Producing a Richard Wagner work is like climbing Mount Everest for any opera company. Singers need enormous stamina to be heard over the orchestration during the four to five hours that the operas last. Most of Wagner’s works also require large choruses, elaborate settings and a much larger orchestra than other operas.
N.C. Opera’s concert presentation Nov. 9 of the complete second act from “Tristan and Isolde” is a step toward this young company’s ultimate goal of staging a full Wagner production.
Similar to its first Wagner excerpts concert in January 2013, this presentation will have an 80-piece orchestra on stage with the performers in front. They’ll sing in the original German with supertitles projected in English. The second act of “Tristan and Isolde” includes the famous 30-minute love duet between the doomed lovers.
Only a handful of singers in any generation can meet all of Wagner’s demands, and this concert features two of them. Tenor Jay Hunter Morris gained fame by taking over the taxing role of Siegfried at the last minute for the Metropolitan Opera’s complete “Ring Cycle” in 2011. Heidi Melton has sung in “Ring Cycle” performances from San Francisco to Berlin and at the Met.
Timothy Myers, N.C. Opera’s artistic director and conductor for this concert, minces no words about these two.
“It’s not hyperbole to say that this is a world-class experience,” he said. “Representatives from various big opera companies are coming to hear it, and other big companies have told me they’d put this cast on their stage any time.”
In recent phone conversations, Melton and Morris spoke about their roles, what drives them to tackle Wagner’s punishing challenges and how they balance their work and private lives. Here are excerpts from those conversations: