20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS WITH: Bass-Baritone John Relyea

Classic Arts Features   20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS WITH: Bass-Baritone John Relyea
Toronto-born bass-baritone John Relyea has been praised for the distinctive richness of his voice and his captivating stage presence.


An alumnus of San Francisco Opera's famed Merola Program, and winner of the Richard Tucker Award (2003), and the Fourth Annual Beverly Sills Award (2009),

Relyea made his debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 2000 and has since appeared in many of the world's leading opera houses, and with leading orchestra in the U.S. and abroad. Among the highlights of his current season are his performances as Escamillo in the Met's production of Bizet's Carmen, and the title role in Massenet's Don Quixote at Seattle Opera.

1. A few works of classical music that you adore:

Ralph Vaughan-Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; Rimsky-Korsakov: Sheherazade; Stravinsky: Firebird; Bernstein: Chichester Psalms

2. Classical music recordings that you treasure:

The Boulez recording of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle; the Solti recording of Mahler Symphony No. 8; any Kleiber recording of Beethoven symphonies

3. Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings:

Cassandra Wilson: New Moon Daughter, or Thunderbird; Air: Talkie Walkie; Soundgarden: any album; Radiohead: OK Computer; Coldplay: A Rush of Blood to the Head

4. Music that makes you cry _ any genre:

"InTrutina" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana; Marietta's Lied from Korngold's Die Tote Stadt; "Friede mein Herz" from Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony; Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ

5. Definitely underrated work(s) or composer (s):


6. Possibly overrated work(s) or composer (s):

Ravel's Bolero

7. Live music performance (s) you attended _ any genre _ that you'll never forget:

Once saw a riveting performance of Wozzeck in 1989, starring Alan Monk and Judith Forst; a brilliant San Francisco Symphony performance with Michael Tilson Thomas playing piano in Rhapsody in Blue; The Van Halen Reunion tour 2 years ago; the Flamenco dance group, Maria Benitez, performing live in Santa Fe about 10 years ago _ talk about TALENT!!!

8. A few relatively recent films you love:

Inglorious Basterds; District 9; Babies; Up; How to Train your Dragon

9. A few films you consider classics:

There Will be Blood; Apocalypse Now; Raging Bull; Miller's Crossing; Shawshank Redemption

10. A book (or two) that is important to you (and why):

"Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut _ a brilliant mix of Fiction/biography/Scifi/and comedy

11. Thing(s) about yourself that you're most proud of:

My sons; winning the Beverly Sills and Richard Tucker awards; that I can play pretty much any song by Jimi Hendrix note for note.

12. Thing(s) about yourself that you're embarrassed by:

I am extremely bad at memorizing people's names! Wearing tights or silly hats in an opera costume

13. Three things you can't live without:

My family! My guitars! My stereo system!

14. "When I want to get away from it all I..."

Get out the guitar

15. "People are surprised to find out that I..."

Used to play lead guitar in a Heavy Metal/Grunge/Funk band

16. "My favorite cities are..."

Seattle; London; Salzburg; New York

17. "I have a secret crush on..."

Anne Hathaway

18. "My most obvious guilty pleasure is..."

Drinking lots of wine

19. "I'd really love to meet _ or to have met..."

David Bowie

20. "I never understood why..."

So many people allow critics to dictate their own opinions.


21. Question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer to that question):

Q: What else would you like to do if you weren't in Classical Music?

A: I would like to be a firefighter!

Past installments of 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS:

Pianist Yuja Wang

Pianist Kirill Gerstein

Organist Cameron Carpenter

Choreographer Peter Martins

Soprano Diana Damrau

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein

Pianist David Fray

Violinist Sarah Chang

Pianist Ingrid Fliter

Mezzo-Soprano Joyce DiDonato

Pianist Yefim "Fima" Bronfman

Soprano Sandrine Piau

Soprano Natalie Dessay

Harpsichordist and Conductor Christophe Rousset

Guitarist Xuefei Yang

Tenor Giuseppe Filianoti

Soprano Nicole Cabell

Pianist Jonathan Biss

Tenor Ian Bostridge

Soprano Danielle de Niese

New-Music Sextet eighth blackbird

Composer and Violinist Mark O'Connor

Composer Jake Heggie

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon

Pianist David Greilsammer


Albert Imperato, a music promoter who co-founded 21C Media Group in January 2000, writes frequently about the arts for various publications and blogs.

His new series, 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS, is his take on (and nod to) Vanity Fair's "Proust Questionnaire."

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