Thursday, February 18, 2010
A Chat with Weston Hurt
Weston Hurt returns to Seattle Opera this month as Ford in Verdi's Falstaff after making his company debut in October as Germont in La Traviata. I caught up with Weston to see how he's preparing for his role debut as Ford.
Why do you enjoy the role of Ford?
Ford has one of the greatest arias written for the baritone voice. It’s an absolute thrill to have the opportunity to debut this role in Seattle. In addition to the music that Verdi gave him, his ability to always believe that he has the upper hand in the situation—when in reality he never does—makes for a very challenging, but enjoyable role.
How do you make it your own?
As with any role, I try to find how the character and the piece speak to me as an actor. Dramatically, you must simply know who the heck your character is. Once you can answer the “who, what, and how?” questions, the rest seems to fall in place. Vocally, you must know and understand the traditions, but at the same time give 100% of yourself to the process.
What sort of character-work do you do to supplement the musical preparations?
Because this is my first production of Falstaff, I watched many of the great productions on DVD, listened to historic recordings, and reviewed my Shakespeare. :)
This is a much different role than Germont in La Traviata, the role in which Seattle audiences last saw you. Do you prepare differently for a comedic role versus a serious role?
The interesting thing about Ford is that he doesn't realize that he is funny. I'm not so sure that he really is a comedic character. He spends most of the time angry at Falstaff, jealous of his wife Alice, or plotting with his team of Bardolph, Caius, and Pistol.
Besides the obvious—the one is funny and one is serious—what are the differences between performing an opera buffa role and an opera seria role?
I find that serious roles are easier to tap into—one usually finds oneself playing the honesty of the situation. I find comedy to be much more challenging. One must never try to be funny or play “funny.” In order to be funny, one must know the honesty of the situation and oftentimes play against it. It’s funny to watch an overly-jealous husband make an ass out of himself... and that’s what I intend to do!
When did you begin singing?
I started singing in my high school choir at the age of 14 on the demands of my mother, who said that I had to take choir as my fine arts credit. Thanks mom. :)
Do you have any pre-performance/opening night rituals?
I enjoy getting to the theater a little early so that I know that everything is in place and where it is supposed to be. I also like walking the set before the audience arrives. I wouldn't go as far to call these things rituals, but they certainly make me feel more comfortable.
This is your second trip to Seattle—how are you enjoying your time here?
I absolutely love the city of Seattle. The views are gorgeous, the beer is delicious, and the food is outstanding! Not to mention this weather we are having—I'm a Texas boy at heart, but I am definitely getting used to the Pacific Northwest.
What’s coming up next for you?
Immediately following my performances here, I am singing the baritone solos in Orff's Carmina Burana with Dallas Symphony Orchestra and then am heading to Toronto for my debut with Canadian Opera Company as Lord Cecil in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda.