Monday, April 19, 2010

A Chat with Nathan Gunn

Nathan Gunn hasn’t appeared at Seattle Opera since Florenica in the Amazon in 2005. We’re happy to have him back on our stage in May creating the role of Paul in Amelia.

Gunn first heard about Amelia while performing in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy at the Met (with Amelia co-star William Burden, who's shown with Gunn at right in The Rape of Lucretia at Opera Company of Philadelphia). As a father of five, Gunn says he was “intrigued by the idea of pregnancy and birth being the catalyst for the drama.”

After some thought, he knew he wanted to join the cast: “I love Seattle Opera. I wanted to sing Daron [Hagen]’s music. I’d never worked with Stephen Wadsworth as a director and I wanted to, and I love creating new roles.”

In addition to the world premiere of American Tragedy, Gunn has been involved in new productions of Peter Eötvös’ Love and Other Demons at the Glyndebourne Opera Festival and André Previn’s Brief Encounter in Houston, and he relishes the opportunity to do it again. “I enjoy the expressive freedom involved in creating a character,” he says. “I’m allowed to sculpt the character in many more ways because the history of the opera is in no way determining how we think about it.”

Gunn is playing Paul, Amelia’s husband (he's shown at left with his onstage wife, Kate Lindsey). He describes Paul, an aerospace engineer, as “realistic” and “down to earth.” Gunn says he feels a connection with the character. “He’s able to focus on the task at hand…to put aside fear in order to pursue a goal. We are very similar in that way.” Gunn can also relate to the concerns of a first-time parent. “I know what it’s like to be an expecting dad and what all the worries are that he might have.”

When Amelia questions the reason for bringing a child into a world that’s dangerous and filled with pain, Paul tries to reassure her that bad things don’t always happen. As he says to her in Act 1 Scene 2: “Not every flier flies too near the sun.”

And although the opera is mainly focused on Amelia’s journey, Paul certainly changes over the course of the opera, as well, Gunn says. “By the end of the opera, having almost lost Amelia, he realizes that loss is always a possibility, but the gain is worth the risk.”

Photos: Gunn (Tarquinius) and Burden (Male Chorus) in The Rape of Lucretia at Opera Company of Philadelphia, 2009 © Kelly & Massa Photography; Kate Lindsey and Nathan Gunn after a rehearsal for Amelia.

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