Friday, October 31, 2014

Meet our singers: ERIK ANSTINE, Leporello

Photo by Rebecca Fay
Though the leading man is eventually dragged to hell, some may have noticed that the legend of Don Juan lives on in Seattle Opera’s production of Don Giovanni. Enter Leporello as portrayed by Erik Anstine, bass. The Seattle Opera Young Artist graduate, who's been singing in Europe for the past several years, was recently applauded by Gavin Borchert of The Seattle Weekly, who found him to have the most “debonair” of the deep voices in Don Giovanni. We spoke with Anstine about what it’s like to revisit the character of Leporello for Seattle Opera, now on the mainstage rather than in a Young Artist Program (YAP) performance, not to mention singing with his best friend Evan Boyer, our Masetto.

What’s it been like singing in Zurich?
It’s now my third season. After Don Giovanni, I head straight back for The Magic Flute. It’s nice to be on the European side of things. It’s exciting and different. There’s so much more opera being produced, too. I’m able to get good experience, and I’ve made lots of friends.

What are the big differences between singing in the states versus Europe?
Generally speaking, houses in the German-speaking part of Europe are more open to unconventional productions. I have been involved in some fantastic, interesting performances, and also some rather strange ones. With so much opera being produced, there is a real sense of our art form being alive and an ongoing dialogue.

Erik Anstine (Leporello), right, and Nicolas Cavallier (Don Giovanni). Elise Bakketun photo
You’re quite active on Twitter. Tell me about the opera community on social media.
The community is definitely growing. There is always a flurry of conversation when a production is canceled or when an exciting production is happening. We also use Twitter to cheer on our friends performing in other productions. Like other social media, it's a great way to stay in touch with friends I might not see for years, or donors, fans, etc.

Publicity shot for Seattle Opera's social media channels with the two best friend and basses!
Tell us about being college roommates with Evan Boyer (Masetto).
We had a great time! By our senior year, we were good friends. We lived above both a pizza place, Gigio's, as well as another apartment full of friends. I think there was a pretty wild Halloween party we jointly hosted, but I can't get into too many details. Evan and I had actually never been in a production together before this Don Giovanni, so it's great to finally share the stage with him.

The first act finale finds you dancing with Evan. Tell us a) about your expertise as a dancer and b) something embarrassing about your friend.  

Ha! I have absolutely no "expertise as a dancer." Leporello is making Masetto dance with him in the score, so that's what we do. We have a basic framework of the dance, but we improvise a lot of it. It keeps things exciting!

In terms of an embarrassing moment about Evan? I did plan his bachelor party down in Orlando, but again, can't get into any details. I'm sworn to secrecy.

Erik Anstine (center) with members of the cast of Don Giovanni. Elise Bakketun photo
Has Seattle changed at all since your Young Artist Program days here?
The most obvious change for me is how much the South Lake Union area (where Seattle Opera’s rehearsal studios and administrative offices are) has exploded business-wise. There are way more new glass-and-steel buildings, and a lot more on the way. The traffic is the same, however. Maybe even a little worse.

What are some of your fond YAP memories? Did you make any mistakes that helped you grow or learn?

That was the beauty of the young artist program—it was a safe place to make mistakes. I also made lasting friendships. It was an amazing time of training, learning and developing my craft.

Anstine as Truffaldino (far left) in the 2010 Seattle Opera Young Artists Program production of Ariadne auf Naxos. Chris Bennion photo 
Anstine as Leporello in the 2011 Seattle Opera Young Artists Program production of Don Giovanni. Rozarii Lynch photo
How has your Leporello changed since you last performed the role in the YAP production two years ago?
This is the first role I’ve ever repeated. Everything about the role is much more comfortable. My understanding of the text and character, my feel for the music and style, it has all developed in the past few years. When I picked the score back up over the summer, all I needed was a bit of refreshing, and it came back quite quickly. The biggest changes for me come from working with a different director, conductor, and cast. Nicolas Cavallier, who plays Don Giovanni in my cast, has such an elegance onstage. It makes my job as a foil really easy. It also helps that the costume department has put me in boots that are like five pounds each, so I just clomp around onstage.

What makes this particular production special?

Again, I think it's the cast. We're all having a blast onstage! Nicolas and Elizabeth are fantastic to work with, and most of my scenes are with them. Once we were solid on the blocking and everything, we could just have fun with the piece, and I think that comes across to audience.

Erik Anstine (second from left) as Leporello, with Evan Boyer, Lawrence Brownlee and Cecelia Hall in Don Giovanni. Elise Bakketun photo
Is this story relevant to today at all?
Completely. The story is old; the archetypes are timeless—I think that speaks to the genius of Mozart and Da Ponte. All of the characters are conflicted and complex. If you leave the theater simply hating The Don, then our production may not have done the piece justice.

You have two more opportunities to see Don Giovanni. Tonight (Halloween) and tomorrow!