Thursday, February 11, 2016

Interview with barihunk David Castillo; Starring in Townsend Opera's Sweeney Todd

David Castillo (as Anthony in Sweeney Todd on right)
If you're in Northern California, you won't want to miss the Townsend Opera production of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. The production features barihunk David Castillo as Anthony Hope and is directed by John De Los Santos. The cast also features Zeffin Quinn Hollis in the title role, Margaret Gawrysiak as Mrs. Lovett, Camille Jasensky as Johanna, Molly Mahoney as the Beggar WOman and Phillip Skinner as Judge Turpin. There are performances on February 12 and 14 and tickets are available online

We asked David Castillo a few questions about the role of Anthony and his budding career:

1. Do you prefer musicals or opera?
I wouldn't say I prefer one over the other. I grew up singing in musicals with my aunt as the musical director and started doing operas in college at Loyola University New Orleans, when my late voice teacher Philip Frohnmayer persuaded me to get away from dentistry. I have a great love for both.  I just want to do good work in good productions with good colleagues, regardless of the "medium."

2. Is this your first Sweeney Todd?
This is the first time I have the opportunity to perform Anthony Hope. Sweeney is one of my favorite go-to-for-fun recordings and I always wanted to perform the role of Anthony. I did learn the work (trying to avoid using the word opera or musical when describing Sweeney), when I was in the chorus for it years ago in a deranged, gritty Ed Berkeley production at the Aspen Music Festival.  That was an awesome, first experience.

3. What's it like singing Sondheim ?
It's funny you ask this, I've been wondering this a lot the past few days between Sweeney rehearsals and practicing my arias. I realize that I've been singing this just slightly different than with my "opera" voice. I first learned "Johanna," when studying under Rod Gilfry at USC for my masters. He was doing a slew of Sweeneys at the time and said that Anthony would be perfect for me. We worked lots on keeping very lyric youthfulness to the sound and while milking the vowels and consonants like an art song.  Regardless, you sing need to SANG.  Sondheim's writing demands technique the entire time with such a multi-dimensional libretto to use.  We still have to cut over the orchestra and carry into the house.  It's an interesting balance.

4. Tell us about your character
When first approaching Anthony, the biggest obstacle I found was that he could be the most boring character in the story.  He could be a really flimsy, boring, vanilla, lover boy who sing a pretty song called "Johanna."  John de los Santos and I crafted him to have more grit and dimension than that. Anthony is a sailor, he's strong mentally and physically. He's been through life-threatening situations. He's been through fights. He saved a shipwrecked, almost dead Sweeney.  He's sailed through the most treacherous waters and experienced the most beautiful treasures of the world. He managed to do all that and still have a good head on his shoulders.  He is the ying to the yang that is Johanna, who probably never was allowed to leave her chambers. Anthony is more of a well-played Don José.  Anthony is still a bit young, when arriving back in London, his favorite place in the world. Seeing the city through Sweeney's eyes jades London, the world, and life for him. He falls in love in act I, he begins to go mad at the beginning of Act II when he can't find where the Judge hid her, and breaks down when finding out that Johanna is in a madhouse and is threatened by Beadle. He is in a carnal position volunterring to kill a dozen people without hesistation to find Johanna.  All concluding with the situation of not being sure if he and Johanna will make it out of London alive. That's way more interesting than a vanilla lover boy.

Director John De Los Santos and David Castillo
5. Give us a little insight into this production.
Matthew Buckman and Ryan Murray assembled an awesome team for this show. John de los Santos is the mastermind behind this production with a solid cast that brings so much dimiension to their characters. The whole concept of this is how children become infected by morbid stories and the impact. All manifested in this production with the way we treat Toby and how he is affected by this.

6. What's next for you?
Next Monday, between weekends of Sweeney Todd performances, I fly to Paris and make my European debut performing Winterreise with pianist Francois Chouchan. I am honored to be part of this important performance because it is dedicated to Francois' mentor, Dr. Elsa Cayat, who was the only female killed in the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris January 2015. It will be held at the Mairie du Troisieme Arrondissment. After that, I make my Off-Broadway and New York debut reprising the stoner role of Atzuko in the absolutely hilarious production ¡Figaro! (90210) at The Duke at 42nd. Excited to revisit this role, after performing it at the World Premiere last year with LA Opera. In April I perform as a soloist in the Los Angeles Master Chorale's staged production of Alexander's Feast at Walt Disney Concert Hall, then perform as the soloist in Bach Cantata 73 with the Horizon Chamber Singers at the Long Beach Bach Festival. May brings my LA Philharmonic debut creating the role of Goethe in their World Premiere commission of Andriessen's Theatre of the World at Walt Disney Concert Hall. In June, I perform Jesus in Bach's St. John Passion with the Pasadena Master Chorale. It's a pretty busy spring! Next season brings exciting projects, including a collaboration premiering works Filipino Composer Nilo Alcala.

You can follow David Castillo on Twitter @davidthesinger and Townsend Opera@TownsendOpera

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