Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Chat with Eduardo Chama

Before Eduardo Chama goes out on stage, he always makes sure he double-checks the important things: “Check that my pants zipper is up and there’s no spinach between my teeth,” he said. And he always enters the stage with his right foot first—“simply superstition.”

You can bet the Argentinean bass-baritone will do all of those things before making his role debut as Falstaff (in the Sunday/Friday cast) next week. A regular performer of both serious and comedic roles, Chama notes the difficulty of comedy. “I think both types of roles are very difficult, but comedy needs perfect timing,” he said. Serious roles “are more about intensity…death, illness, violence,” but what makes an interesting comedy, he says, is the ability to touch on those serious subjects and still make people laugh. “The challenge in any opera is to make the audience believe you and enjoy—laugh or cry—make them be with you all the way.”

Although it’s certainly a comedy, Chama says that Falstaff has a bit of a serious side, too. “Falstaff has nothing to do with death, but with life,” he says. “There is one phrase that the first time I sang it with my coach in Philadelphia I almost cried because it is so beautiful and not funny at all: “ber del vin dolce e sbottonarsi al sole” (drink sweet wine and open your shirt to the sun). I guess there’s nothing much more to life than that, huh?”

Chama enjoys adding new roles, like Falstaff, to his repertoire. “Each role, whether it’s serious or comic, requires a fresh start,” he says. “Every score is like a treasure map, we have to discover the code if we want to find the treasure….There is always new stuff to discover, and I think the secret is always having fun.”

And there’s certainly no shortage of fun in Falstaff. “What’s not to enjoy? It has fantastic music and drama,” Chama said. “Verdi’s last opera has it all—it’s like he was waiting to put everything he knew into this fantastic comedy.”

You can catch Chama’s performances on February 28, March 7, and 12. And he’ll back next season as Sancho Panza in Don Quixote.

Photo: Eduardo Chama in Don Giovanni, 2007. © Bill Mohn photo