In anticipation of our partners Opera Carolina’s production of Tosca in Charlotte, NC, on October 13, 18, and 21, 2012, Opera Lively has interviewed Mr. Raúl Melo [Opera Lively interview # 60] who will be singing the role of Mario Cavaradossi. Click [here] for the full announcement and tickets. Also please consult our Tosca section [here], with many interesting articles analyzing the opera in-depth, including musical structure, trivia, discography, etcetera, and an interview with Maestro Meena, another one with Todd Thomas who will be singing Scarpia, and soon we'll feature Jill Gardner, the title role singer.
Mr. Melo is a Cuban-American lyric tenor who has performed extensively in the United States and abroad. In addition to his most frequently performed roles, the Duke in Rigoletto and Rodolfo in La Bohème, Mr. Melo has also appeared in the principal tenor roles in Faust, Carmen, Norma, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, La Traviata, Un Ballo in Maschera, Macbeth, Die Fledermaus, Lakmé, L'Elisir d’Amore, The Merry Widow and the Italian Tenor in Der Rosenkavalier, as well as in some contemporary operas.
He started covering for the Met in 2004, and in the 2005-6 season he had his Met debut singing the Duke in Rigoletto. He has returned to the Met several times ever since, and has also performed with Berlin's Deutsche Oper and State Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Stuttgart State Opera, Zurich State Opera, Düsseldorf's Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Frankfurt Opera, and Dresden State Opera, in addition to the main houses in Oslo, Palermo, Salerno, Naples, Bologna, Shanghai, Macau, Buenos Aires, Kalamazoo, and Tokyo. He is a regular with the New York City Opera and several regional American companies including Dallas and Seattle.
Mr. Melo won the prize of "Best Lyric Tenor" in the 1992 Alfredo Kraus Competition.
His web site is www.raulmelo.com
Opera Lively – How do you read the psychological profile of your character, Mario Cavaradossi?
Raul Melo – Historically people like him. He is an upper-middle class, rebellious guy. He came from money and had his own fights. He was an artist. He supported the revolution as opposed to the king. It is hard for him to control his feelings when he is presented with Napoleon’s victory. Psychologically he is a fairly straightforward character. He loves Tosca, the man who is a prisoner is his friend, and he hates Scarpia – very simple!
OL – And vocally, what do you think are the challenges of this role?
RM – You have to have the kind of voice that can sing it, number one, so that represents the basic challenge. Passed that, the biggest challenge is not to get in the way of the story. You need to let the story do its own job. You don’t have to add too much to it, you don’t have to interpret it that much, you just have to get out of its way and let the text work by itself.
OL – I think there are some difficult moments, for instance when he sings “Vittoria” you need to produce an A-sharp 3 and then you have to quickly go down to one octave below for "L'alba vindice appar" and it is tricky because at this moment the orchestra is very loud and you need to be above it, right?
RM – That’s exactly correct, so that’s what I mean when I say that you have to have the kind of voice that can do this job otherwise you won’t be successful. Oh yes, technically, vocally, there are lots of moments like that. In the last act there is a B flat below low C written in the score. That’s almost a baritone note. It really goes all over the place. There are very low notes written, with a range of two octaves, so yes, there are difficult moments.
OL – Yes, I think the whole opera is a lot more difficult than people realize.
RM – Yes, it has lots of places to crash. (laughs)
OL – So, you’ve done it many times?
RM – Yes. Not many, many times, but I’ve done it several times.
OL – How do you feel this production is coming along, at Opera Carolina?
RM – I just got here a few hours ago. The chorus has been rehearsing but my rehearsals haven’t started yet. But Todd Thomas and I are colleagues who have worked together at New York City Opera, and I know Jill Gardner from many years ago, so in that regard it is very easy, there isn't a lot of stress – I won’t have to deal with crazy people. (laughs). Everyone is very nice and very reasonable.
OL – Yes, it’s always good to have good camaraderie and work with people you can trust.
RM – Exactly, you don’t have to deal with people who… oh well, I should stop talking about that, or else you’ll ask me names.
OL – (laughs) Oh no, I know better than that; I know that artists won’t name their difficult colleagues, it would sound unprofessional.
RM – Oh yes, it would be unprofessional to name the ones who – you know, are not crazy, it’s too strong a word – but the ones who have issues.
OL – Have you worked with Opera Carolina before?
RM – No, this is my debut with them.
OL – It’s a very good company, very organized, with an excellent conductor.
RM – Yes, everything I hear about them from other colleagues who have worked with them is very positive.
OL – About the Mario Cavaradossis of the past – there are so many great ones, like Caruso, Fernando de Lucia, Aureliano Pertile, Gigli, Di Stefano, Corelli… In your preparation, do you listen to these singers of the past? How do you relate to that body of work?
RM – I try to not listen, unless it’s some role I’ve never done before and is very new and I have to memorize. Otherwise what you find yourself doing is imitating. You need to create your own style, your own performance. Most of what I do is based very much on the text, what the words are, and that’s a very important aspect of my performing; trying to convey what the composer and the librettist are trying to say at that particular moment.
Like I said before, the most important thing is to get out of the way; do the show that they've written, and don’t add too much to it. Sometimes people try too hard to make it their own, and of course you have to bring your experience, your life, and your interpretation, but if you impose too much of what you want to say and less of what the composer said or the librettist said, then it gets to be a problem. Puccini was very hard on his librettists. He made their life miserable almost constantly. He got exactly what he wanted.
OL – So if I hear you correctly prefer traditionalist approaches rather than Regietheater concepts and updates, right?
RM – It depends on what you’re trying to do. There are several kinds of Regietheater. There will be directors who will change it all to, say, the Spanish revolution instead of Italy, but it doesn't have to disrespect the intention. It’s when you disrespect the intention that you lose the show. Then, it’s not a show.
OL – Reading your biography, I’m curious about the fact that you’ve appeared seven times in the Prairie Home Companion radio show. How was that experience? It’s a country music show but they invited an operatic tenor? What was that about?
RM – I met Garrison [Keilor] and he invited me to the show, and he kept inviting me back. He has always had opera singers on.
OL – Has he?
RM – Oh yes, Jerry Hadley has been on, and Renée Fleming several times. Teresa Stratas was on a little bit ago. Actually Teresa Stratas and I were both on two weeks ago when they had a Best Of broadcast and we were both on that broadcast.
OL – And they asked you to sing operatic arias there?
RM – Yes, all sorts of things.
OL – Interesting! How did the public react?
RM – Very well. The public reacted very well to me.
OL – Wow, that’s great. So, after this production with Opera Carolina, what is your next engagement?
RM – I’m back to the Metropolitan Opera for an understudy in La Rondine.
OL – OK, thank you for your time and good luck!
RM – Thank you!
Let's listen to the tenor's fine rendition of "E lucevan le stelle"