Autor: admin
Datum objave: 06.06.2018

Interview with Charles Castronovo

Recognized as one of the finest lyric tenors before the public today, New York-born and California-raised Charles Castronovo has been charming the public

Interview with Charles Castronovo

Recognized as one of the finest lyric tenors before the public today, New York-born and California-raised Charles Castronovo has been charming the public with his renditions of the works of Mozart, Puccini, Bizet, Gounod, Massenet and Donizetti among others.  In all of these he demonstrates his warm tone, easy line, wonderful stylistic awareness and use of language combined with a remarkable ability to enter into the very core of a character.  His recent engagements have included Des Grieux in Toulouse, Nemorino in Vienna, Faust in Baden-Baden and Tebaldo in Paris.  I caught up with Mr Castronovo between his outstanding performances as Rodolfo at the Royal Opera.

Your performances as Rodolfo here at the Royal Opera showed an ability to completely enter into the soul of the character and give us an incredibly honest and believable portrayal.  Who is Rodolfo for you and what are the challenges and the rewards of singing the role?

I would say that Rodolfo is one of best tenor parts ever – it’s gorgeous, it’s emotional, it has some of the most beautiful music, it has the happy moments, it has everything!  It’s an ideal tenor role.  I find him very realistic.  For me he’s a typical man, he’s kind of frisky, he’s romantic.  He does get jealous even though in the third act we see that it’s a kind of façade for him being so worried.  I think especially when we’re younger we can be a little insecure, hence comes the jealousy.  He’s a real pleasure to play because he’s very honest.

For Puccini I’ve only sung Rondine and Bohème and this is basically my second run of Bohème.  I think with this music it can be quite thick sometimes in the orchestra, but you have to stay focused and it has to be quite voluptuous at the same time.  I focused a lot when I was getting ready for the role on making sure that the core is really getting through, some of that extra little buzz in the voice.  It’s a really fine balance of making sure it’s very present and cut and it’s still fluid and not squilante all the time. The third act is the most emotional.  I won’t say dramatic because it’s not that the orchestration is any bigger than any other section, it’s the emotion of it and it’s easy to go sometimes a little too far with it.  You always want to feel involved, sometimes you let your voice and your body do more than it really needs to in the effort to communicate all your emotion.  At the end for example when you sing ‘Mimì’, if you’re really involved it’s hard to sing ‘Mimì’, not because it’s such a high note but because you’re almost breaking up a bit because you feel you want to cry. I think in this case when he says ‘Mimì’, if there’s a sigh or a little shake to it, it actually works because he should be basically breaking down into a million pieces.  There’s a fine balance to controlling it a bit and becoming emotional.

Let’s talk a little bit about Mozart, because you started your career with Mozart and you moved on from Mozart into Puccini.  How much has singing Mozart influenced your technique?

I think it influenced my technique hugely in positive ways.  At the same time, you don’t use that many high notes in Mozart.  If you sing only Mozart, even if you do have great high notes, you never use them. The next time you do a role that has a B-flat or a B-natural it feels like it’s in the stratosphere.  At the beginning of my career when I sang a lot of Mozart I found that I had to stretch myself in between shows or even during a Mozart role, I would stretch myself higher so that I didn’t forget what it feels like.  Mozart is constantly in the passaggio so I always have been in very good control of my passaggio.  For a tenor it’s really the most important part.  Of course, high notes are the money notes and you need them but most of the time you’re singing in the passaggio.  That’s been the positive aspect of singing Mozart.  It’s so exposed, you have to stay controlled but it’s still emotional.  I never sang Mozart with my gloves on.  I always sang it more Italianate and because of that I think it made it more virile.  There are still certain parameters you have to stay in though.  I found it a major positive thing for me to sing lots of Mozart – and I still sing most of my Mozart roles – Ferrando, Ottavio, Flute.

How do you decide which roles to take on?

It sounds a little crazy but since I first started I was a huge listener, especially to tenors.  Basically what I did, when I was first starting out, was that I made a list and found as many biographies as I could of my favourite tenors.  At the back of the book they always show when they debuted roles for the first time and I would just check how old they were.  I would then make a chart.  Of course, when you listen so much you start to figure out where you belong in that map of tenors for yourself.  Are you closer to Correlli or are you closer to Kraus? If you have any ear at all you start to figure out for yourself.  So I took people like Gedda, Kraus, Tagliavini, even Pavarotti, and I saw what they were doing in their career and I just thought ‘where do I fit in there?’  It gave me at least a marker.  Of course every voice is different and of course as I got to know the repertoire so well, I started to listen to myself how it felt. And I have always been patient.

I just turned 39 and this is only my second Bohème. I could have done many more but I just didn’t accept them all.  The example I would use that was for me the most obvious, even 10 years ago, I got my first offer for Lucia and I said ‘no, I don’t want to sing it yet’, so I dodged it for 4 or 5 years and finally got an offer to do it in Brussels.  It was a long rehearsal period, it’s a small theatre, a nice acoustic so I said ‘I think I’ll try it now’.  I did it, it went well, I didn’t think it was perfect and so I put it away.  I had no problem doing that.  I never take a role that I think I really can’t sing, of course, but if they invite you for something three years from now, how do you really know? It’s difficult.  When I took the Lucia, it was good but I knew that it wasn’t exactly right yet so I put it away and now I’m ready and looking forward to doing it again soon.

You grew up in Southern California, to a Sicilian father and an Ecuadorian mother.  To what extent does that influence your approach to music and language?

That’s a good question.  My parents were immigrants, they came over to America – my mother was 15 years old, my father I think came over when he was 16.  It was a different kind of mentality then so they didn’t use their native languages with us constantly.  It was like a mix.  First off, my father spoke Sicilian, which is quite different from Italian and my mother spoke Spanish and it was always mixed up.  Of course I have a great ear for languages; I have no problems singing in any language.  How it affects me with how I actually sing, I think it’s a positive thing.  Because in my family, there are not many musicians but they are very colourful and loud and open.  I think I have a bit of that.  Since I was a kid I always wanted to perform, I was in the plays or in a band – I was in three rock bands.  All the time I was performing something.  I think that has to do not just with my personality but with my family background.

Talking about languages, when I hear you sing in French it’s fantastic because there are so many singers, even native French speakers, who have trouble with it.  You have a lot of French roles in your repertoire, how do you overcome the difficulties with the language?

I prefer to sing in French more than maybe any other language.  I don’t know why, I think it’s just the nature of my voice because I usually sing the best vocally, when I don’t need to do anything extremely declamatory but more kind of legato, more elegant.  It’s more natural to me.  French repertoire really suits me better in general.  The language itself, I just love, so when you love it, you pay attention and because I’m not a native French speaker, I pay even more attention to make sure I get it right.  When I’m in France singing a French opera usually everyone says ‘wow, we understand every word you sang, it’s really good’.  Perhaps I roll some of my ‘r’s a little too much but I think that’s more of a vocal thing.  With the vowels, you don’t need to move so much and I feel vocally I have the least amount of stress, singing in French.  Of course the roles are amazing – with Roméo or Des Grieux for example, you have the lyric and the dramatic sections, they’re huge challenges and I find them extremely gratifying.

And then you have Berlioz’ Faust in your repertoire too…

Yes, this is something different because it’s so cerebral.  It’s not a matter of who has the best arias or not, it’s just a complete piece.  But doing something like this is so interesting.  It’s not like Gounod which always has beautiful melodies and more structure, Berlioz is more unconventional and very satisfying.  Of course, you have the two beautiful arias and you feel like you’ve really accomplished something at the end of it.

Another interesting thing that I’ve found has been helpful, maybe because I was in all those rock bands, is that I developed a very good reinforced voix mixte.  I think personally, it’s from singing in a lot of bands and in French music you can use it often.  I sang Pearl Fishers many times.  If you sing ‘je crois entendre encore’ full voice it ruins the mood.  So, I can sing this kind of reinforced voix mixte, still do a piano, it sounds full but it’s not tense.  And only in French music can you really use this, so I use it when I can.  For example in ‘ange adorée’ in Damnation de Faust, I do use it and it sounds connected, it sounds full but it’s not screaming your guts out.  That’s why I like French music.

Your most recent recording was an album of Neapolitan songs, which you also performed in London, in concert in an intimate setting.  Tell us a little more about that album.

That was just like a passion project for me.  I always loved that music.  One of my favourite tenors is Di Stefano. He has a lot of recordings of the Neapolitan songs and there’s something very honest and beautiful about them.  I thought it would be great to do them in a more intimate way.  I missed playing with a band and I thought ‘why don’t I just put together a small group?’.  I found some guys and we made our own arrangements of the songs.  I chose the songs and I tried to mix it with things that are not so popular because there are so many little gems that people don’t normally do.  Of course there are some famous ones on the album too.  We did some concerts and it was such a great feeling.  Someone had heard about it who has a small, boutique label and said ‘this would be great, why don’t we record it?’.  So we did.  People seem to like it, it’s fun, there’s a great mix of songs and it really was an ode to my background on my father’s side.  My grandfather always wanted a singer in the family but there were none and I was only 11 when he died so he never got a chance to hear it.  My next idea is to do something similar, also with a small group, maybe different instruments but all Spanish, Latin music from my mom’s side.  Not just music from Ecuador but things from South America, maybe a few Spanish things because my great-grandfather came over from Spain to Ecuador.  I need to do more exploring, find some good music, find a nice line in there. That’s an idea that’s brewing.

That brings us nicely to our last question, which is talking about the future. Tell us a little bit more about your future plans

I’ve always paced myself well.  There are some years where I have more new roles – this year, I’ve had a couple. Bohème was basically new, I’ve only done it once. I did Manon the first time, just this last year which I was very excited about.  I have some interesting things – I’m doing another Faust, which will only be my third I think, it’s in Turin, coming up this season.  I’ll be doing some more Damnation de Faust with the Berlin Philharmonic in Berlin and Baden-Baden.  I’m doing Rondine again in Berlin, that’ll be fun because Rolando Villazón is directing the opera.  I still have some of my Mozart roles – I don’t do them as often as I used to, there’s still a few in there.  I’m still doing some bel canto – I have a new Lucia coming up that I’m really looking forward to.  I’ll be doing my first Lensky in Vienna, in March/April next year.  I’m also making my debut in Barcelona soon in September and I’ve never sung there which I’m looking forward to.

I have some interesting projects – I’m always interested in doing the French repertoire, even if it’s unknown.  Next year I’m doing a concert performance of a Gounod piece called Cinq-Mars, which is never done. It’s going to be a mini-tour that we’re doing in Munich, Vienna and Versailles.  I’m not adding anything too much of a jump, I’m basically staying in my normal, lyric repertoire.

We’ve talked about different things.  For example someone asked me about Adorno in Boccanegra in 2017.  I’ll be 40-something. I’m not going to hurt myself especially if the soprano is lyric, so I’m considering it.  It’s kind of like a next step in Verdi and one day my dream would be to sing Ballo – I’m in no rush but it’s a long term plan.  When I’m thinking about a role, I’ll sing through it a bit and then I’ll be really honest with myself – if I feel I’m going to be too stressed to do it or if I have to push to the outer limits all the time, then I might wait.  I’ve been asked many times to sing Don Carlos in French, which in a way is kind of tempting, it’s more lyric but it’s still long and it’s still Don Carlos, so I said no, but who knows what can happen – it’s a great piece and it would be interesting in French.  I feel I would be more suited to the French version even though it’s longer than the four-act Italian.  I’ve also been offered Don José.  There are a few big phrases in it but it’s still lyric.  I didn’t accept anything yet but it gets you thinking, even Gedda sang it – a lot of lyric tenors sang it also.  I think for now my main goal is to keep singing most of the repertoire that I sing, mixing in the Mozart and the bel canto and doing the French stuff but little by little adding new roles.  Maybe I’d like to do some more Bohèmes now, get back to Lucia.  Things like that.  Lyric things.


OPERNFOTOS: Neuproduktion von "Carmen" in der Deutschen Oper Berlin

Charles Castronovo

LAST NAME :Castronovo


BIRTH DATE :19/06/1975

NATIONALITY :United states



CONTACT :Zemsky/Green Artists Management ( Bruce Zemsky, Alan Green ) 104 W73 Street Suite 1 New York NY 10023 USA Courriel:,  Téléphone: +1 212 579 67 00 Télécopie: +1 212 579 47 23

Clémentine Margaine

The Inevitability of Fate: Carmen at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin

Bizet – Carmen

Carmen – Clémentine Margaine

Don José – Charles Castronovo

Micaëla – Heidi Stober

Escamillo – Markus Brück

Frasquita – Nicole Haslett

Mercédès – Jana Kurucová

Moralès – Philipp Jekal

Le Dancaïre – Dean Murphy

Remendado – Huang Ya-Chung

Zuniga – Tobias Kehrer

Kinderchor der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin / Ivan Repušić.

Stage director – Ole Anders Tandberg.

Deutsche Oper, Berlin, Germany.  Saturday, January 20th, 2018.

A role debut is always an exciting moment both for an artist and for a spectator.  The years of anticipation, of preparation, of finally revealing something to the public that had previously only been heard in the rehearsal room.  When it is also done in the context of a new production – that expectation is magnified.  Tonight marked the role debut of Charles Castronovo, a singer well established in the French repertoire, as Don José – one of opera’s most iconic roles.  Joined by an interesting cast, it was performed in this new staging by Ole Anders Tandberg.  Tandberg is a new name to me, but based on the evidence of this Carmen, I would certainly like to see more of his work.  His staging was given quite a hostile reception by the Deutsche Oper audience, but the comments overheard in the lobby afterwards were much more positive.  Whereas Dmitri Tcherniakov in Aix’s staging made the work very much Don José’s story, here Tandberg focuses on the Carmen-Don José dichotomy.  He illustrates José’s descent from quiet mommy’s boy, who doesn’t really fit into the world of the military, to dangerous murderer.  In so doing he brings out the inevitability of José’s fate.  José always had the murderer inside of him – he was ready to castrate Zuniga when he came knocking for Carmen at the end of Act 2.  So much of what Tandberg did was based in the text.  As José sang ‘jamais femme avant toi, aussi profondément n’avait troublé mon âme’, it was clear that this was very much José first experience of falling in love – thereby bringing out José’s journey with vital immediacy.  The constant presence of fate and its implications was made clear from the opening scene.  As soon as we hear the fate motif for the first time, Carmen appears, dressed in a flamenco dress with plumes of smoke from her cigarette rising to the air.

If there’s a downside to Tandberg’s staging it’s that, at times, it feels too self-consciously clever – the flamenco dresses for Carmen, Frasquita and Mercédès in a way make it feel like a parody of a traditional staging.  Though, at the same time, the way the three entered at the start of Act 3 as flamenco Charlie’s Angels was actually quite memorable.  In fact, that was the strength of Tandberg’s staging, his ability to create memorable stage pictures and imagery – the plumes of smoke in the cigarette factory, the sight of the crowd waving handkerchiefs in the opening of Act 4, or Micaëla walking through dead bodies during her aria, seeing for herself the destruction that Carmen leaves in her wake.

Tandberg also made plentiful use of black humour – often phallic in nature.  In addition to the aforementioned castration, we saw Escamillo cutting off a bull’s balls and handing them to Carmen.  We also had the smugglers dressed as ghosts and the chanson bohème included soldiers dry humping a wall.  In doing so, Tandberg reinforced the work’s origin as an opéra comique.  Not all of his imagery felt completely understandable – there were a few moments in which I did wonder what on earth was going on.  Yet, this dark humour felt surprisingly at one with the work.  This was also a staging where the women were strong.  Micaëla, far from the shrinking violet we usually see, was almost raped by soldiers in the opening scene yet managed to fight them off with a light slap.  Carmen, was also a fiercely strong and independent woman, clearly the leader of her pack.

It was a challenging evening for the cast.  While the applause at the curtain call was unanimous for the singers, there was some disgraceful behaviour from members of the audience who booed the production while individuals were singing.  Surely these people must realize that their actions can have an effect on artists who are doing everything possible to bring a director’s vision to life?  Despite this, the cast gave completely of themselves all night, absolutely dedicated to Tandberg’s vision.  Clémentine Margaine was a splendid Carmen.  The voice is big, round and voluptuous.  From her very first entry, as she worked it across the stage, it was clear that she would be an exceptional Carmen.  She made plentiful use of a fabulously juicy chest register, and the beauty of tone was beguiling, always even in emission.  While her native pronunciation was a pleasure to hear, I do wish that she had done a little more with the text – used it colour the line more, rather than occasionally singing over it.  The card scene revealed a seemingly infinite depth of texture in her chest register.  Most impressive.  Margaine rose to a final scene of raw power, not only through her uninhibited physicality but also her daring descents through the registers.

That final scene also registered thanks to Castronovo’s concentrated, psychologically sophisticated evolution of his character.  His ‘il est temps encore’ to Carmen was a tender entreaty, making one believe that maybe there was a glimmer of happiness possible for Carmen and José.  Likewise, at the end of Act 3, his cries of ‘je te tiens’ were not those of a brutal bruiser, but the threats of a quiet man who when pushed would rise to the ultimate crime.  In his ‘la fleur que tu m’avais jetée’ he gave us some heart-breaking singing, his use of text and the way that he coloured the tone really brought out the flourish of first, obsessive love that José was experiencing.  He found so much tenderness and longing in that familiar number, in a way that I had never heard before

Indeed, Castronovo’s use of vocal colouring was masterful – the high B-flat at the climax of the aria was bright and shimmering, then shaded down in a captivating diminuendo to a single thread of sound.  It was a privilege to see such an exciting role debut and I look forward to seeing Castronovo develop in the role as time goes on.

The remainder of the cast reflected the high standards of the house.  Heidi Stober was a very musical Micaëla, phrasing her music with love and affection.  The tone has a tendency to shallowness at the top and her diction is somewhat foggy but her easy line made for grateful listening.  Markus Brück’s Escamillo was initially somewhat rough – his big number sung with grainy, effortful tone – but the text was certainly clear.  The quality of the supporting roles was high, particularly Nicole Haslett’s Frasquita who I would certainly like to hear as Micaëla at some point.  Diction was good on the whole.  The chorus was excellent – warm tone, well blended and no ungrateful war of vibratos.  The children’s chorus was deliciously raucous and had excellent French.  Ensemble was solid but there were a few passing moments of stage parting company with pit, inevitable on a first night.

The intonation of the band was not always spot on, the strings at times quite raw in tuning.  We did get some characterful brass playing though.  Ivan Repušić’s conducting kicked the evening off with a loud, brash and very quick overture.  The almost total absence of dialogue meant that numbers followed each other in quick succession.  His conducting was always efficient and never drew undue attention to itself, although tension had a tendency to sag in places.

This was an evening that divided the public although, as I mentioned above, they clearly appreciated the singing.  I found Tandberg’s staging to be intelligent and fluent, true to the opéra comique origins of the work, full of scatological humour and that put the women front and centre where they belong.  Yet, we never lost sight of the fact that this is the story of two people – the tragedy of she who will not be tamed, and he, who was capable of love but doomed to violence.  We were given performances of astounding psychological depth from two outstanding singing actors.

Charles Castronovo performed as Don José at the Deutsche Oper Berlin

For the first time in January, tenor Charles Castronovo performed as Don José in Bizet’s Carmen at the Deutsche Oper Berlin where he will be back from 30 May 2018 with mezzo Clémentine Margaine as Carmen.

Carmen Deutsche OperBerlin FROM 09 JUNE TO 16 JUNE 2018

Program Bizet : Carmen Performers

Conductor : Ivan Repusic Director : Ole Anders Tandberg

Clémentine Margaine (Carmen)

Charles Castronovo (Don José)

Dong-Hwan Lee (Escamillo)

Federica Lombardi (Micaela)




See this Opera in Streaming

Carmen is among the renowned operas in the world, composed by Georges Bizet. The play was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, and based on a short story by Prosper Merimee.

Carmen's intoxicating melodies together with the atmosphere represent the misery and emotions of these characters.

It is a fascinating opera full of affection and jealousy, and with an awesome performance which makes this Carmen most enjoyable and dramatic for any first time operagoer. Stunning, this opera is performed in almost all opera theaters in the entire world.


Carmen was first staged on 3rd March 1875 in Paris Opéra Comique.

The opera has then been recorded in various versions, since 1908 and has been the narrative of numerous screens and theater adaptations.

Act I

Spain. In Seville by a cigarette factory, soldiers comment on the townspeople. Among them is Micaëla, a peasant girl, who asks for a corporal named Don José. Moralès, another corporal, tells her he will return with the changing of the guard. The relief guard, headed by Lieutenant Zuniga, soon arrives, and José learns from Moralès that Micaëla has been looking for him. When the factory bell rings, the men of Seville gather to watch the female workers—especially their favorite, the gypsy Carmen. She tells her admirers that love is free and obeys no rules. Only one man pays no attention to her: Don José. Carmen throws a flower at him, and the girls go back to work. José picks up the flower and hides it when Micaëla returns. She brings a letter from José’s mother, who lives in a village in the countryside. As he begins to read the letter, Micaëla leaves. José is about to throw away the flower when a fight erupts inside the factory between Carmen and another girl. Zuniga sends José to retrieve the gypsy. Carmen refuses to answer Zuniga’s questions, and José is ordered to take her to prison. Left alone with him, she entices José with suggestions of a rendezvous at Lillas Pastia’s tavern. Mesmerized, he agrees to let her get away. As they leave for prison, Carmen escapes. Don José is arrested.

Act II

Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercédès entertain the guests at the tavern. Zuniga tells Carmen that José has just been released. The bullfighter Escamillo enters, boasting about the pleasures of his profession, and flirts with Carmen, who tells him that she is involved with someone else. After the tavern guests have left with Escamillo, the smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado explain their latest scheme to the women. Frasquita and Mercédès are willing to help, but Carmen refuses because she is in love. The smugglers withdraw as José approaches. Carmen arouses his jealousy by telling him how she danced for Zuniga. She dances for him now, but when a bugle call is heard he says he must return to the barracks. Carmen mocks him. To prove his love, José shows her the flower she threw at him and confesses how its scent made him not lose hope during the weeks in prison. She is unimpressed: if he really loved her, he would desert the army and join her in a life of freedom in the mountains. José refuses, and Carmen tells him to leave. Zuniga bursts in, and in a jealous rage José fights him. The smugglers return and disarm Zuniga. José now has no choice but to join them.


Carmen and José quarrel in the smugglers’ mountain hideaway. She admits that her love is fading and advises him to return to live with his mother. When Frasquita and Mercédès turn the cards to tell their fortunes, they foresee love and riches for themselves, but Carmen’s cards spell death—for her and for José. Micaëla appears, frightened by the mountains and afraid to meet the woman who has turned José into a criminal. She hides when a shot rings out. José has fired at an intruder, who turns out to be Escamillo. He tells José that he has come to find Carmen, and the two men fight. The smugglers separate them, and Escamillo invites everyone, Carmen in particular, to his next bullfight. When he has left, Micaëla emerges and begs José to return home. He agrees when he learns that his mother is dying, but before he leaves he warns Carmen that they will meet again.

Act IV

Back in Seville, the crowd cheers the bullfighters on their way to the arena. Carmen arrives on Escamillo’s arm, and Frasquita and Mercédès warn her that José is nearby. Unafraid, she waits outside the entrance as the crowds enter the arena. José appears and begs Carmen to forget the past and start a new life with him. She calmly tells him that their affair is over: she was born free and free she will die. The crowd is heard cheering Escamillo. José keeps trying to win Carmen back. She takes off his ring and throws it at his feet before heading for the arena. José stabs her to death.


Carmen, a gypsy girl, mezzo soprano

Don Jose, corporal of dragoons, tenor

Escamillo, toreador, bass-baritone

Micaela, A village maiden, soprano

Zuniga, lieutenant of dragoons, bass

Morales, corporal of dragoons, baritone

Carmen the butcher: a grotesque new production at Deutsche Oper Berlin

Kategorije: Razgovor
Developed by LELOO. All rights reserved.