Texan Scott Hendricks is Mr. Versatile; the world-famous baritone has graced the stages of many of the finest opera houses around the world, including the Royal Opera House and the Met, singing all the great Italian, Russian, French, English, and even Czech roles. Next month, Mr. Hendricks is starring in the title role of John Adams’ Nixon in China, a work that premiered in 1987, at Houston Grand Opera. We are so thankful that Mr. Hendricks was willing to sit down with Opera Sense and answer a few of our questions about this fascinating work.
You have an impressive and diverse performing background! That said, I’ve yet to meet an opera lover who didn’t have one or two operas that s/he was particularly fond of. What are the operas you’ll never get sick of no matter how many times you hear them?
You’re absolutely right! My two favorites are Don Carlo and Otello. Verdi is, without a doubt, my favorite opera composer.
Looking at your 2016 – 2017 season, I see it all: lots of Italian and then some English, French, and even Czech! How does the language affect the way you sing and approach a role? Do you have a favorite language to sing in? Is there one that feels more natural to your voice?
Honestly, I prepare all of my roles in the same manner. I will, however, start my preparation a bit sooner if I’m not as familiar with the language, for example Russian, Czech … Technically speaking, I always sing with my natural voice, no matter what language I’m singing in.
I sing in Italian more than any other language, so it’s safe to say I feel quite comfortable singing in opera’s “official” lingua. I also feel at ease singing in German, and in my native tongue as well.
You’re from Texas. You’ve performed all over the world. How do American audiences compare to the audiences of Europe? Do you have a favorite house to perform in?
To be honest, it’s hard to compare. I wouldn’t even know how to make this comparison because European audiences between themselves are so diverse. French audiences are different than Italian audiences, Italian audiences are different than German audiences, etc.
Do I have a favorite house to sing in? Now you’re trying to get me in trouble! I love them all.
I find Nixon in China very easy on the ear. There are soaring melodies and consonant harmonies, as well as contemporary compositional techniques.
You’re soon going to be playing the title role in John Adams’ Nixon is China. Is this a role debut for you? Have you been in other Adams productions?
Yes, Nixon is indeed a role debut and I’m really looking forward to it! I’ve also sung the Captain in the Death of Klinghoffer (John Adams) many years ago.
So many of the operas we know and love are 100 – 300 years old. Nixon in China is practically brand new when compared to those. What advice would you give to operagoers who may be well versed in traditional works yet are a bit reluctant when it comes to contemporary works?
The only advice I can give is to try and attend the performance with an open mind. Give it a chance! The genre’s continued survival and relevance depends on it!
Can audience members expect to hear anything that resembles “traditional” opera sounds in Nixon in China?
Absolutely! I find Nixon in China very easy on the ear. There are soaring melodies and consonant harmonies, as well as contemporary compositional techniques… This piece definitely has both “sugar and spice.”
What should patrons listen for in Nixon in China? What in the music adds to the drama or storytelling?
The composition itself is so strong, both musically and dramatically, I honestly feel the patrons will be “hooked” from the opening chorus. And James Robinson’s production is so visually stunning… the music, the text, and the production all fit together seamlessly.
How would you describe the portrayal of Richard Nixon in Nixon in China? Are there certain musical passages that reveal something about the character that we don’t get in the text and visuals?
It’s a bit too early to properly answer this question as we started rehearsing just over a week ago. As a matter of fact, my homework over the Christmas break is to watch a few interviews involving Nixon in order to get a better feel for his mannerisms, gestures, etc.