Barber of Seville to feature a seasoned Bartolo
February 9, 2015
Interview with Jimi James by Larry Kellum
After a decade’s absence, Rossini’s most popular and comic “Barber of Seville” celebrates its 199th birthday by returning to the CT Lyric Opera and its CT Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra for a run of five performances during the months of February and March, appearing in five venues throughout the state. The double casts consist of predominately aspiring artists, but will feature the well known and experienced bass-baritone Jimi James for some deluxe casting in the hilarious role of Dr. Bartolo. Born in Hawaii, raised on Cape Cod and currently residing in Yonkers, he is an amazingly versatile artist who has sung everything from the evil Scarpia in “Tosca” to the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan, and is a veteran of over 1000 outreach performances for children in public schools! Local music critic Larry Kellum had to pleasure to speak with him in January between “Barber” rehearsals, and here are some highlights of that informative conversation…
LK: Is this your first or only Rossini to date?
JJ: No, I have also done Dandini in “Cenerentola” (ie “Cinderella”), and have done Figaro himself. In fact, athletic as I am, I even juggled in my audition when I sang Figaro’s aria!
LK: Any favorite role, or is it, like they all say, the one you are currently singing at the moment?
JJ: Probably Guglielmo in Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte”. A fantasy dream role would be Ochs in Strauss’ “Rosenkavalier”.
LK: In my day in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, most baritones were baritones and basses were basses, barring a few exceptions like Walter Berry or Justino Diaz, but now, its seems like there is little difference between the two. Why is that?
JJ: Well, its a matter of economics today and being flexible. Of course, you have to have the notes, the range. Then, from there, you color the voice accordingly.
LK: Any great singers from the past you idolize?
JJ: Of course, Robert Merrill, but Leonard Warren does it for me…the way he moved with such ease into his upper range!
LK: You studied with Donald Miller and graduated from Syracuse, but when did you realize that when you opened your mouth, there was a sound there that wasn’t the norm, a sound that was “operatic”?
JJ: When I was 13. Professionally, full-time, I have been singing for about 12 years now since those undergrad days.
LK: What is like working with CLO’s resident diva Jurate Svedaite as stage director of this production? She sang Rosina 10 years ago when this company last offered the work.
JJ: She is absolutely great, because she knows the opera inside out. Whenever you get a singer directing, it is always better because they are so open to other singers’opinions and concepts, while still having solid ideas of their own from their own experiences!!
LK: We will all eagerly await your five performances. For more information visit this website.