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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 3, No. 2

Daniel Taylor: Interview

by Philip Anson / October 1, 1997

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Canadian countertenor Daniel Taylor debuted as Didymus in Handel’s Theodora at the Glyndebourne Opera this August. I asked Daniel recently about the challenges of working in director Peter Sellars’ avant garde production.

DT: I had not worked with Peter Sellars before, but they sent me a video of last summer’s show and told me to get used to the style. I learned the part six months in advance and I arrived in June for a month of rehearsals, which would usually be plenty, but because Sellars uses a kind of sign language, it took special preparation. Luckily coaching at Glyndebourne is very efficient. Sellars has a distinct style. You have to accept the fact that this was a modern production — for example, that we would die by lethal injection. For the execution scene, I was strapped to a gurney in mid-air and could see the conductor only on monitors, so it was a challenge to sing. I tried to make Sellars’ direction as organic as possible. I don’t think he wanted it to be mechanical. I disagree with the reviews which said we moved mechanically.

LSM: Does singing in a third cast of the same production in the same place pose problems?

DT: Glyndebourne traditionally presents an opera one summer, tours it with a UK cast, and then stages a revival. Of course, people compared us with the first Theodora cast, which included Lorraine Hunt and David Daniels. I just tried to bring all I had to the role, regardless of previous interpretations.

LSM: Your reviews were uniformly good, while the critics were tough on almost everyone else. How do mixed reviews affect the spirit of a production?

DT: At least half of the cast didn’t read the reviews until after the final performance because they know that reading reviews, whether they are positive or negative or right or wrong, can upset one’s subsequent performances.

LSM: What have you been doing since Glyndebourne?

DT: I just got back from doing Handel’s Hercules in concert with Nick McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque in San Francisco. Catherine Robbin and Kevin MacMillan were in that too.

LSM: Now you have your first solo disc out with Atma.

DT: Yes, we have a deal for a series of solo recordings over the next three years. On October 4, there will be a salon concert of mostly Dowland with Les Voix humaines, which will be the next program I record for Atma. In January, we’ll do Bach arias with oboist Bruce Haynes. After that maybe Buxtehüde.

LSM: What else is in the future for you?

DT: Quite a bit. In Stuttgart to record another Jomelli opera for Orfeo. In January a recording of Messiah with Matthew Best and the Croydon Singers for BMG. Hercules at BAM in March. In April to Rome to sing Tolomeo in Giulio Cesare. Next September back to San Francisco for Solomon with McGegan. A tour of Japan with the King’s Consort and a Decca recording of Rinaldo with Cecilia Bartoli and the Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood in 1999. w

Closer to home, Daniel Taylor will sing baroque arias and duets with Susie Leblanc and the Arion Ensemble Nov. 26 at Pollack Hall, with Les Idées Heureuses Nov.14 and the McGill Chamber Orchestra Nov. 24. In December Taylor joins the Ottawa Choral Society for Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and in April he flies to Toronto for Bach’s St. John Passion with Tafelmusik.

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