American tenor Brian Jagde has just made his return to the Royal Opera singing Maurizio in Sir David McVicar’s production of Adriana Lecouvreur. Two of his key roles in his career so far have been Don José in Carmen and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, which he’s performed from Berlin to Munich, from San Francisco to Washington.
MP: Don José and Pinkerton are two deeply flawed characters.
BJ: Don José has been a favorite because I love the idea of digging into a character with that level of insecurity. Having been insecure myself at times when I was younger, I have revisited some of the tough lessons from my past, but of course Don José has gone a lot farther down the rabbit hole than I ever did! The idea that this man is a killer from before the opera begins implies that he is not some innocent guy who is drawn to darkness by Carmen, rather he is drawn to her because she truly sees who he is. They are both deeply flawed, and they bring out the worst in each other. He solves his problems (or tries to) through violence, and initially she loves that fire within him and likes to play with his emotions.
Brian Jagde – Calaf in Puccini’s “Turandot”
Last season Jagde made a splash in his role debut as Radames in Verdi’s “Aida” in San Francisco. Since then he has been making debuts around the world and has become one of the most promising spinto tenors of his generation. This season audiences will have a chance to see his first Calaf which also means a new interpretation of “Nessun Dorma,” the show-stopping aria in the opera. And Jagde will have two excellent sopranos to sing alongside him – Martina Serafin and Nina Stemme.
Francisco Salazar – Operawire
The Non-Stop Debutant – Brian Jagde on Busy 2017, Verdi, Wagner & His Five House Debuts [OperaWire Exclusive]
30 performances. Seven cities. Five house debuts and two role debuts.
That is what tenor Brian Jagde faces in 2017. The first half of 2017 that is.
The tenor, who has been growing in prominence over the last few years, is slated for a monstrous calendar year that will see him make more house debuts than he ever has before.
“Palm Beach Opera Ariadne auf Naxos – Top Ten Performances of 2016: A musically idiomatic and theatrically adroit staging of Strauss’ blend of vaudeville and Grecian tragedy filled the Kravis Center stage in March. Daniel Witzke’s witty stage direction and Andreas Delfs’ masterful conducting formed a strong underpinning for the thrilling vocalism of Wendy Bryn Harmer in the title role and Brian Jagde as Bacchus.” (South Florida Classical Review)
“Outstanding performance (couples skate): Irene Roberts as Carmen and Brian Jagde as Don José in Carmen. This couple really sizzled.” (Sly Wit 2016 Figaro Awards)
Not many people get the chance to see an opera singer up close and personal. Even in a recital hall or opera house, there is a distance created by the stage. The connection comes from the music and the artistic involvement on both ends of the spectrum.
But on Tuesday, New York students were able to get an experience few others can claim to have – seeing an opera singer up-close. And by up-close, I mean arms length. Brian Jagde, the tenor making major house and role debuts around the United States and Europe over the coming months, came to Time In Children’s Arts Initiative and performed a selection from Bernstein’s West Side Story alongside pianist Lara Downes, who also performed “Over the Rainbow” …
“When you’re stepping onto the stage at San Francisco Opera, you kind of forget,” says Brian Jagde of the long line of famed tenors who have sung at War Memorial Opera House. He is set to sing his first Radamès, in Francesca Zambello’s new production of Aïda; the combination of Verdi’s masterpiece and the San Francisco Opera – a major site in the history of opera in America – holds a gravity that’s not lost on Jagde.
“So many historical tenors that have made either role debuts here, or just really left a mark in most of the minds of the fans here,” he says, referring to the likes of Mario del Monaco, Richard Tucker, and Luciano Pavarotti. Though the pedigree is impressive, pondering it is not part of Jagde’s process with Radamès, or any of the iconic tenor roles he sings. “Every one of those voices was different, and they all approached things differently,” he explains. “I try to first approach everything from ‘how would I do this?'”
“Tenor Brian Jagde is in San Francisco this month for a new staging of Aida, in which he makes his role debut as Radamès—the first of a number of role debuts this season, including Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur, in Feb. and Mar. at Covent Garden, and Das Rheingold’s Froh in June, in his first appearances with the NY Phil. Other company debuts in 2016–17 include Washington National Opera (May), as Pinkerton; Oper Stuttgart (June–July), as Cavaradossi; and Teatro Real (July), as Macduff.” (See the entire feature via Opera News online)
The demands of the modern operatic career are many. Short rehearsal periods mean more travel, changing directorial styles mean greater theatrical demands, and the rise of televised and video performances add an increased pressure to look good on screen. It’s a tough life, and hard to imagine anyone better suited to it than the congenial, handsome, and stentorian-voiced tenor Brian Jagde. Since winning the Operalia competition’s Birgit Nilsson Prize in 2012 and second prize at the age of 32, the Long Island native has taken long strides across the operatic landscape with debuts at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. He celebrated his marriage last year and has another love in his life who accompanies him everywhere, a long-eared spaniel mix named, appropriately, Cavaradossi.
Brian Jagde is Don José in San Francisco Opera’s presentation of Calixto Bieito’s Carmen through July 3. The Saturday performance, July 2 at 7:30 will be simulcast to AT&T Park for the annual Opera at the Ballpark. The cast will include Irene Roberts (Carmen), Ellie Dehn (Micaëla), Zachary Nelson (Escamillo), Edward Nelson (Moralès), and Brad Walker (Zuniga). Conductor Carlo Montanaro marked a spectacular debut at the opening night performance. “Don José is a brute,” said Brian. “I always warn people – he’s a killer!”
With a reputation as one of today’s most important opera impresarios, and one of the major innovators in the art form, David Gockley has certainly made a huge impact on opera in this country. Next month he retires from a 45-year career, having spent the past 10 years as general director of San Francisco Opera, and leaving behind a remarkable legacy.
It is fitting, therefore, that San Francisco Opera is celebrating this astonishingly fruitful career, with a Gala Concert at the War Memorial Opera House this week, in which an illustrious array of luminaries will pay tribute to his impressive achievements.