Monday, November 8, 2010

Risky Baritone Business

Gerald Finley, the Canadian born baritone has come a long way from his reluctant musical beginnings as a child. But it soon became clear that music was in the cards when at a young age he was promoted to head choirboy at his church in Ottawa. Suddenly football and sleigh rides became less of a priority.

What makes Finley so unique, along with his wonderful voice, is the diverse repertoire he chooses to perform. Yes, he does the Mozart and Verdi roles, but then he also does works by Tobias Picker, Mark-Anthony Turnage and John Adams.

Turnage is responsible for "Anna Nicole," drawn from the tabloid life of Anna Nicole Smith to be performed with the Royal Opera in London, in which Finley will be featured. Before that however, he will sing the part of prince Golaud in Debussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande," to be performed at the Metropolitan Opera.

While only the test of time will determine if material such as "Anna Nicole" will persevere and be successful, clearly Finley is pushing himself in singing the standard roles along with exploring what is new in opera today. And he has the chops to do it.

While one would think singing a role in a modern, untested opera would be nerve wracking, the most daunting role for Finley is the bass's entrance in Handel's "Messiah" after the long opening aria by the tenor. "Frogs have been known to spawn in my throat while I'm waiting," he says. Finley will be performing the Messiah this week with the New York Philharmonic.

Gerald Finley is an exciting performer who clearly is willing to take risks, and hopefully can inspire others to do the same. There are times in music and performance that risk is necessary to reach an audience. And when the risk pays off, there is no better reward, for the audience or performer.

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