Charles Castronovo, an American Tenor, Is ‘at Home Everywhere’

The Metropolitan Opera is just one of the stops in a busy itinerary for Charles Castronovo, a New York-born singer who performs around the world.

In an age of steep global competition, some tenors come and go. Not Charles Castronovo.

Since leaving the Metropolitan Opera’s program for young artists just over two decades ago, he has proved his tenacity in a range of lyric and, steadily, more dramatic roles. He compares the requisite balance of vocal refinement and mental stability to a “yin and yang” relationship.

“You have to be very sensitive to create something beautiful onstage,” he said by phone from London, “but at the same time remain quite strong because there are ups and downs in a career, let alone in life.”

Mr. Castronovo, 47, has a full schedule at leading houses on both sides of the Atlantic where he has become a regular fixture. He started the season this month as Don Ottavio in a revival production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the Royal Opera House in London. Next up is the Teatro Verdi Salerno in Italy, where he will sing the leading tenor part in Cilea’s “Adriana Lecouvreur.”

Also coveted in French-language repertoire, Mr. Castronovo will return to the Vienna and Berlin State Operas next year for Massenet’s “Manon” and Cherubini’s “Médée.” At both the Bavarian State Opera this December and at the Met, from May 26 to June 9, he will take on the classic role of Rodolfo in Puccini’s “La Bohème.”

The tenor pointed to the sincere and direct nature of the character, a poet who becomes smitten with the fatally ill seamstress, Mimi: “He’s super in love, super romantic, super jealous, super crazy — all those things at once. And you think, why did he do this? But I find his reactions to the situation very honest.”

Mr. Castronovo drew a parallel to Alfredo in Verdi’s “La Traviata,” a role that he has now sung over 200 times. “They act exactly how I would imagine a young guy in love would,” he explained.

Bertrand Langlois/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The music of Verdi will increasingly come into focus for the tenor, as his voice has grown richer and darker. This year, he will release his first solo album — of Verdi arias — on the label Delos.

He said that the works of the composer’s middle period, in particular, were “really fitting like a glove.”

“It has just a bit more oomph to it,” he continued. “It feels like the next step — probably because I have sung a lot of Mozart and other bel canto [repertoire].”

Mr. Castronovo was born in Queens in New York City and raised in California. He credits his ability to tolerate constant travel to the roots of his mother, who immigrated to the United States from Ecuador at 16 (his father is originally from Sicily). “I can find a way to feel at home everywhere,” he said.

The singer discovered opera as a teenager through a recording of Plácido Domingo in the title role in Verdi’s “Otello.”

“For me, it was like the rock ’n’ roll of classical music because it was dramatic and sexy and strong,” he recalled. “So I listened to tenors’ CDs and tried to mimic them at home. Before I knew it, that was all I could do.”

Once in his early twenties, Mr. Castronovo entered a prestigious track that included singing small roles as a resident artist at the Los Angeles Opera and joined the Lindemann Young Artists Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera. In 1999, Mr. Castronovo made his professional Met debut as Beppe in Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci.”

“In the end,” he said, “you have to get onstage as much as possible. It’s a very different thing to sing a whole role in a studio or in a lesson.”

Mr. Castronovo immediately landed leading parts at smaller American opera companies. In 2000, his career migrated to Europe with performances at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland, then at the Berlin State Opera, Vienna State Opera and Royal Opera House.

“It took off like crazy,” he recalled. “I am happy to have survived and to keep getting better. It’s [a question of] constantly readjusting; adding new roles; finding new challenges and overcoming them.”

He said he was now at a point in his development where he could allow himself to focus less on vocal technique and more on dramatic expression.

“I can concentrate more on the arc of the character and add a nuance here and there,” he said. “I feel comfortable enough technically to let myself go emotionally.”

Performing as Rodolfo at the Bavarian State Opera last season, he became so carried away that he nearly screamed the character’s utterance of “Mimi” that ends the opera as the heroine dies of consumption, also known as tuberculosis.

“When you get choked up and feel like crying, you cannot sing a perfect note,” he explained. “But I could only do it at the very end because I don’t have anything else to sing after that. It was actually perfect.”

Source: Music -


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