Friday, February 25, 2011

Backstage with Anthony Roth Costanzo

Anthony Roth Costanzo
Hear from countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, featured in BLO's upcoming production of Agrippina (as Ottone). Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo began performing professionally at the age of 11 and has since appeared in opera, concert, recital, film, and on Broadway. Anthony will share backstage insights from rehearsals and the life of a singer working for BLO. Email with your questions for Anthony!


The da capo aria is the structural foundation and the emotional heart of baroque opera, and there are no fewer than 16 in Boston Lyric Opera's upcoming production of AGRIPPINA. Da capo translates literally from Italian to mean, "from the head" or, "from the top", and refers to an aria in which there is an A section, followed by a B section, and then a return of the A section (hence, "from the top"). In the recap of the A section, it is customary for the singer, conductor, or both to come up with ornaments and decorations to embroider the original vocal line. In Agrippina rehearsals, as we begin the process of staging this parade of da capo arias, I have been thinking (beyond ornamentation) about the ways in which this strict formal construct can be rendered both extremely human and psychologically revealing. It is easy to construe these arias as undramatic in their repetitiveness, or antiquated in the way they approach narrative. However, through our work with conductor Gary Thor Wedow and director Lillian Groag, we have all been developing the journey of each individual da capo within the context of our characters' arc throughout piece. What I have come to realize is that our minds often work in da capo fashion. For example, the equivalent of an A section in real life might be the thought, "I can't believe this is happening to me". The first time we have this thought, it might be with a sense of trepidation. But our minds, especially in this day and age, rarely stay focused on any one thought for too long... and that is where life's B section comes in: "This morning's bowl of Cracklin' Oat Bran really put me in a good mood." Inevitably, we return to the original thought, but now with more perspective and perhaps a slightly different take. Instead of trepidation, we think with cautious optimism, "I can't believe this is happening to me". We could easily have two dozen such da capo episodes in any normal day, let alone a day when our world is turned upside down, as in Agrippina. Thinking of it this way, I realize that Handel is coloring our internal human processes with his prolific musical ingenuity. I encourage you all to come see how the psychological progression of each da capo aria plays out.

STAY TUNED: More behind the scenes musings, interviews, photos, and gossip to come.

- Anthony

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