• The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Scott Hendricks

    American baritone Scott Hendricks is one of the most exciting and versatile opera artists of our days - he is successful in an extremely wide-ranging repertoire that includes the great Verdi baritone roles, Puccini, Strauss, Schreker, modern music (in the beginning of the year he had a great success in Rihm's Die Hamletmaschine at the Zurich Opera House) and even musical theater (in June he will sing the title role of Sweeney Todd at La Monnaie in Brussels).

    He has performed at several important opera houses and festivals: The Metropolitan Opera (where he sang Sharpless in Butterfly), the Royal Opera House Covent Garden (Scarpia), the Bavarian State Opera (Scarpia), La Monnaie (where he sang many different roles, most recently Jochanaan, Macbeth and Renato), the Liceu in Barcelona (Scarpia), the Zurich Opera (apart from Hamletmaschine he was heard as Jack Rance there), the Bregenz Festival and many more.

    He is currently back in the States for two performances of Tosca at the New Orleans Opera, tomorrow evening April 8, and Sunday April 10 matinée. Opera Lively interviewed him regarding his Scarpia, as well as his career experiences in other roles and productions. Scott's answers are very interesting. Enjoy!

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    Singer: Scott Hendricks
    Fach: Baritone
    Born and raised in: San Antonio, Texas, USA
    Education: Louisiana State University; University of Illinois at Champaing/Urbana; Houston Grand Opera Studio; a member of the Cologne Opera ensemble
    Website: click [here]

    Recently in: Die Hamletmaschine (Hamlet III), Zurich Opera, Switzerland, Jan 2016
    Next in: Tosca (Scarpia), New Orleans Opera, April 8 and 10, 2016 - tickets (here)

    Highlights of Mr. Hendrick's Artistic Biography

    He has performed in these prestigious international houses:


    Scott as Scarpia at the Royal Opera House - Photo ROH Tristram Kenton

    Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, London, England
    Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, Germany
    Opéra National de Paris, Paris, France
    La Fenice, Venice, Italy
    Zurich Opera, Zurich, Switzerland
    Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    La Monnaie, Brussels, Belgium
    New Zealand Opera, Auckland/Wellington, New Zealand
    Mikhailovsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia
    Canadian Opera Company, Toronto, Canada
    Opéra National du Rhin, Strasbourg, France
    Bregenzer Festspiele, Bregenz, Austria
    De Vlaamse Opera, Antwerpen/Ghent, Belgium
    Oper Köln, Cologne, Germany
    Grand Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona, Spain


    Scott in Death in Venice at the Liceu in Barcelona - Photo Antonio Bofill

    He has appeared in these American national-grade houses:

    The Metropolitan Opera, New York City
    San Francisco Opera
    Santa Fe Opera
    Washington National Opera
    Houston Grand Opera

    Partial repertory list:

    Scarpia in Tosca
    Renato in Un Ballo in Maschera
    Amonasro in Aida
    Germont in La Traviata
    Title role in Rigoletto
    Title role in Gianni Schicchi
    Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor
    Michele in Il Tabarro
    Jochanaan in Salome
    Iago in Otello
    Marcello in La Bohème
    Title role in Król Roger
    The Traveller in Death in Venice
    Tamare in Die Gezeichneten
    Ford in Fallstaff
    Posa in Don Carlo
    Roderick in The Fall of the House of Usher
    Carlo Gérard in Andrea Chénier
    Silvio in Pagliacci
    Riccardo in I Puritani
    Title role in Battistelli's Richard III
    Forester in The Cunning Little Vixen
    Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West
    Conte di Luna in Il Trovatore
    Sharpless in Madama Butterfly
    Title role in Macbeth
    Title role in Eugene Onegin
    Hamlet III in Wolfgang Rihm's Die Hamletmaschine
    Title role in Sweeney Todd

    New York Times critic on his 2014 Sharpless at the Metropolitan Opera House:

    "Scott Hendricks made a felicitous house debut as Sharpless, bringing a warm, generous baritone to the role"

    Discography:

    Scott Hendricks is featured in these video and audio recordings:

    Król Roger (Title Role), Bregerzer Festspiele, conducted by Sir Mark Elder, on Unitel Classica DVD and Multi-format disc



    Il Trovatore (Il Conte di Luna) La Monnaie, Conducted by Marc Minkowski, on Bel Air blu-ray disc



    Ressurection, a contemporary opera by Tod Machover, Houston Grand Opera, alongside Joyce DiDonato, conducted by Patrick Summers, on Albany Records CD



    Death in Venice (the various baritone roles), La Fenice, conducted by Bruno Bartoletti, on Dynamic blu-ray disc



    I Puritani (Sir Riccardo Forth), De Nederlandse Opera, conducted by Giuliano Carella, on Opus Arte blu-ray disc



    The Fall of the House of Usher (Roderick Usher), Bregenzer Festspiele, conducted by Lawrence Foster, on Capriccio DVD



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    The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Scott Hendricks

    This is our interview #201. Copyright Opera Lively; all rights reserved. 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 unless otherwise stated with specific credit are fair promotional use (we often do not know the names of all photographers; will be happy to include them if we are told who they are). These photos were sent to Opera Lively by Mr. Hendricks' publicist, authorized use.


    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - You have done lots of Scarpias, including in great houses like the Bavarian State Opera, Opéra de Paris, and the Royal Opera House. You are doing it now for New Orleans Opera on April 8 and 10. Let’s talk about this character for a while. Please tell us what you think of his psychological arc. Is he at any point somewhat in love with Tosca, or is it all lust and power? Conversely, is she at any point attracted to him deep inside, in spite of her protestations? This would be one way to stage their scenes, depending on what a stage director wants: some ambiguity in the relationship. Do you find this way interesting, or do you prefer to act him in a more straightforward “pure evil” way?


    Scott Hendricks - Well, for me, Scarpia’s “psychological arc” is different for each production. I don’t make any big character decisions until I’ve heard the director’s concept. Within reason, I also love to improvise and play off of my colleagues. I always try to keep an open mind about how to interpret and portray these characters, especially ones I repeat so often. I never want to become the type of artist that says “THIS is my Scarpia, deal with it.”

    OL - Does the role of Scarpia present any vocal challenges?

    SH - From a tessitura standpoint, the role of Scarpia doesn’t present any significant challenges. The main challenge is remaining vocally and dramatically “in check.” Tosca is a dramatic, intense opera, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of over-singing, or overplaying the part.

    OL - When you do a role several times like you’ve done Scarpia, how do you manage to keep it fresh?

    SH - Yes, I’ve performed Scarpia pretty much every year since 2008. One always finds new things within the music, fresh nuances with the character, and so forth. I never take the process for granted.

    OL - How is this New Orleans production of Tosca coming along? Would you tell us about the staging, about your singing colleagues Jennifer Rowley and Noah Stewart (a former Opera Lively interviewee – we like him a lot!), and the director’s concept? What can the public expect from this show?


    Scott as Scarpia with Jennifer Howley as Tosca - Photo Tom Crosscup / New Orleans Opera 2016

    SH - Our production is coming along very well. The orchestra and chorus sound great! Jennifer and I didn’t know each other before this production, and I like her a lot. Her Tosca is formidable, and her interpretation of “Vissi d'arte” is one of the best I’ve ever heard, period. Noah and I met in Bregenz, Austria, back in 2011, and he’s a great guy. He sounds freaking amazing as well. I would say the concept of our show is in the traditional vain with a modern “edge.” It’s intense from beginning to end. I think the audience will like it a lot.


    Another production picture from New Orleans Opera's 2016 Tosca, with Scott Hendricks - Photo Tom Crosscup

    OL - Now, let’s talk about some other roles you are doing this season. We are very much interested in modern and contemporary opera, and you are Hamlet III (the character’s third phase, age-wise) in Die Hamletmaschine at Zurich Opera, a contemporary opera that premiered in 1987 and has been released on CD. What do you have to say about your character, and about Wolfgang Rhim’s vocal writing?

    SH - Oh yes, Die Hamletmaschine … Playing Hamlet III was one of the most incredible experiences of my career. From a vocal standpoint, it was very challenging, as I had to sing at the extremes of my range, both high and low.

    From a dramatic standpoint … Well, the play by Heiner Müller is a deconstruction of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Rhim’s opera is a deconstruction of Müller’s play. As a result, the dialogue had nonsensical moments, thus we had to find our own dramatic line, basically tell our own story with Hamlet as the backdrop. It was fascinating.


    Die Hamletmaschine at Opernhaus Zürich Jan 2016, Photo T+T Fotografie / Tanja Dorendorf

    OL - Die Hamletmaschine seems very intriguing. Here is a comment about it: “the work is described in the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera as following Stockhausen in that it seeks a total theatre of sound and non-narrative, ritualistic drama. Sounds use the complete space of a hall by placing instrumentalists not only in the pit, but also on stage and in the audience. Sounds are mixed from live performance, electronic amplification and purely electronic sounds, described as soundscapes.” Wow! Any comments?


    Die Hamletmaschine at Opernhaus Zürich Jan 2016, Photo T+T Fotografie / Tanja Dorendorf

    SH - Yes, Die Hamletmaschine is a tour-de-force for everyone. We had two percussionists on stage, and there were two percussionists situated in opera boxes just above the orchestra pit. We implemented recordings and amplification that fit the concept of our production. It was relentless … We were relentless. The audiences and critics seemed to be overwhelmed, in a good way, and Rhim himself was delighted with our work. He’s such a warm, generous person!


    Die Hamletmaschine at Opernhaus Zürich Jan 2016, Photo T+T Fotografie / Tanja Dorendorf

    OL - You did another late 20th Century opera, Peter Hammill’s The Fall of the House of Usher, first released on CD in 1991. Tell us about it.

    SH - Usher was another wonderful experience. The guy originally cast as Roderick hurt his back three weeks before the premiere and had to withdraw. At the time, I was participating in the “floating stage” production of Il trovatore … My good friend, Eva Kleinitz, who was the Operndirektorin of the festival, knew I was a quick learner, so she approached me about jumping in on short notice. I accepted the challenge, and proceeded to have one of the most artistically satisfying experiences of my career. Phyllida Lloyd’s production was mesmerizing, and Lawrence Foster’s musical guidance was first class.


    Scott in The Fall of the House of Usher, Bregenzer Festspiele 2006 - Photo Karl Forster

    OL - You’ve done roles in two early 20th Century operas that we love, Król Roger at the Liceu and Paris, and Die Gezeichneten at Dutch National Opera. Please share with us your memories of these roles (tell us about their musical side) and these productions.

    SH - Wow, you have excellent taste. These two operas are in my top ten. Actually, I participated in a new production of Król Roger at the Bregenzer Festspiele. The Bregenz experience was amazing. David Pountney’s concept was so fresh, clever, sensual, erotic, and violent … A career highlight, no doubt. We took this production to Barcelona shortly thereafter, and we had an equally amazing experience, except this time with sangria and tapas. ;-) Oh yes, Barcelona is my favorite European city, hands down.


    Scott as Król Roger at the Bregenzer Festspiele in 2006 - Photo Karl Forster

    Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten is so unbelievably beautiful, but what a brutal, disturbing story. The production we did in Amsterdam had won many awards when it premiered in Stuttgart. It was bloody, violent, dirty, sensual, sexy … I loved it!!! And I did a new production of Die Gezeichneten at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, which was quite different, but just as exciting. In the scene when my character seduces Carlotta, the Podestà’s daughter, we had to both throw and wipe paint all over each other, in a sensual manner of course, as well as on other couples around us. We were slipping and sliding all over the stage. It was so beautiful and colorful.

    OL - Finally, to finish our questions about your experiences singing 20th Century opera and contemporary opera, you did the world premiere of Giorgio Battistelli’s Richard III in 2005 with De Vlaamse Opera. This is an impressive effort – a contemporary opera 160 minutes long with lots of characters, with great stage direction by Roger Carsen. Your performance was critically acclaimed. What are your memories of this rather unique opportunity?

    SH - I’m not shy about saying this was the most fun, satisfying, intense, and challenging experience I’ve ever had performing onstage. I love Giorgio’s score, and Robert Carsen’s production was simply brilliant. The entire show took place in an amphitheater full of red sand. It was physically challenging … Sometimes I would have a hunchback, sometimes not … I would switch the hump back and forth, from left shoulder to right shoulder, depending on my mood and which characters I was performing with. But we told the story as Shakespeare intended, but in a wonderful modern way.

    OL - You sang several times at the Bregenzer Festspiele. Please describe to us the experience of singing in a huge stage in the middle of a lake.


    Scott in Il Trovatore at the Bregenzer Festspiele 2005 - Photo Karl Forster

    SH - Yes, all roads lead to Bregenz! I’ve performed there quite a bit since 2005, and I absolutely love it. Singing outdoors, sometimes in the rain, wind and cold, isn’t for everyone, but I’ll take it every time. And we have so much fun in the local community as well. I started doing festival parties and at local pubs back in 2008. We work hard during the day, and dance all through the night … Just imagine a bunch of singers, stage extras, stunt men and women, dancers, instrumentalists, and festival administration coming together as one, big, wonderful family. That’s the Bregenzer Festspiele!

    OL - This season, Sweeney Todd at La Monnaie in Brussels is in your schedule. Please tell us about the challenges, for an opera singer, involved in doing musical theater.

    SH - Yes, I’m learning Sweeney Todd now, so the challenges are still forthcoming. To be honest, I don’t really differentiate between opera and musical theater too much. Of course, there are stylistic differences … I’m just going to approach it as a singer/actor without any preconceived notions of how it should be done.

    OL - We have broached the topic with other opera singers doing musical theater, and frankly, most of the time the answers we collect as far as what the artist wants published, are frequently the usual kind that wouldn’t go against the singer’s employer who is staging the musical, saying “oh, it’s a valid initiative, blah blah blah.” Then, in off, we often collect statements to the contrary, that it is something that is hard to do; the singer is not that comfortable, and believes that it is done in order to fill the seats rather than as a valid artistic pursuit. I am of the somewhat controversial opinion that opera houses shouldn’t do musicals at all; not even the more “classical” ones. I justify this opinion by saying that opera is compelling enough and when it is well done the public will come, and the “easy” solution of staging popular musicals to fill the seats and enhance the company’s budget is a bit of a betrayal of the operatic art form. Another point of view of mine is that musicals are doing quite well in places like Broadway, and there is no need for opera companies to do them, including because often times, they just can’t do as good a job as a Broadway company can. Broadway specializes in musicals and the singers/actors do that for a living, and get the specific training in terms of singing technique and acting, while opera singers perfect their art in a very different way. So, I’d like your candid opinion on this. Should opera companies do musicals? If you disagree with me, then tell me why.

    SH - Honestly, I haven’t given this topic much thought because I’ve always been around musicals and opera being programmed alongside each other, both as a student and as a professional. As a young artist, I cut my proverbial teeth performing with the Baton Rouge Gilbert & Sullivan Society when I was a student at LSU. In graduate school, I was cast as Don Giovanni and Sam in Trouble in Tahiti during the same season. We were required to show versatility … We had to take acting and dancing lessons … Every application for graduate school required that I offer a musical theater number. I honestly have no problem with an opera company programming Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Porgy and Bess, and the Mikado alongside Don Carlo, Madama Butterfly, and Faust. It’s just the way I was brought up, so to speak.

    OL - Most of your operatic career has developed in the greatest houses in Europe, but you did do important roles in prestigious American companies like Santa Fe, Houston, the Met, Washington National Opera, and San Francisco Opera. For an American-born and educated singer, what can you tell us about the differences involved in singing in Europe versus singing at home in the United States?

    SC - To be honest, Europe has always felt like home. When I was a member of the LSU A Cappella Choir, we went on a European tour throughout Germany, Austria and the former Czechoslovakia. We flew into Vienna and as soon as I stepped off the plane, I felt like my soul was “home” … I know that sounds kitsch, but it’s the truth.

    Fast-forward nine years … When I left the Houston Grand Opera Studio, I knew I had to get to Europe. I wanted to be around different cultures, I wanted to hear a foreign language on a daily basis, and I wanted to be in an environment where the classical arts where an integral part of my daily life. I auditioned for the opera house in Cologne, Germany, and I was offered a “fest” contract. I was a part of the Oper der Stadt Köln ensemble for three seasons, participated in ten productions, and sang in over one hundred performances. This is where I learned how to really sing. It was sink or swim, and I loved it.

    Generally speaking, European houses are smaller than their US counterparts, and this was important to me as a young singer. I was able to sing repertoire I wouldn’t have been considered for in the US. European houses typically offer a performance run of ten to twelve performances, and this appealed to me as well.

    At this point in my career I feel comfortable singing anywhere, and I truly enjoy singing on both sides of the pond.

    OL - Now let’s turn to your person for a couple of final questions. You grew up in San Antonio, Texas. What got you into opera?

    SH - I didn’t start singing (in public) until my senior year of high school. Two friends of mine convinced me to join the choir, and I was smitten from the get-go … So much so that I really wanted to become a choral conductor. Then, early on during my freshman year of college, I visited a local record shop and bought a cheap cassette called “Highlights from Puccini’s La bohème.” I took that cassette home and listened to it all night long. I remember crying and laughing at the same time because it was just so wonderful … I was in love.

    OL - How do you define yourself in terms of personality and approach to life?

    SH - I honestly don’t know how to define myself … I would like to think I’m constantly evolving, trying to become a better person. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. I love my family and friends to bits. I’m very loyal, and the glass is always half full …

    I approach life one day at a time. It may sound cliché, but it’s the truth. There’s so much more I want to experience, so much more I want to learn, and there never seems to be enough hours in each day. From a physical, mental and emotional standpoint, I’ve never felt more alive than I do right now.

    OL - What do you like to do, outside of the operatic environment?

    SH - I love spending time with my family in San Antonio, taking care of my home and relaxing a bit when I’m not performing … I’m an avid San Antonio Spurs fan, so I try to attend as many games as I can. I enjoy photography quite a bit. I love to write, record and mix my own music, thus I’m pursuing a Bachelor of Music Production degree via Berklee Online … I’m a big live music fan, so I attend quite a few concerts when I’m not working … And I love a good dive bar, a cold beer, and a game of steel tip darts.

    OL - Thank you for your nice answers!

    SH - Thank you for your wonderful questions!

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    Let's watch some interesting video clips. This first one is of Scott Hendrick's performance at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, in a beautiful Pier Luigi Pizzi production of Britten's Death in Venice. We hear the baritone in the company of Marlin Miller and dancer Alessandro Riga. Bruno Bartoletti conducts.



    Here the baritone sings Silvio in Pagliacci, in a duet with Nedda, sang by the wonderful Elizabeth Futral:



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