Beginning November 16, Mark Delavan will grace the War Memorial Opera House stage as Scarpia in Tosca
. Before his arrival to San Francisco, Mr. Delavan took the time to answer some questions for us. What are his pre-performance rituals? What craft (besides singing, of course) does he have a passion and talent for? Read on to find out!
1. We are so glad to see you back after your success as Wotan in our Summer 2011 Ring Cycle! What is your typical day off in San Francisco like?
Well, with due respect, there is no such thing as a typical day off in San Francisco. Nor is there a typical day at SF Opera—which is how we all want it, right? That being said, those days off fall into two categories: rehearsal period and performance period.
Rehearsal period days off are pretty bland as we need to rest up for the next days of rehearsal; which means TV, ordering out, that kind of thing.
Performance periods are different; which means a little play time. My wife's and my favorite restaurants get our patronage; we will get out to the lovely parks in the area, and if we get more than a few days between performances, we drive up to one of the prettiest golf resorts in the area, Saddle Creek.
[Above: Delavan as Scarpia with Carol Vaness in Tosca (2004). Photo by Larry Merkle.]
2. What do you love most about singing the role of Scarpia?
There is something very fascinating about playing a thug. Scarpia is one of the toughest, strangest, most violent, obsessive and passionate characters in all of operatic literature. My favorite thing about playing Scarpia is the many layers of this one bad dude.
3. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
That depends on the role. For a long, high pressure role like...oh...say, Wotan, the pre-show ritual decides itself, meaning the simple stamina requirement of rest, rest, rest. And ice. After Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, my knees hurt, so icing helped. I have to eat carefully; too much and I feel bloated; too little and I don't have enough energy to finish properly.
Scarpia is a shorter role so I need to get a little exercise. Again, diet is important.
For both, my wife knows that funny things happen to my hearing. It's like the general volume turns up to about an eight. Therefore, I absolutely have to have peace and quiet. My poor children have to get out of the house for all of our safety!
[Above: Delavan as Wotan in Das Rheingold. Photo by Cory Weaver.]
4. Who is your favorite opera character?
My favorite character is the one I am doing at the time. I lean towards quirky, troubled, even insane characters.
5. We all know you’re a gifted baritone, and we love that you’re also a gifted craftsman! How do you balance your performance commitments with your knife-crafting?
With a smile on my face, I will state here and now, that "balance" is a word seldom applied to me. Seriously, the balance comes of its own accord. First of all, in a rehearsal period, there's lots of down time, often in 15–30 minute chunks, but still those chunks can be challenging. If I keep a handle blank in my bag, I have something calmingly and spiritually satisfying to bide my time during a long rehearsal period like the Ring.
Second, traveling presents its own difficulties and having a hobby gives an outlet. For instance, the job before SF Opera was Rigoletto in Pittsburgh and because of the short distance from my home, I chose to drive, which allowed me to bring etching projects with ease.
Third, the days at home are often challenging as time off from opera also means no income. Depending on the length of time, that can wear on a man. Consequently, a craft is imperative.
I have long since stopped being in a hurry to get a knife completed, so time is not an issue. An artist is an artist, and oddly, they do inform each other. Artists create, whether it's a character or a beautiful knife, creativity is my job, and my joy.
[Above: Delavan as Wotan and Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre. Photo by Cory Weaver.]