on Pushkin’s poem “The Gypsies” written a long time before that and Leoncavallo’s libretto was based on a real criminal investigation from his childhood. In all the other aspects the operas are very different. Aleko was written by a 19-year-old author and was only the first important masterpiece by Rachmaninoff; on the other hand Leoncavallo at the time was already 35, a mature composer with a lot of experience, and Pagliacci can be considered the climactic point of his career. There is also a big difference in these two operas’ destinies: Pagliacci is one of the most performed operas in the world until our days and Aleko never got enough attention. So I think it is a brilliant idea to perform them as a double bill and I’m very excited to be part of it!

    OL - While the music for Silvio although excellent is more conventional Italianate fare, I think that the music for Aleko is quite extraordinary. Aleko’s cavatina is soaring, intense, passionate, and I love the long repeated lines at the end, “Zemfira nyevyerna!” that are very poignant (“Zemfira is unfaithful”). Furthermore, the cavatina is sung on top of significantly voluminous orchestration. Please tell us about the music for this character, and the possible challenges in going the same night from Italianate singing to very Russian singing.

    AL - The main challenge of singing these two characters the same night lays in the difference between their personalities and it is more of an acting challenge than a vocal one, although of course the part of Silvio is a lyric one and sits all the time in the high register, as opposed to Aleko which is a bit heavier and central in the sense of tessitura. But I won’t be changing my vocal technique going from Italian to Russian music. I believe with all my heart that there is only one right vocal technique and that is the Italian one.

    OL - It must be interesting to portray the same night the lover who gets killed, and then in the next opera, the betrayed husband who kills. In terms of efficiently portraying both characters, acting-wise, is this a leap that brings up any special difficulties? Does it get to be psychologically intense, for you?

    AL - I must say it is the most exciting acting challenge I have had so far. The roles of Aleko and Silvio are completely opposite and they find themselves on different sides of the similar love triangles. But when I work on these two roles I feel that each of them has something in common with me. I will just need to pull the right string in my soul before I go on stage to perform one of them.

    OL - How big is Aleko in Russia? I find it an extraordinary opera and I am surprised that it is not better known in the United States. What would you believe are the reasons for this lack of popularity this side of the pond, something that fortunately Opera Carolina is trying to correct?

    AL - Aleko is much better known in Russia although it’s usually performed more in concerts or smaller companies. It’s hard to say why some great operas like this one are performed so rarely in the world… Maybe it is just bad luck.

    OL - Who are the great Russian standard-bearers for this role? I only heard this opera once, at Salle Pleyel in Paris in 2006, with Egils Silins in the title role (he is from Latvia - I thought that he was terrific).

    AL - I know that Feodor Chaliapin was considered the best Aleko of his time, but unfortunately there are no recordings of him performing this role. As far as I know he recorded only the aria once in the late period of his career, but the quality of the recording is not the best. I totally believe that he was the best performer of this role considering what an outstanding actor and musician he was and considering his close friendship with Rachmaninoff himself. Chaliapin liked this role so much that he even suggested to Rachmaninoff to add one more act to the opera. Unfortunately Rachmaninoff didn’t do it.

    OL - What can we expect from this Opera Carolina double bill? Any hints about directorial concepts, and any comments about your singing colleagues? It is thrilling that we are getting as director Michael Capasso, the person who resuscitated New York City Opera.

    AL - This production will be my first chance to meet the director and the singers who are in it. The opera world is quite small and I have heard wonderful things about them all. So I’m very much looking forward to working with them.

    OL - You are in the interesting situation of having been a member of the Young Artist Program of both the Metropolitan Opera House, and the Bolshoi. I am curious to know if there were significant differences in the training experiences you had in these two programs. How are young singers treated by these two programs in these major opera houses in two different countries? After having trained in St. Petersburg and Moscow, what made you decide to train in America as well?

    AL - I’m very grateful to all of my teachers and coaches in St. Petersburg, the Bolshoi YAP and the LYADP of the Met. I think my education in all of these schools and programs perfectly complemented each other. In general there is no difference between the YAPs of the Bolshoi and the Met. Both programs help the young singers to improve in vocal technique, languages, styles; both programs give the opportunity to the young artists to perform on stage. I chose to come to the Met because it was always my dream to sing in this house. I got the chance to perform as a young artist with the best singers of the world and it was extremely interesting and helpful. Being at the Met and in the US in general also taught me self-confidence, which is very important for an artist.

    OL - How is opera doing in Russia? In other European countries there is striking variation regarding the state of opera – in deep crisis in Italy but thriving in Germany. What about Russia? Other than the two big companies, the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi, how do smaller companies fare?

    AL - I feel opera is doing really well in Russia, now. Besides the two big companies you mentioned, there are at least three smaller companies in Moscow, one more important house in St. Pete, and there are also companies that have intense and exciting seasons in Perm, Vladivostok, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and many other cities. New houses and stages are opening now throughout Russia. It is a very optimistic situation.



    OL - We usually try to get to know the person of the artist a little more, at the end of the interview. Please tell us a bit about you as a person. What’s your take on life? What’s your personality like?

    AL - I think I’m a very lucky person, because I do for a living what I love the most - singing. When I’m at work I take my responsibilities very seriously and I try to be a good colleague. But I also love to have a good laugh and I believe that sense of humor is one of the most important qualities for survival. I consider life as an exciting adventure and I try to learn as much as I can from everyone who comes into my life.

    OL - What are your extra-musical interests?

    AL - Besides music I’m a big sports fan. My favorite sport is soccer, but I also like swimming, hockey and ping-pong. I love both playing and watching sports. For instance, at the moment I’m following the NHL and pulling for the Washington Capitals.

    OL – Thank you for this charming interview.

    AL – You’re welcome.

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    Let's listen to the singer, performing "He has taken everything from me" from Rachmaninoff's "15 Songs for voice and piano," opus 26, n. 2 :



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