Opera News

Sound Bites- July 2011

Jason Collins, who sings Jason in Medea at the Glimmerglass Festival this summer, says Cherubini's antihero "is not a great fella, any way that you look at it. I suppose I have to defend him a little bit — he's been seduced by the power that Medea has given him. I'm still struggling with whether or not Jason is really unhappy with Medea as he discovers what she has done, or if he's lying to himself and to her. He's seen some of Medea's bad choices happen, and he's accepted what they have brought him. He's an opportunist — he wants that crown badly, so now he's going to marry the princess and ditch poor old Medea. Big mistake, right?" A self-described "country boy from South Carolina," Collins attended the University of South Carolina, the Eastman School, Juilliard and Curtis before beginning his professional career in 2001 with a particularly plum assignment at Chicago Opera Theater — the title role in Robert Kurka's The Good Soldier Schweik. Collins's clean, shining tenor and youthful vigor were perfectly suited to the indestructibly optimistic Schweik, but the role was not without its challenges. "Thank God I was so eager and didn't know any better. Schweik sings in something like twenty-two out of twenty-three scenes, and his part runs from a high C to a low A-flat on the staff. It was insane. There are no strings in that orchestration — it's all brass and woodwinds. But I was so green — I didn't have any preconceived notions of what the professional world was like to work in. I just went in there and sang. I was actually still at Curtis then. [Curtis vocal studies chair] Mikael Eliasen made me sing the entire role in front of my class before I left for Chicago to sing it." These days, Collins has been exploring some fairly heroic repertory. He made his Boston Lyric Opera debut in 2010 as Mozart's Idomeneo and has taken on several Wagner roles, among them the Steersman, Froh and Melot at Seattle Opera. He will sing Erik in Der Fliegende Holländer at Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège this fall. "Wagner is the most demanding tenor repertoire, for sure. It's not about notes, because most of it lies so high — in Wagner, an A natural feels like a high C. But for me, he is the Shakespeare of opera, no question. Just to study the score of Parsifal is amazing. What a character! But you can't sing Wagner unless you're ready for it — unless you are grown-up. Now, I'm just at that age where I have to step up to the plate and do it." F. PAUL DRISCOLL