In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

Backstage with Anthony Roth Costanzo

Feb 25, 2011 5:15:00 AM
By BLO Staff

Anthony Roth Costanzo
Hear from countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, featured in BLO's upcoming production of Agrippina (as Ottone). Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo began performing professionally
at the age of 11 and has since appeared in opera, concert, recital, film, and
on Broadway. Anthony will share backstage insights from rehearsals and the life of a singer working for BLO. Email with your questions for Anthony!

The da capo aria
is the structural foundation and the emotional heart of baroque opera, and
there are no fewer than 16 in Boston Lyric Opera's upcoming production of
AGRIPPINA. Da capo translates literally
from Italian to mean, "from the head" or, "from the
top", and refers to an aria in which there is an A section, followed by a
B section, and then a return of the A section (hence, "from the
top"). In the recap of the A section, it is customary for the singer,
conductor, or both to come up with ornaments and decorations to embroider the
original vocal line. In Agrippina rehearsals, as we begin the process of
staging this parade of da capo arias,
I have been thinking (beyond ornamentation) about the ways in which this strict
formal construct can be rendered both extremely human and psychologically
revealing. It is easy to construe these arias as undramatic in their
repetitiveness, or antiquated in the way they approach narrative. However,
through our work with conductor Gary Thor Wedow and director Lillian Groag, we
have all been developing the journey of each individual da capo within the context of our characters' arc throughout
piece. What I have come to realize is that our minds often work in da capo fashion. For example, the
equivalent of an A section in real life might be the thought, "I
can't believe this is happening to me". The first time we have this
thought, it might be with a sense of trepidation. But our minds, especially in
this day and age, rarely stay focused on any one thought for too long... and
that is where life's B section comes in: "This morning's bowl of Cracklin'
Oat Bran really put me in a good mood." Inevitably, we return to the
original thought, but now with more perspective and perhaps a slightly
different take. Instead of trepidation, we think with cautious optimism,
"I can't believe this is happening to me". We could easily have two
dozen such da capo episodes in
any normal day, let alone a day when our world is turned upside down, as in
Agrippina. Thinking of it this way, I realize that Handel is coloring our
internal human processes with his prolific musical ingenuity. I encourage you
all to come see how the psychological progression of each da capo aria plays out.
STAY TUNED: More behind the
scenes musings, interviews, photos, and gossip to come.
- Anthony

Topics: Agrippina, Backstage at BLO

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