Joseph Kaiser, a young Canadian tenor whose singing, charisma and good looks are making quite an impression in the opera world, will give his first Metropolitan Opera performances on October 3, 6 and 11 as Romeo in Gounod's Rom_o et Juliette. He replaces Rolando Villaz‹n, who earlier in August withdrew from his next two months of performances due to health problems.
In order to make his Met debut, however, Kaiser has had to postpone his Los Angeles Opera debut. In early October he was set to sing the role of Steva in the company premiere of Janšcek's Jenufa, in the Olivier Tambosi production starring Karita Mattila that has wowed audiences at the Met and Covent Garden.
As L.A. Opera general director Plšcido Domingo put it in a statement, "when illness forced ... Villaz‹n to withdraw from several Metropolitan Opera performances of Rom_o et Juliette, the Met made a special request that Mr. Kaiser be released from his contract in order to replace Mr. Villaz‹n as Rom_o for three performances which I will conduct."
This won't be the first time Kaiser has stepped into the role of Gounod's Rom_o on short notice: he covered the role for Matthew Polenzani at Lyric Opera of Chicago last November and performed on November 27, which Polenzani missed for the birth of his son.
A Montreal native who turns 30 just a few days after his Met debut, Kaiser (who began his career as a baritone) was a winner of Domingo's own Operalia competition in 2005 and reached the finals of the Met's National Council Auditions that same year. He played Tamino in actor/filmmaker Kenneth Branagh's recent movie version of Mozart's Magic Flute, and he takes the same role in the Met's popular Julie Taymor staging of the opera for four performances in November.
Filling in as Steva in the Los Angeles Jenufa will be a specialist in the opera: Jorma Silvasti, who played both of the opera's lead tenor roles at the Met this past season.