Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Chat with Nicholas Coppolo

Nicholas Coppolo, a recent Juilliard graduate, sings Icarus and the Young Boy in Amelia—roles that he also sang at the workshop in 2008. Because this production features several dream characters and has scenes where different time periods are played out simultaneously, the cast really delved into the complexity of the characters’ relationships, which fascinated Coppolo. “Seeing how my characters are integral parts of a much larger sum is exciting and enriching. It’s such a rarity for a principal singer to be a member of such a large ensemble, especially one of this caliber.”

In Amelia, Icarus (the boy who flew too near the sun in Greek mythology), is a recurring character in Amelia’s dreams. We see him building wings with his father Daedalus in Act 1 Scene 2—initially in a dream, though they continue to prepare for their escape as the scene between Amelia and her husband, Paul, continues.

The most challenging part of the production for Coppolo is his Act 2 performance of the Young Boy. “The Act 2 material was, by the end of the workshop, the toughest 12 pages of music I have ever been charged with singing,” he says, noting that in the years since the workshop a few pages of equally difficult music were added. Then there’s the extra challenge of singing high notes from a hospital bed while his character hallucinates. “It is quite a challenge to stay disciplined and focused as a singer while still communicating the story as an actor,” he says. “One of the toughest transitions from the workshop to the stage was finding realistic body positions as the dying boy that would still let me sing.”

A recurring phrase throughout the opera is “The risk is worth the love.” This realization is what allows Amelia to finally let go of her father and move forward with her life. Coppolo’s characters embody the thrills and the dangers of risk-taking. “Icarus represents the need to challenge the unknown, to face fear unabashed and with head held high…. The Young Boy represents the reality of failure,” Coppolo says. In the final scene, when the birth of Amelia’s baby is juxtaposed against the death of the Young Boy, we see “the dichotomy of the human experience. Life and its relationships bring triumph and joy, but also great suffering and pain.”

Creating these two characters has been an interesting experience for Coppolo, who has drawn on memories and past personal experiences. “I know what it is to be a frightened little boy who wants to live in the safety of his father’s arms,” he says, referring to the hospital scene where the ailing Boy cries out for his Father. But, much like his characters, Coppolo also understands the desire to take flight: “I know what it is to want to push my perceived limits.”

Photos credits. Top: Kate Lindsey (Amelia) and Nicholas Coppolo (Icarus). Bottom: Jordan Bisch (Father) and Nicholas Coppolo (Young Boy). All photos © Rozarii Lynch.