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because you’re trying to be creative, it’s no longer a Monet. You love the Monet and that’s it. Opera is a grow- ing artform, it’s continually evolving, we have new composers, but you don’t take the masterpieces of the past and rip them apart. Let’s stick to what the music tells us, because it’s the reason it’s lasted for 150 years. Are you part of a long tradition? Yes. But it’s good to be a tradition-


alist that’s open to change. As long as there’s good reason? Bingo! And that’s a comment for


everything, not just singing. In our politics, the way we perceive other cultures, we should acknowledge that we have traditions, a history that explains why we’re here, but we live in modern times. Change is OK, but we don’t want to lose our roots – in policy-making as well as opera. Sometimes people are either ‘we


have to do it exactly this way because that’s the way it was in 1855’, or ‘no, the world is melting pot and every- thing is changing’. It’s not that simple. In any form of culture you can boil it down to one thing: adhere to tradi-


54 The American


tion, be receptive to change. I don’t ever want the tradition of


good, full-throated opera singing to leave. It’s different to most other forms of music – we sing without amplification in the theater. I’ve trained myself to project over an orchestra of 100 instruments into a theater of 4,000 seats, with ease and without complaint. I never want to get to a place where we say, yeah, that happened one time but we don’t do that any more. I don’t want my industry to adopt a different form of production of sound. There are developments in opera


where we’re trying to get more visual, more on TV, and some singers are adapting their voices to work with microphones to sound good on tel- evision, compressing their voice in a certain way. But that means we’re destroying the musical form in the process of creating a visual produc- tion. The greatest producers emerg- ing over the next ten years are the ones able to create a great visual product with the quality of the voices just as they are on the stage. We don’t


have the best answer to that yet. It’s a fight I have all the time – I


have questions about how my voice is transmitted via microphone to TV and radio versus how I sound live. If there’s a difference, people are get- ting a different experience. I never want to get rid of the grand style of opera to adapt to a modern sensibil- ity, but we need to access more peo- ple through this great, grand sense of music using modern technology, getting children ‘through the door’ in a different way. Opera is artist-based: without an


artist, and the music, you don’t have an artform. There seems to be a cur- rent belief that opera’s a visual art- form. I don’t really see that. Without great music, you may have a great show (which is extremely important) but you don’t have opera. At Michigan you were taught


by George Shirley, the first African- American tenor to perform a lead- ing role at the Metropolitan Opera. What did he bring to your singing? Actually, it’s not just about the singing, he’s given me a lot of my


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