|Christopher Maltman in Juan (top); Vienna's "From the House of the Dead" (bottom)|
Maltman is currently appearing in one of our favorite operas, Janacek's "From the House of the Dead." For those who haven't seen the opera it's non-stop feast of men from curtain to curtain. Maltman is singing the role of Šiškov at the Vienna State Opera. Šiškov brings the opera to a harrowing end when he sings a tale of murdering his love. There are four performances remaining between December 14-30. Click HERE for additional information or to purchase tickets.
Maltman talks about the role on his management website:
You’re rehearsing Janácek’s From the House of the Dead at the Vienna Staatsoper – an interesting piece to get your head around…Absolutely – but an amazing piece too. Its difficulty lies in the fact that there’s no real dramatic narrative; there isn’t a linear story to follow. But there are these four central monologues which are effectively studies in human psychology, each one becoming progressively more complicated.
|Shower scene from Janacek's opera|
Where do you fit in?My character Šiškov sings the final monologue. He’s a pretty ordinary, unassuming guy who through a series of awful events ends up doing something terrible, and my motto for the whole piece has been ‘there but for the grace of God go I’. It’s really about what people can do in very difficult circumstances and how those circumstances ultimately affect them. There’s this bunch of men trapped together in this prison; I feel the prison is a metaphor for those places in which people come express their emotions. It’s just a metaphor life.
Particularly when life means you’re thrown together with a large group of people away from home for a long and intense period of work – precisely the predicament of the modern opera singer…Very much so, and the similarities continue in that you’re with a bunch of people you don’t know very well. People very often take that opportunity to lay down their life story – to tell others about who they are and what they are, which is exactly what lies behind all the characters in From the House of the Dead. They’re people justifying why they are in the situation that they are in – why they did the things that they did.
And like them you’re on your own, too – away from your family…Well technology makes that far easier; I’ve just been able to talk to my two sons using Skype. But it’s always difficult and you have to balance the practicalities of having a career against the difficulties of having a family. It’s impossible to get it completely right, but there is nothing else that I could do to be at the level I hopefully sing and act at. Nor is there anything else I would want to do. But to go back to the prison idea, I am slightly trapped by my own profession!
Prison is exactly where your various vivid incarnations of Don Giovanni should probably be sent – you’re shortly to revive him in Berlin. How will that feel after your role in Kasper Holten’s explosive movie version?There are some constants that you take with you from production to production. Before I sang my very first big Don Giovanni I had lunch with Tom [Sir Thomas] Allen. He’s such a treasure trove. I asked him, look, is there any other advice you’d give me before playing the role? He told me, above all, to make Don Giovanni dangerous: he has to be dangerous, however that danger is achieved. There are sovereign requirements for Don Giovanni and that sense of danger about him is paramount I think.
And you’ll be re-united with Daniel Barenboim…He’s a very demanding man, a man with a lot of opinion and a man with a very clear vision of how things should be musically. But I’ve always found that kind of conductor much easier to work with than somebody who really lets you guess what it is that they want. For Daniel it’s all about the music – a desire to get the music right in his own head – and I can always live with that. He’s probably one of the greatest musical talents of the last 100 years – just a phenomenally, phenomenally gifted man. If you don’t listen to that kind of person, I think there’s something wrong.
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