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Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively – You are back to Opera Carolina, after having sung Alfredo here in La Traviata. Welcome back! What do you think of the company, and what are your expectations for this production of Roméo et Juliette?

Jonathan Boyd – First, I would like to express how happy I am to be back with Opera Carolina again. Especially in this new production and with such an iconic role as Roméo. Each time I have been here I have had the pleasure of sharing the scene with truly super star quality of artistry. My expectations are that of passion for this production. That is to say that the audience will leave the theater with a renewed passion for the loves in their lives.

LG – Please tell us about your recipe for a good Roméo. How do you count on portraying him, acting-wise? 

JB – A recipe….hmmm, I can’t say that preparing the role of Roméo is like preparing a dessert but rather an entire meal and perhaps even several meals in a day. What Roméo lives in this day or days (depending on how one views the time elapse of the opera) is what normal people spend a life time figuring out. Roméo must be a person that questions life and yet lives it without any boundaries. 

LG – This opera is very good for a lyric tenor, given the beautiful and melodious arias and duets you get, with of course the highlight being the spectacular "Ah! Lève-toi, soleil. "Ange adorable" for example is a lovely duet. Your colleague who does Tybald will also get some nice bits. Please tell us about the music in this opera, from the tenor's standpoint. Any difficulties?

JB – One of the greatest challenges of this music is that it was written in Gounod’s later years of opera writing. That is to say that his age and life experiences make the music mature and lush. That in itself is wonderful to the ear. However, it is difficult in that one needs to almost play against that dreamy beautiful lyric writing provoked by the lush mature sound from the orchestra in order to continue to be that young, vibrant, every life experience that is the first love feeling. We must remember that the characters of Romeo and Juliette and their friends are young and vibrant and thankfully without the experience of great tragedy….until…well…Act 3. 

A perfect example of mature writing is in the Duet of Act 4 “Nuit D’hyménée” with gorgeous lines and wonderful sentiment. Regardless, two naked teenagers in bed for the first time would probably not be in a waltz-like rhythm as they experience the other’s touch. However being that Gounod was much more experienced in life by the time he wrote this, he used the romantic waltz feeling and his maturity leads us musically into a deep warm slow passion that is often experienced by a much more mature love.

LG – Very interesting! You have a very varied repertory with roles in various languages. Do you experience any special pleasure or predilection for roles in French?

JB – I would say that one of the joys we have as singers of opera is that we experience different cultures through the use of language. As far as my foreign languages are concerned French is probably the most comfortable one, as I have had the opportunity to live in French-speaking countries most often of all my dwellings not in the USA.

LG – Let's turn to a role in English that I love: Tom Rakewell in The Rake's Progress. I'm pleased to see that it is in your biography for both Portland Opera and Teatro Municipal in Santiago in Chile. Tell us about the psychological arc of this character and the challenges in singing Stravinsky's music. I love this opera also for the touches of American musical styles in it. What do you think of The Rake's Progress, musically and theatrically?

JB – I could write an entire dissertation on The Rake’s Progress and the journey that Tom experiences as it too is one of my favorite operas. However, I will be brief for now with a short comparison of Tom and Roméo. Tom much like Roméo is young and has the entire world in front of him. The only difference is that Tom is led through the path of life searching for love and fame and riches but controlled by shadows and darkness and ends up insane. Roméo on the other hand is led by passion and finds his love instantly through his own eyes and decisions. Unfortunately, he never really gets to experience all that life has to offer because of his tragic crime of passion. 

The Rake's Progress with Jonathan Boyd in Santiago, Chile

There are challenges in every style of music that we sing. The most important one is to try and bring to the stage what the composer intended and remember what that composer was feeling or experiencing in his own life while writing it.

LG – You worked in the Colón in Buenos Aires, in Bogotá, and you have this engagement in Chile. How do you see the working environment and popularity of opera in Latin America?

JB – The working environment in South American countries where I have performed have not been so different than North American or European. Every country has its positives and negatives and one of the positives I have found in Latin America was that nationally they are proud of their arts and what they can offer to society as a whole. Therefore the people as a whole invest into the arts through their governments and with government subsidizing it allows for cheaper ticket prices so that more people can enjoy more art. They achieve this way a richer society as a whole.

LG – We from Opera Lively are very interested in contemporary opera. It's particularly interesting to notice that Composer Lee Hoiby personally chose you for the role of Romeo in his opera Romeo and Juliet, which you sang with the New York City Opera, and also in Vancouver. Please tell us about this piece and its music, and how you compare it with this French Romantic piece you are doing now.

JB – This was a great honor for me to be chosen by the composer to portray the role of Romeo. Unfortunately, the piece has never been performed in its entirety. Fortunately, before his death in March of 2011, he was able to complete the orchestration of the full score and it has since been waiting for its debut in a full production. What I can say about the music of Lee Hobby is that the orchestration is rich and full and the musical lines he has written for the vocalists flow perfectly to the text which by the way is actually the original Shakespeare. This is to my knowledge is the only Romeo and Juliet that is sung using the “Old English”

LG – Given your strong activity not only in the above one, but in several other contemporary operas, please tell us how you see the vitality of opera composition in the 21st century, and how you'd address the challenges in getting the audiences to attend and support contemporary opera.

JB – I feel "contemporary arts/music” have never changed as far as being called “ahead of it’s time” but eventually like everything it becomes historic. Some things will be played once and then never again. Some things will continue coming back again and again. 

We as humans strive to be entertained and stretched both emotionally and physically. All art forms can do this for us. Luckily, opera is one of the art forms that touches all the senses. Poetically, musically, and through the sets and costumes and make-up we are visually stimulated. 

I think the best way to encourage attendance is by beginning with changing our own thought of it being a “challenge" to get people to attend. We should not feel challenged to have them attend; we should switch the idea and “challenge” or “dare" them to attend. Society wants to be entertained with a story… look at movies and television… they all tell a story; sometimes you like it, sometimes you don’t. Of course so do paintings or photographs or sculpture. 

So we as a society need to be invited to an experience by intrigue. Nobody knows what they will see or hear when going to the most packed house of a show, a movie, or theater or rock concert or whatever. But they know it will be entertaining. Not because of what it is but what it could be. 

Being invited is key. Who doesn’t like being asked to come to a party with a few friends! This will then invoke intrigue and with intrigue comes attendance. Of course it would help if we could demolish the idea that (insert any art form here) is only for the (insert any stereotype here). So with that I “challenge" any reader to go in the next days, weeks, or months to experience a new art form. If they like what they saw… post a comment and invite a friend to try it too!

LG – Wow, excellent answer! Let's turn to you, the artist. Please tell us about your trajectory in becoming an opera singer. How did it come about? 

JB – I started with music at the age of 4 by playing piano then moved to playing trumpet while in High School and then started singing more seriously the last years of High School, and finally attended Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ. From there I was invited to various resident programs such as Santa Fe Opera, Central City Opera, Florentine Opera and L’Opéra de Montreal. Then my career was well on its way with debuts all over North America and then Europe and the UK then South America. I have not stopped since. I always said I would give 100% towards the career and when it stopped giving back I too would stop and do something else.

LG – Please tell us a little about you as a person. How is your personality like? What do you like to do for fun? What is your take on life?

JB – I am a person that enjoys many things. I tend to be calm and polite, and often try to avoid conflict. For fun I like to do outdoor things; mainly sailing. I expect to have my US Coast Guard captain's license soon as I have already logged more than 200 sea days of the required 360 days before taking the official test. For those that do not know it, a sea day does not count unless one has been sailing for more than 4 hours. 

My take on life is that one should experience lots but stress little. Try to cross bridges as they come yet not to burn them while getting to the other side.

LG – Thank you for your wonderful responses, and I look forward to seeing you on stage again in two weeks!