At your SummerStage concert, which launches the Met's Summer Recital Series, you're singing mainly arias plus a few popular songs. Which comes more naturally to you: the Champagne Aria or "Some Enchanted Evening"?
It's difficult to choose! I've had so many good memories singing both. Don Giovanni is the character I've played most in the opera world, and "Some Enchanted Evening" is the song I've been singing eight times a week for more than a year and half.
You're so well known for South Pacific, and next season you'll make your Met debut in Shostakovich's The Nose. What are the different challenges of opera versus musical theater?
I don't really see the differences as much as the similarities. For instance, you take Mozart and Da Ponte: recitatives going to arias. And then you have Rodgers and Hammerstein: scenes going directly into songs. It's exactly the same thing, the same pattern. The challenge is to create a smooth transition from the scene or recitative to the song or aria.
Can you describe your opera background?
I studied singing in Poland for many years, but my operatic debut was in São Paulo as Figaro in The Barber of Seville. My debut here in New York was in 2003 with City Opera as Escamillo in Carmen, and my European debut was in Marseille as Eugene Onegin in 2004. Since then I've sung in many opera houses in Europe and the United States. It's been more than 50 opera productions so far.
And next season you'll add William Kentridge's new production of The Nose to your resume. Are you learning the role now, while performing in South Pacific? How do you balance the two?
It's hard work! But The Nose is a great piece. Shostakovich's music is very interesting to listen to but very complicated to play, and for singers it's a nightmare to memorize. You need time for your brain to get used to the intervals, the rhythmic changes. So it's better to start very early and do a little bit every day.
What do you love most about The Nose?
The challenge. For a singer to learn this part is very difficult. South Pacific was my first musical, and I was scared about the speaking part at the beginning. But it's a challenge that I'm very pleased I accepted. The Nose is the next one.
Monday, July 13, 2009 at 8:00 pm: Central Park SummerStage
Paulo Szot, baritone
Lisette Oropesa, soprano
Alek Shrader, tenor
Vlad Iftinca, pianist
For details, visit the Metropolitan Opera.