Monday, April 4, 2011

A Chat with Erik Anstine

Although many who attend Don Giovanni may fantasize about being as suave as the Don, most of us have a lot more in common with his dopey sidekick Leporello, played in our production by second-year Young Artist Erik Anstine. Anstine, who played the clownish Truffaldino in last year's YAP Ariadne auf Naxos, will make his mainstage debut very soon in a more serious role. Here he gives us his thoughts about the characters of Don G, about being a young bass, and upcoming opportunities to see him perform.

Mozart wrote some fine music for bass...the two trios for low voices in this opera, Osmin, Sarastro’s great arias in our upcoming opera. Do you find yourself singing a lot of Mozart? Tell us what you’re going to be doing in The Magic Flute.
I do find myself singing a lot of Mozart, partly because I am a young singer, and partly because Mozart's music is so popular. Young singers sing a lot of Mozart because it requires you to be very technical, while at the same time not demanding a fully mature vocal instrument.

I will be making my mainstage debut as the Second Priest in The Magic Flute, which I am looking forward to very much.

Anstine as Leporello ponders his next move during Don Giovanni's Act Two Sextet (Rozarii Lynch, photo)

Do you find it easy to identify with Leporello? What does Leporello really think about working for Giovanni? Why does he keep doing it?
I do find it easy to identify with Leporello. When I was studying in London, I went out one night with a group that included a friend of a friend who was in an 'Il Divo-'like 'popera' group. We were on VIP lists to some of the big clubs in London, had champagne waiting for us in the VIP lounges, and even were stopped on the street to have our pictures taken by fans. I had never experienced anything like that before. I think Leporello gets that kind of rush by being around and attached to Giovanni.

Leporello doesn't have much of a life outside of being Giovanni's servant, and I'm not sure he really wants one. Leporello lives vicariously through Giovanni and between the women and the parties, Giovanni does live quite the life. Leporello is constantly at Giovanni's side, finding women for him to meet, keeping very diligent and precise records, providing cover so Giovanni can make yet another escape, dealing with jilted lovers, even serving food in the final scene. I think Leporello would be lost without Giovanni because it is so much of who he is. At the same time, Giovanni doesn't treat him very well and Leporello is always talking about needing to leave Giovanni, or how he disapproves of what Giovanni is doing. That conflict is what drives Leporello throughout the opera.

Leporello (Anstine) shows Donna Elvira (Amanda Opuszynski) the catalog (Rozarii Lynch, photo)

Tell us what Leporello really thinks about Elvira and Zerlina.
Elvira is the latest former lover of Giovanni's to show up. She is particularly stubborn and when she turns up is delusional about Giovanni. At first, she is just one of many betrayed women demanding accountability from Giovanni. At the end of the opera, Leporello starts to side with Elvira about how Giovanni needs to change his ways, but by then it is too late.

Zerlina, on the other hand, is the latest would-be victim. Leporello doesn't really think much of her being anything special until the duet between the two of them. It's all fun and games until Zerlina, thinking Leporello beat up Masetto, gets out a knife and ties Leporello up. At that point, Leporello has no idea what to think, but then Zerlina leaves and the finale happens shortly thereafter.

Zerlina (Jacqueline Bezek) threatens Leporello (Anstine) in the duet, "Per queste tue manine" (Rozarii Lynch, photo)

You’ve obviously got a knack for comedy. But because of your voice type, you’re often going to be playing the king, or an old man, or God, or the devil, those kinds of roles. What’s your favorite thing about being a bass?
One of my favorite things about being a bass is the fact that as a bass I can sing both the comic repertoire and the more serious, 'old man' repertoire. Some voices only seldom get to sing comedic roles, or only very seldom get to sing romantic or tragic roles, but basses get to do both. This breadth of repertoire appeals to me very much, both as a singer and an actor. Obviously, I would more look the part of a character in his 20s than I would a character in his 60s. One great thing about opera is that if the singer can sound the part, you can cast him. They can do great things with makeup these days.

Last year's YAP Ariadne auf Naxos starred Anstine, Alex Mansoori, Michael Krzankowski, and Bray Wilkins as the clowns Truffaldino, Scaramuccio, Harlekin, and Brighella (Chris Bennion, photo)

Casting back over your time with YAP, what are some of the things you’ve learned or experiences you’ve valued? What are your immediate future plans?
I have learned an incredible amount here in the program. From Lieder classes and language classes to singing at a Mariners game and full-blown productions, the opportunities the YAP has provided me have been invaluable. My immediate future plans include a St. Matthew Passion with Orchestra Seattle/Seattle Chamber Singers April 17, and both Magic Flute and Porgy and Bess here on the mainstage.

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