Tenor Brandon Jovanovich is no stranger to San Francsico Opera audiences. But in recent years, we have seen him transition from singing Puccini (Pinkerton in 2007's Madama Butterfly
and Luigi in 2009's Il Tabarro
) to Wagner (Siegmund and Froh in 2011's Ring
cycle). In his biggest assignment with the Company yet, Jovanovich is currently singing his role debut as the title role of Wagner's Lohengrin
. We asked Brandon a few questions about Lohengrin,
his fellow cast members and his favorite things to do in San Francisco.
1. The story that inspired Wagner's Lohengrin is very much a fairy-tale, and historically people have loved and connected to the story very much the same way we connect to classic fairy-tales. What about the story of Lohengrin most speaks to you?
The one emotion that seemed to draw me in when working on Lohengrin
was longing. It is the driving force (at least in my view) behind my character. Wanting to be loved, to be needed, to be human and normal. It is this longing in him that pushes the action forward, that lends urgency and beauty to the music and ultimately causes him to fall so far. Lohengrin wanted to ascend to the top of the mountain as it were and the forces of humanity wouldn't cooperate.
2. We were fortunate to present your role debuts as Siegmund and Froh in the 2011 Ring cycle and now your role debut as Lohengrin. Has singing Wagner come as a natural progression for you? Is it something you always saw yourself doing?
[Above: Brandon Jovanovich as Lohengrin with Kristinn Sigmundsson (Heinrich der Vogler) and Camilla Nylund (Elsa). Photo by Cory Weaver.]
Wagner was certainly not something that I ever saw myself singing when I first started this profession! To be honest I didn't know much about Wagner, and what I did know seemed to involve huge voices, long periods of standing around and endless singing. As my career progressed, as I aged and my voice matured, there were "suggestions" for some of my mentors, teachers and coaches that the more heroic vein of singing was something that I should look into, and to be honest I had kept it at bay for some time. I turned down quite a few roles in the Wagner canon before accepting the Ring cycle here last year. I'm glad that I waited. It is a daunting evening, and a little maturity helps.
3. You are singing this production with a cast full of veteran Wagnerian singers. What is it like to work with Camilla, Petra, Gerd and Kristinn?
Yeah, it is hard to forget that every other major role in this production is filled with artists who have sung their respective roles a number of times each! They are all terrific, and they have each been able to contribute to my performance in their own way. From a simple word of encouragement, to a revelation about a past Lohengrin that helped me think about certain phrases differently. The one single contributing factor would be the level of excellence. When surrounded by a high standard and quality of musicianship, professionalism and character development, you can't help but "up your game" as it were.
4. This is your fourth visit to San Francisco to sing with the opera. Any favorite local things you like to do when you are here?
Yes, it is crazy to think that I have been able to visit this city so many times! In all honesty, there isn't one specific thing that I do when I am here. I like to explore in general. From Muir Woods, to Pier 39 and a hot bread bowl of clam chowder at Boudin's. I like to try out new restaurants, and coffee shops. I usually seem to enhance my wardrobe while singing here too! I have two blazers hanging in my closet that were acquired during two different operas. I just find this city so interesting and diverse that I feel I am always learning and exploring it anew.
5. Where will you go next after your engagement here? Is there anything on the horizon you are specifically excited about?
[Above: Brandon Jovanovich as Pinkerton in San Francisco Opera's 2007 production of Madama Butterfly
. Photo by Terrence McCarthy.]
I finish singing here on Friday the 9th of November. I fly to Los Angeles on Saturday and arrive just in time to rehearse Madama Butterfly
for the LA Opera on Sunday, and we open that show on the 17th. It is a little tight to be sure, but it is the San Francisco Opera production, so I have done it before. I am looking forward to re-visiting it again! As for upcoming projects...I always find new roles challenging and I have a few popping up over the next few years. I am singing Sergei in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
in Zurich this spring--he is the vile, manipulating character and I can't wait! I usually play the lover roles, which he is to be sure, but there is this dark, seedy side to him that I am excited to explore!