• Exclusive Interview with American tenor Timothy McDevitt

    Timothy McDevitt was Paul in our partners NC Opera's performance of Glass' Les Enfants Terribles. Opera Lively interviewed him about his role and career. [Opera Lively interview # 25]
    OL - Is it more challenging to sing contemporary opera as opposed to the more traditional repertoire?

    TM - I think it depends on the work itself. In general most contemporary operas are difficult to learn. This particular piece took me about a month to learn it, but it’s not difficult to sing. A lot of traditional opera is easier to learn because we are familiar with it, there are familiar melodies, it’s written very lyrical, but not necessarily easy to sing.

    OL - Being this opera by Glass relatively obscure, what kind of material have you used to prepare yourself for the role?

    TM - I was primarily trained as a pianist before being a singer. I play pretty well. So the first thing I do with anything that I learn is play it. In doing this I was really hooked to my keyboard in my apartment, and it was just me and the keyboard for like a month. Every morning I’d get up, make coffee, and sit there for hours. I used the existing recording of this opera sometimes for reference because the meter is so complex in this, you’ll be looking at sometimes a 7/8, or a 9/8, a 5/8, whatever, and you’ll be like… “uhh, I’m not sure!” And then you get it and say… “OK, that makes sense!”

    I didn’t see the movie until I arrived here in North Carolina, but that was really helpful just to understand the relationships a little bit more, understanding the style, the Parisian time at that point. Cocteau was really going for it and working on the movie too. And I did read the book. I got that in December, so I read it about a month ago.

    OL - Tell me about your character.

    TM - Paul is a really introverted guy. I think he is really immature because he as an adolescent suffered this injury, which made him bed-ridden and prevented him from going back to school. He is sort of frozen at age 14 or 15. And when the story goes into adulthood and his sister gets married, his best friend gets married, he is still stuck in this dream world where they play as children. He isn’t really able to develop and move on and have relationships, have a job, any sort of chance at a real life. He is just stuck in this bed and this room and stuck on this event that happened to him at age 14. He is very much into himself and is really conflicted guy.

    OL – Do you feel that he is a narcissistic character, as symbolized by the scene when he writes a letter to his object of affection – Agathe – but ends up addressing it to himself?

    TM - He is into himself but I don’t see him as narcissistic, actually. That may have just been a portrayal in the movie but I don’t personally think of him like this. I think he is very hard on himself. I don’t think he has a very high opinion of himself. This may be just my portrayal and it may differ from what you saw in the movie.

    OL – Oh, no, that’s interesting, it’s another way to see it! Next, what is your opinion of this North Carolina Opera production? How is the work going so far?

    TM - It’s going really well. It’s tough because it’s difficult to coordinate. You need to be in a place where you have a really established group of dancers and you can hire good singers who all need to be age-appropriate, and look appropriate portraying these roles. I don’t think this is really available in a lot of places. So here we sort of have this dream casting where Carolina Ballet is here, a fabulous company, and then North Carolina Opera that because of their resources is able to find young talent who can be along with these dancers and reference these characters together.

    The collaboration has been really interesting to watch. Watching Robert Weiss [director and choreographer] work with both the singers and the dancers… he is a brilliant creator, I mean, you see it when he is working with them and he just demonstrates something so blissfully and they make this beautiful dance out of it. It’s been cool. It’s gonna be coming together, yeah.

    OL - Tell me about your career so far. What would you highlight as your best successes?

    TM - I just finished school in May. I did my undergraduate and my graduate work at Juilliard. For the past two years I’ve been working whenever I’m not in school and sometimes while I’m in school. The past two years I did two summers with Wolf Trap Opera, two summers with Central City Opera; I’ve been traveling quite a bit. This year I’ve been in New Orleans, Paris, Albany, Colorado, Atlanta, Philadelphia, DC, here…

    OL - What are your plans for the immediate and distant future, in terms of desirable roles?

    TM - Next month I’ll be at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York; I’m going out to LA for the finals of LA Opera. It’s been interesting. I never anticipated it happening that quickly that I finished up school in May and I have pretty much been working since, which has been really nice.

    You know, when I first started my schooling in New York I was working as an usher at the Metropolitan Opera and really had my sights on big Verdi roles, all the big rep. Now six years later I’m a little more realistic about which roles I’d like to portray. Of course I still have dreams about being a Verdi baritone. For now I’d love to do some standard rep, because I do so much obscure stuff. I’d love to do a Marcello in La Bohème or a Count in Le Nozze di Figaro. But for now I’m just taking the work I get because that’s what I can do.


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