Don Giovanni - Gerald Finley
Gerald Finley’s association with Glyndebourne dates back to the very earliest days of his career. He first sang here in the Chorus in 1986, and has returned most years since; in 1988 he received the annual John Christie Award. "I’ve been proud to be a product of Glyndebourne’s commitment to developing singing talent over the years," he says. "My early memories are of being impressed by my fellow choristers, who all seemed to have wonderful voices and much more work than me. The lifestyle of the Chorus was a bit of a survival course, I was always tired, but always singing fabulous music. In my second week I had to sing Sid in Britten’s Albert Herring in a Sitzprobe because Jeffrey Black was getting married: there’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end."
Since then Finley has become one of the world’s leading baritones, particularly noted for his performances as Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He calculates that he has sung the role over 50 times, in at least seven productions, with more to come. Yet he is not a singer who packs his interpretation in his suitcase and unfolds it wherever he goes. "My knowledge of the role is informed by previous encounters, but a director will always have their own idea as to what they feel is important. If I can be convinced as to a trait or element of character, I will certainly work with a director to try to achieve it."
Clearly, bringing Giovanni to life demands collaboration between singer and director, but Finley is not a passive receptacle for the director’s concept. He has plenty of his own ideas about what the opera reveals: "The Don can be heroic in his defiance of death at all costs, or pathetic in trying to worm his way out of self-inflicted situations. A less obvious issue for our present day is class struggle; yet it’s in the music and the plot, and a director has to face that challenge squarely. Leporello must be both tolerant and yet excited by his adventures with the Don, and the relationship between the two is definitely that of an 'Odd Couple'. If, by the end of the opera, the audience understands that we’re all victims of personal encounters that we know are inappropriate, but can see the Don as a necessary catalyst to situations that we agree to be part of, then the evening will be a success. Maybe the next production will be about a hedge fund manager who gets his comeuppance..."
Now there’s an idea that may have a future. For the moment, Finley is looking forward to renewing his working relationship with Vladimir Jurowski, whom he sees as a kindred spirit: "It’ll be wonderful to work with Vladimir again. Above all, he is interested in creating drama from the music and having it reinforced on stage. I feel in good hands and musically I know that the results will be passionate."
Words: Nick Kimberley