Tuesday, March 8, 2011

THREE QUESTIONS: Christian Van Horn

Anthony Roth Costanzo takes readers into the world of rehearsing an opera, BLO's upcoming Agrippina.

Our exalted King Claudio in BLO’s production of Agrippina is played by the stellar Christian Van Horn. Christian has appeared in many celebrated opera houses including the Lyric Opera of Chicago Opera (where he is an alumnus of the Lyric Opera Center), San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Santa Fe Opera, and the Salzburg Festival. His roles include the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Timur in Turandot, Colline in La Bohème, Oroveso in Norma, the Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte, Nourabad in Pearl Fishers, and many others. Not only do we both play the three-name card extremely well, but we also share the same extraordinary managers. To take at look at what they do, visit them at Opus 3 Artists.


Would you say that there is one thing Handel provides you with as a singer which is distinct from any other composer?

I would say that Handel really lets you explore a LOT of colors in the voice. The light orchestration allows for a huge dynamic range, rather than just sheer volume. I would say that basses RARELY get to sing pianissimo, and Handel leaves room for that -- especially in the recits.

You play King Claudio in BLO's Agrippina; is he a good guy or a bad guy and how do you communicate that either vocally or dramatically?
Claudio is a GREAT guy, even if a bit promiscuous.  As soon as anyone becomes Ceasar his days are immediately numbered. This is not lost on Claudio, and so he is definitely living for the moment. His heart is good, despite his lack of fidelity. After all, Agrippina (his wife) does not exactly make it easy for him to be faithful to her. Vocally, I think Claudio must be very powerful -- at times. He needs to make it clear who the boss in the room is, especially when there are many characters present. Claudio's softer side must also be represented but can really only appear one on one -- with Lesbo, his confidant, or with one of the ladies. 

In your experience thus far, what's the most fun thing about being a bass-baritone?
The best part of being a bass-baritone is the characters we get to play. While the tenors and baritones usually get to play the love interest or hero, the basses and bass-baritones generally get to pull the strings and make everyone dance! We often get to play very old men, which presents a fun challenge; and, the "bad guys" are always low voices. Nothing is more fun than playing a bad guy! Also, there are very few operas that don't require a bass-baritone -- which from a practical standpoint is fantastic.   

To read more about Christian, visit his website,

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