When the tenor takes a lover

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Singer Jason Wasley ... “It’s a big mistake to play Jose as too romantic.”
REMEMBER Jason Wasley? He’s the tenor who’s been here with OzOpera playing Marcello in “La Bohème”, Pinkerton in “Madam Butterfly” and, for Melbourne Opera, Cavaradossi in “Tosca”.

While studying in London, he was Count Almaviva in “The Marriage of Figaro” and Onegin in “Eugene Onegin”.

Discerning readers will already have noticed something odd. Yes, Marcello, the Count and Onegin are all baritones, but the others are tenors. Wasley, you see, has moved up a register, from high baritone to dramatic tenor.

“It’s not all that unusual,” he tells me, adding that these days he knows enough about it to help train several friends change from baritone to tenor, expanding the number of roles they can play.

We’ll get to see Wasley again soon in a steamy version of Bizet’s “Carmen”, with full orchestra and more than 90 performers, including a Canberra chorus. According to the company, it “shows how a casual, flirtatious dalliance… can become a seriously deadly game of chance”.

In a sort of “Fatal Attraction” with the gender roles reversed, he gets to play Carmen’s disappointed lover, Don Jose.

Most people think of the character as a light tenor, but Wasley observes that he undergoes a change in “Carmen”. In the early scenes he is more lyrical, but then he becomes darker and more dramatic vocally.

Wasley has been chosen for one of the most thankless roles in opera because, compared to the sexy, fatalistic Carmen (played by Angela Hogan), Don Jose is a wimp.

But it depends on how you play him.

“It’s a big mistake to play Jose as too romantic… remember that he’s a soldier, capable of killing,” says Wasley.

“I try and play him darker and more morose.”

Wasley’s analysis is that this operatic mummy’s-boy-gone-wrong is deeply neurotic.

So what is his favorite scene?

It’s the big duet with Carmen right at the end, just before he kills her.

“He is in such a crazed state that he will commit murder,” says Wasley. “In short it’s scary, but it’s exciting.”

 “Carmen”, Canberra Theatre, May 12, bookings to 6275 2700 or canberratheatrecentre.com.au




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