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Beethoven’s Mass in C is often overshadowed by the much grander Missa Solemnis – how do you feel the two works compare to one another?
The Mass in C comes from a younger Beethoven than the Missa Solemnis, not just in age, but in terms of a January man facing both sides of the imaginary Classical/Romantic boundary.
This piece owes much to the traditions established by Haydn and, in passages, is reminiscent of works like the Nelson Mass and the Theresienmesse. Rather than a comparison to the Missa Solemnis which comes from the same pen as the 9th Symphony, this Mass ought to be viewed in comparison to the Classical Masses and the symphonies of Haydn. In this respect, this work blazes a trail that allows for the composition of grander, more complicated and demanding music that break the boundaries of the Classical style.
A major role is given to the chorus rather than the soloists – how does this affect your approach?
As a soloist in this piece you have to adapt your singing for a variety of styles within the same piece. There are sections of straightforward solo voice and orchestra, like an aria in an opera, for instance the Gloria. There are sections of ensemble singing with the other soloists, which require a blended, nuanced and a more adaptable corporate choral approach - like the Benedictus. There are also call and response sections where the soloists enter a dialogue with the chorus. From the other point of view, the chorus role is demanding and requires a large range of colour and vocal agility. This piece is very much a team effort.
Do you have a favourite operatic role? Is there a role that you would love to perform but haven’t had the opportunity as yet?
I have been having a lot of fun playing Tamino in The Magic Flute recently: he gets some good tunes but he's a bit of a goody-goody. I sang Rodolfo in La Bohème a few years ago and that felt like 'proper opera'. It would be fun to play some darker characters, but these are normally given to baritones or women. Peter Quint in Turn of the Screw and perhaps even Peter Grimes one day would be exciting.
What is the most interesting costume you’ve had to wear for a performance?
I had a good one at the Royal Opera House recently that involved me shaving my head and being strapped into an exoskeleton, complete with wide panniered purple skirt and six inch heels. It was quite a look…
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
I noticed a while ago that on the day of a show I tend to burp more than usual. I don't know why or indeed if this is helpful but be warned Edinburgh…