Latvian debuts at the Met

  • 2000-03-23
  • By Ieva Raubishko
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week the noted Latvian opera singer Egils Silins made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Gioachino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville." The bass singer performed the role of Don Basilio, a music master of young Rosina who is the object of men's affection and stays confined to Dr. Bartolo's house.

In the renewed version of the 1982 production by John Cox, Silins' Don Basilio with his weird and humorous manners fit well into the light atmosphere of the performance.

Silins told The Baltic Times that he was satisfied with his performance and only a little nervous despite the fact that he is apparently the first Latvian singer to perform at the Metropolitan.

"This is a job I do every day," Silins said.

The Latvian musician said he felt less worried sharing the stage with his colleagues - Thomas Hampson as Figaro and Michael Schade as Count Almaviva - whom he had performed with at the Vienna State Opera before. The conductor Bruno Campanella was an earlier colleague of Silins, too.

"The Barber of Seville," however, is the only comic opera (opera buffa) Silins has been involved with recently. Nevertheless, he accepted this offer because "one should accept anything that is offered by the Met."

For the most part, "I'm more of a bel canto singer," Silins said.

He will have an opportunity to demonstrate his favorite bel canto style (operatic singing of Italian origin stressing ease, purity, and evenness of tone production and precise vocal technique) when Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme" opens at the Met on March 24.

The Met is the fifth opera house Silins is visiting this season. Last fall he spent a hectic period in Strasbourg singing the title role in Giuseppe Verdi's "Attila." Then he moved to the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Folk Opera where he performed in Verdi's "Macbeth," Vincenzo Bellini's "Puritans," Gaetano Donizetti's "Linda di Chamounix," and Modest Musorgsky's "Boris Godunov."

The intense working schedule can sometimes get tiresome, Silins said.

"Of course, I'd like to change my apartments more seldom," he said. "But that's my job and I have to accept it."

Is there any difference between performing in Europe and in America?

At the Met, musicians spend a considerable amount of time rehearsing the performance, Silins said. The ensemble spent two weeks on rehearsals before the premiere of "The Barber of Seville." At the Vienna State Opera, on the other hand, there would be just two-days' practice.

Soloists can sing freely and effortlessly after having a long rehearsal period, Silins said. Nevertheless, in many cases it doesn't matter because the experienced singers who keep "circulating" around the world know the operas and know their colleagues, according to Silins.

The Latvian star said he sometimes found the attitude of the American audience bewildering.

"It's hard to see the audience rushing to their cars even before the performance is over," Silins said. "I have noticed it's a typical trait here. It seems as though the audience thinks it's not important to thank the musicians for their performance. They've paid a certain amount of money, they've heard the opera, and then they rush away. This can be observed particularly in the first rows. You would never see such an attitude in Vienna."

Silins' Met debut will be completed in April. He will return to the Vienna State Opera to perform Verdi's "Ernani" and - after a short Easter stay in Latvia - to sing Escamillo in George Bizet's "Carmen."

This summer, Silins will appear in George Frederic Handel's "Rinaldo" during the opera festival organized by the Munich State Opera. And, of course, he'll be present at the Sigulda Opera Festival in Latvia.

His performances are scheduled until 2003, so Silins is content with his professional life.

"Now I have reached a point when I can chose where to sing and what to sing," he said. "Some time ago I had to accept whatever I was offered. I never knew that refusing something is sometimes more pleasant than accepting something."

One of Silins' troubles nowadays is saying "no" to any project during his vacation, which is a period of silence after 11 months of singing with almost no break. Still, he has never thought of quitting opera singing.

"Singing has always been a hobby and a job for me. I have always been lucky," Silins said.