George Stevens loves singing Figaro
Well-known South African bass baritone, George Stevens, was appointed as voice lecturer at the SA College of Music earlier this year. From 18 - 26 October, Cape Town audiences will hear him as Figaro in the UCT Opera School and Cape Town Opera’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
In April 2013 we spoke about you performing Iago in Verdi’s Otello. This time it is Figaro in the upcoming production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. How familiar are you with the role?
GS: Figaro has got to be counted as one of my favourite roles in my repertoire. My very first time singing the role was in February 1999 and the season was extended for more seasons.
Will this be the first time that Cape Town will hear you in the role?
GS: No, this will not be the first time. I performed the role in 2006 in a production staged by the UCT Opera School in collaboration with Cape Town Opera.
Where else in the world have you performed Figaro?
GS: So far I have also performed the role quite a number of times in Germany and Portugal.
Which moments in Marriage of Figaro do you most enjoy as a singer?
GS: The Susanna/Figaro duet in Act 4! It is filled with so much emotions. The act itself offers funny situations between the two characters. Also between Cherubino and the Countess that Figaro witnesses in the garden scene, which leads to a wonderful finale with really beautiful music.
What according to you makes the opera so very popular?
GS: Oh my word, this opera is so much fun. It’s funny, it’s bubbly, but also serious and full of emotion. Immediately after crying there is laughter. And of course, the wonderful music!
Earlier this year, you have been appointed as lecturer in vocal studies at the SA College of Music in Cape Town. How do you find your role as teacher?
GS: I find it interesting and challenging. I once asked myself what makes a good teacher? A great deal of a teacher’s success lies in the communication between pupil and teacher. What is most challenging is to teach individuals with different personalities.
Who were your teachers and how do you apply what you have learnt over the years?
GS: I received private tuition from Prof Nellie du Toit. What I have learnt over the years is that it does not matter what you sing. The basic foundations are all the same. Every singer should know the importance of support. Experience can also sometimes be the best teacher.
They say talent is not enough, right? So as a teacher, what other qualities should students of opera have to even consider a career as a professional opera singer?
GS: A good and healthy singing technique. A strong will. Keeping fit and being disciplined. In my opinion a singer should be as fit as a sportsman.
With that in mind, young opera singers from South Africa have been making waves on important opera stages and at international competitions over the last couple of years. What are your views on this?
GS: South Africa has a huge pool of talent in the music field and the performing arts. A good voice and good singing is of course a criteria. Hard work and good management is important. Luck and fate and being at the right place at the right time also plays a part in this business. Our South African colleagues have certainly excelled in opera and are out there singing with the top ranking singers of the world. We can be proud of them!
You’ve been living in Germany for over a decade to pursue you performing career. Being back in South Africa, does it limit your opportunities to perform in Europe?
GS: My priority is my responsibility to the SA College of Music which does limit opportunities to perform in Europe. When my schedule allows I love to perform locally and abroad.
Are there roles that you would still like to sing one day?
GS: Oh yes, there are quite a few more Puccini and Verdi roles I would like to sing. Nabucco being one of them!
Getting back to The Marriage of Figaro, what can audiences look forward to in your portrayal of Figaro?
GS: Oh there is lots of humour, anger, disappointment, happiness, laughter, crying, scheming….. Each character in the opera has its important function, no matter how small. I hope nobody misses the opportunity to see this production and to hear the wonderful music. With Mozart everybody is a student!
The Marriage of Figaro is on at the Artscape Opera House from 18 - 26 Oct 2014. Bookings at Computicket or Artscape Dial -a-Seat on 021 421 7695.
Published 12 October 2014
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