The Rake's Progress - Matthew Rose
Glyndebourne audiences have already had the chance to enjoy Matthew Rose’s voice and stage presence: he played Bottom in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the 2006 Festival. For Rose, returning to Glyndebourne is akin to a homecoming: "I was brought up and still live in Sussex, so it’s with great pride that I’m singing at one of the world’s greatest opera festivals, nestled under my beloved South Downs. Glyndebourne is a special place, set up so that the rehearsal rooms are places of intensive creativity, yet after all the work, you open the doors and see the sheep frolicking in the fields and the beautiful gardens and trees. Frisbees, footballs and cricket bats are never far away. I just hope that the weather is as good as it was in 2006, when the sun shone and the heat hit. During the part of Act Two of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I wasn’t in, I would go down and cool off with a dip in the lake. Only once was I caught in my swimsuit by returning picnickers.”
Rose is singing in two operas at this year’s Festival: Britten’s Billy Budd and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. Coincidentally, both operas have English librettos, and he is looking forward to the challenges and rewards that each presents: "I’m jealous of Italian, French and German singers who have so many masterpieces to perform in their own languages. Singing is a completely different experience when the singer is alert to every nuance of declamation and dramatic intention. No matter how well you speak a foreign language, it cannot compare to singing in your own tongue.
Nevertheless we do have some great operas in English, and I happen to be doing two of the best." Rose is looking forward to returning to the role of Nick Shadow, which offers singers abundant opportunities to bring out their darker side, both vocally and dramatically: "I performed the role while I was at music college in Philadelphia, so I’m familiar with the character. He’s more of a human than the devil incarnate, although it’s really only at the end of the opera that he reveals his true self. He is a gentleman, a wordsmith and a manipulator, and a very successful one: Tom falls for every little trick. Auden and Kallman created one of the greatest librettos in all opera, and it’s such a joy to sing."
Glyndebourne’s production is justly celebrated, yet Rose has never seen it, and nor did he familiarise himself with it before rehearsals began: "I made the mistake once before of watching a video of a production that I was about to do and found myself subconsciously copying the actions of the singer that I had seen. I know that Hockney’s designs draw on the Hogarth prints, which are so essential to the plot, and everyone tells me that it’s a powerful and entertaining production, one which is almost as famous as the opera itself."
Words: Nick Kimberley