Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist Daniel O’Hearn on Local Premiere of ‘Ariodante’

Young Tenor Will Make 2nd Appearance of the Season in the Company’s Production of the Handёl Work

By George B. Parous

Next Saturday evening, January 21, Pittsburgh Opera will present the company premiere of Handёl’s Ariodante, a Baroque era opera seria – though Händel himself might have been puzzled by that term, as it wasn’t commonly used until the composition style was fading from vogue in the late eighteenth century. The production, built from the ground up by the company, will be the first staged at the CAPA Theater since Alcina in January 2020. The cast of Resident Artists includes tenor Daniel O’Hearn, and we’ll be hearing him in the role of Lurcanio. Recently he took the time to share some thoughts on the upcoming Pittsburgh Opera premiere – and a debut that took place unexpectedly around the holidays.

Daniel O’Hearn, Tenor

“I had a contract with the Metropolitan Opera to cover the role of the First Armored Man in Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ in their holiday presentation,’ he explained. “The week of the show, the guy who I was covering, who’s a great singer and my friend, was not feeling well, so I sang the final dress rehearsal. You want the person you’re covering to feel better, but at the same time you’re getting excited. They started fitting me for costumes – a whole team of people come in and measure you, and make sure things are fitting right, and change things for you. You get extra coachings. Then I was on stand-by – you have to be within ten minutes of the stage door. I ended up getting the call the night before, to come over at call time. I came a little early and walked the role with the director. Then I walked out there and sang my first production with the Metropolitan Opera. It was very exciting. It felt like I was alone, even though there were three other singers on stage with me. I’m about to sing my first entrance, and I take my breath, and I hear a little voice in front of me. It’s the prompter, in the prompter’s box. They prompt everybody, every single line, even if you know it. She said my first line, and suddenly I didn’t feel scared or alone anymore.

“And now I’m back in Pittsburgh rehearsing for the opening of Ariodante. I sing the role of Lurcanio, a knight and advisor to the King. Most importantly, he is Ariodante’s brother. Ariodante and the King’s daughter Ginevra are betrothed and in love. The Duke of Albany, Polinesso, is a usurper who has weaseled his way into the King’s court. Polinesso makes it appear that Ginevra has been unfaithful to Ariodante, in the hope that Ariodante will take his own life and clear the way for Polinesso to marry Ginevra and eventually become King. My character is always loyally watching out for his brother Ariodante. Lurcanio is all about honor. He cares intensely about the people he loves and is loyal to. When he hears that Ginevra has been unfaithful to Ariodante, he flips out and tells the King. He sees red, because it also appears that Ariodante has jumped off a cliff into the ocean. He challenges anyone who would defend Ginevra’s honor to a fight in single combat. Polinesso comes forward, and they have a sword fight. We choreographed the sword fight this week, it’s awesome – there are a lot of loud sword noises; it’s like a dance a little bit, so there’s an element of beauty to it. Lurcanio wins the battle and kills Polinesso, who with his dying breath admits he framed Ginevra.”

After Mr. O’Hearn had saved us the trouble of coming up with a concise plot synopsis, he explained that Ariodante will not be his first experience with Baroque music.

“When I was in grad school we did a lot of Baroque works. I’ve also sung Handёl’s ‘Messiah’ a lot, and Johan Sebastian Bach, and more. My biggest Baroque role was the title role in L’Egisto, by Francesco Cavalli. There are certain stylistic aspects that I enjoy in Baroque opera. It keeps the voice light. There is so much movement in the music – the coloratura, with many notes sung in a row up and down scales with different patterns and sequences. If you’re going to sing that, you cannot sing it heavy, because if you do you’re going to get caught up in one of the notes and end up eight notes behind. With later opera, you generally have to sing exactly what the composer wrote. But with Baroque music, it’s expected that you ornament things to make it more interesting. Handёl didn’t write out the ornamentation – he said ‘sing it and add your own.’ In my aria you’ll hear a lot of that – Maestro Walker and I have worked out some really fantastic ornamentation that the audience will enjoy.”

“I think the audiences will enjoy the story,” he said, in summing up his comments on the upcoming show. “It’s a timeless story of love, betrayal, and reconciliation – and don’t forget the sword fights. Plus the costumes and the set. The set is beautiful. Our costume designer, Grace Kang, has designed some things that are medieval-inspired, but also a bit mystical. The women have beautiful earth tone dresses with patterns in them. The costumes, along with hair, makeup, and wigs, are going to add a lot to the performance. They will really immerse people deeper into the story. So there’s not only a lot to hear in Ariodante, but also a lot to see. The audiences are in for a treat.”

We believe him. For full production details, TICKETS, and more, visit Pittsburgh Opera at https://www.pittsburghopera.org/season/ariodante/

Special thanks to Chris Cox, Director of Marketing and Communications at Pittsburgh Opera

NOTE: An earlier version of this article indicated Ariodante would mark Mr. O’Hearn’s Pittsburgh Opera debut. We regret the error.

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  1. What’s On Stage Pittsburgh for the week of January 16th, 2023 to the end of February

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