Saturday, April 26, 2014

Meet Our Singers: STEVEN COLE, Spalanzani

Steven Cole is unique. This phenomenally talented performer has been galvanizing the stage of Seattle Opera—and many others of the opera houses of the world—for 25 years. You can’t take your eyes off him when he’s in a scene, and no matter which character he is playing, his performance always has surprises in store. Something of an Offenbach specialist, Cole tells us about returning to be part of our award-winning production of The Tales of Hoffmann.

You did this production when it was new, in 2005. What do you remember about that show?
It was a lot of fun. Vinson Cole was a celebrated Hoffmann who brought great poetry to the role. Chris Alexander was full of fun ideas. We laughed a lot during the rehearsals.

Unlike many of the characters in Hoffmann, your character, Spalanzani, only appears in one scene. How do you make an impact in such a brief role?
Well, it is Offenbach who has done all the work. I just follow his road signs.

Steven Cole (Spalanzani) in Les contes d'Hoffmann, 2005
Rozarii Lynch, photo

Is Spalanzani like any other role you perform?
All my roles in Offenbach remind me of Spalanzani! I’ve sung the Caissier in Les Brigands (Paris Opéra), Prince Paul in La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein (Nice Opéra), Ménélas in La belle Hèlene (Nantes and Strasbourg), Toby in Robinson Crusoe (Houston Grand Opera), John Styx in Orphée aux enfers (Lyon, Genève, and an EMI recording). And in Lausanne, Marseille, Toronto, Edmonton, Cincinnati, and San Francisco I’ve sung the four valets in Tales of Hoffmann. Seattle is the only place I’ve sung Spalanzani.

Steven Cole (Nick) with Morgan Smith (Sonora) in La fanciulla del West, 2004
Rozarii Lynch, photo

Do you have a favorite experience with contemporary opera?
I do cherish wonderful memories of singing Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre in Salzburg, London, and Paris, with the composer present. That was exciting.

How do you balance the demands of your career with family?
I have always been thrilled to be single. But I honor and respect my colleagues who juggle marriage, children, and travel.

Steven Cole (Spalanzani) and Keith Jamison (Cochenille) rehearsing Les contes d'Hoffmann
Alan Alabastro, photo

Tell us a bit about your history with Seattle Opera.
I’ve sung Goro in two productions of Madama Butterfly, and this is my second Spalanzani in Hoffmann in Seattle. I was here for Dialogues of the Carmelites and War and Peace in 1990, and also La fanciulla del West (2004) and Tosca (2008).

What has Speight meant to your career?
My respect for Speight is enormous. He has made Seattle Opera a brilliant company: he set the tone, and the tone is healthy and happy. I have always had a wonderful experience working here.

Gary Simpson (Scarpia) menaces Steven Cole (Spoletta) in Tosca, 2008
Rozarii Lynch, photo

Do you have a favorite Speight anecdote?
I always loved Speight bringing his mother to rehearsals and performances. She was always fabulously outfitted!

Steven Cole (Spalanzani) at Les contes d'Hoffmann rehearsal
Alan Alabastro, photo

Where is your favorite place in the world to sing?
I don’t have one. It’s easier to sing in American than Europe; for example, one is paid after every performance in America, whereas in Europe it takes months. I always look forward to Barcelona, Paris, San Francisco, and Seattle: Water. Food. Markets.

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