Bloomberg News

Baritone Paterson Opts for Serial Seducer Over Kind Giant

November 07, 2012

'Don Giovanni'

Iain Paterson and Sarah Redgwick in "Don Giovanni" at English National Opera. Paterson has been simultaneously appearing as Don Giovanni, and as Fasolt in the "Ring Cycle" at the Royal Opera. Photographer: Richard Hubert Smith/English National Opera via Bloomberg

Iain Paterson is at last free to concentrate on being a promiscuous nobleman again.

He has spent the last month in a schizophrenic existence and trying to be in two places at once: serial seducer Don Giovanni at English National Opera one night and the infatuated giant Fasolt at Covent Garden the next.

Paterson can now breathe a sigh of relief, with the Ring winding down, and settle into his energetic and beautifully-sung account of Giovanni. If Rufus Norris’s production as a whole is a non-starter, it’s certainly not Paterson’s fault.

“I like to sing the Serenade with a ‘mezza di voce’ (lightened voice),” says the bearded 39-year-old Scot, who has the build and demeanor of a friendly Viking. “I took bits of that sound back to Fasolt, like when he sees Freia, the object of his love, hidden by gold.”

Paterson’s punishing schedule keeps him fit, he says.

“A lot of the time as a singer you’re jetlagged, or tired, or fighting a bug you’ve picked up on a plane,” he says. “If you can learn to sing at 80 percent of what you’re capable of, you can keep going an awful lot longer.

“There’s a culture of cancellations in opera, just because the singer thinks they’re not going to be perfect.”

Paterson appeared as Gunther in the Metropolitan Opera’s recent “Ring Cycle” directed by Robert Lepage, and is scheduled to sing his first Wotan in 2014.

Wagnerian Demands

“Wagner teaches you more about your voice than any other composer,” he says. “He puts such demands on you in terms of the length of phrases, that if you’re sick, you can’t sing him, end of story. If you’ve just got a head cold though, you still might be able to do it. Singing Wagner shows you what you are really capable of.”

“I’d sung the Don in Rufus’s production of “Don Giovanni” when it was new in 2010,” he says. “Then the company asked me to do it again. Unfortunately it turned out to be in same period I was scheduled to be in the Ring.”

His girlfriend Sophie, who works at ENO, noticed there were no overlapping days.

What’s his secret? “Fasolt doesn’t require a great vocal range, and neither does Don Giovanni,” he says. “They’re surprisingly similar in that respect.”

“Don Giovanni” is in repertoire until Nov. 17. English National Opera, London Coliseum, St. Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4ES. Information: http://www.eno.org, +44-20-7845-9300.

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars and Rich Jaroslovsky on tech.

(Warwick Thompson is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Warwick Thompson, in London, at warwicktho@aol.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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