Daniel grew up singing in church and doing musical theatre. When I was in University I hit a crossroads. I grew up in Kansas City and I had never seen an opera, and knew no one in the arts. I took a semester off my second year at University and saw my first opera at the Kirov in 1990 right before the Soviet Union collapsed. The bug bit me! I said to my voice-teacher that Id love to be on the stage. He made me pause and think about what I really wanted to go for. I decided not to go into music education but to give a run at performance. I did auditions for conservatories to do advance studies and was accepted at four of the five. Then I spent four years in New York at the Juilliard School, and I got into the training programme with Houston Grand Opera and was fortunate to understudy some great singers. This really lit the fire in me, and its still going.
Daniels repertoire seems focussed on classical and contemporary music, and a fondness for the lyrical. The high lyric baritone repertoire Ive definitely favoured. Ive not yet done any Donizetti, but I have finally done my first Figaro this last year. Im still exploring this repertoire and Im not quite ready to leave it yet.
In Cosi Daniel takes the role of Guglielmo, one of two officers who test the fidelity of the sisters they are respectively engaged to. The opera is subtle; theres nowhere to hide, its a real test of characterisation. The word subtle is a strong perception, and its my perception of Cosi as well. I consider Cosi a singers opera. As a spectator I was always curious about it. OK, its lovely music, but what does it mean, how do you make sense of the end? They do these things to each other and then theres this happy chorus at the end, everybody smiling.
John Cox is directing the Garsington/Barbican performances and has created something quite extraordinary. These six people, in particular the two couples, once the journey starts, it unravels; the boys have to follow it through and come into the game so unbelievably naïve and come out destroyed theyve destroyed a friendship and their perceptions of love. But these people are fortunate that theyve learnt lessons in one day rather than the years it takes most of us. As its the girls fidelity thats under scrutiny, it could be argued that Cosi is a sexist opera. It is. Absolutely! But the tables turn and the boys have to realise theyre playing the game too. Theyre afraid to look in the mirror. Nobody comes out an innocent. And Im not sure theres much to like about Guglielmo.
That just leaves Mozart. For Daniel, the meat of Cosi is in the characterisation; the ensembles musically are the greatest Mozart composed. He was able to tap-in so honestly to human emotion and psyche. If you really take the risk to explore that then its fascinating for an audience to look at. Theres incredible human drama thats no different to what we read in the tabloids today. And then you toss-in this beautiful music!
- Cosi fan tutte, 17 July, Barbican Hall
- Mostly Mozart
- The above article was published in Whats On in London on 7 July and is reproduced here with permission