Dallas' ace of bass

Life's a busy bed of roses for the Baron

Additional gigs in '97 include two more appearances at the Met this fall, in Ariadne auf Naxos and Manon; then he goes cross-country to San Francisco for Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. He will be recording the role of Claggart in Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd at the Halle Festival in Manchester, England, with famed American baritone Thomas Hampson in the title role. At Bayreuth, he's in a new production of Die Meistersinger, as well as his three parts in the Ring.

Halfvarson realizes there probably won't be a "Three Basses" marketing blitz, but he doesn't cast aspersions on his successful colleagues. "Some of us kvetch a little about the Three Tenors, but they actually have done a very important service in exposing to a lot of people a little about the operatic singing voice. I thought some of the music they did was questionable, but it had to appeal to a wide audience."

He is less gracious when discussing other current musical forms, especially alternative music. "It's diametrically opposed to the notion of song," Halfvarson says, "and most of what they express seems to have to be something negative with an attitude. I'm hopeful that people will still continue to think about expressing something of beauty, which I think comes naturally out of the human spirit through song and through the voice. It's a higher vibration of energy. There are some people on the planet, I'm happy to say, who are not necessarily intrigued only with buying the lowest possible, most trashy frequency of energy that anybody could produce."

Although U.S. opera companies are expanding their audience demographic, he says European audiences are way ahead in attracting listeners of all ages. "What we've chosen to do here is to sell sports more than we sell culture. In Europe, if a town were destroyed, when they rebuilt it they would say, 'We'll put the power plant here and the post office here and the opera house here.' That would be their priorities. Over here, they'd rather build a multizillion-dollar stadium. I have nothing against sports, except some of us work our whole lives to create something artistic that presumably involves different energies: uplifting, educational, and subjective experiences."

Of the roles he plays, Budd's Claggart is "a really terribly bad-guy character, as so clearly and beautifully delineated by Herman Melville and set to music by Benjamin Britten in the most amazing way." Although he allows that "my favorite role is generally what I'm doing at the moment," Halfvarson particularly likes Gotterdammerung because "I get to kill both the tenor and the baritone in one act!"

The Dallas Opera presents Der Rosenkavalier January 10, 12 (matinee), 15, and 18 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.

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