The Many Hats of Heinrich
~ Interview with Steven Humes
Traditional vs modern. Politician vs King. Audiences alway want a fresh take on the 148 yr old character. Based on the 1688 King Henry the Fowler who united Germania through peace treaties and strong armies against the Hungarians, Heinrich has often been played as a traditional king. American bass Steven Humes talks about his first experience with the role:
"In Beijing the audience hadn't ever experienced big Wagner stories before and certainly didn't have the experience of the Europeans when it comes to opera. They expected a benevolent, realistic 'King' with the sword, shield and a crown. Here he was sympathetic, kind and had a nobility to him. Our production by Giancarlo del Monaco brought alive that Game-of-Thrones-style-King to great success."
Heinrich as King. NCPA Beijing 2012 - with Petra-Maria Schnitzer.
Photo, NCPA Beijing. Production, Giancarlo del Monaco. Costumes, Jesus Ruiz.
In the 2015-16 season in Copenhagen, however, the King turned half way into a politician, which isn't often done. "It was easy to turn the politician switch on but the question remains, did it work? Based on the calculating nature of Henry the Fowler, I feel it did. He had to politically convince German Duke after Duke to join him to strong arm the Hungarians from attacking. His politician hat was a huge part of who he is, so in that sense the audience really believed who we created. Heinrich had little patience for Telaramund's problems and just wanted to power forward. Finding an expert hero in Lohengrin, he expected him to lead the armies to victory."
The costume was a mix of business suit and armor and the character was a mix of manipulative politician and calculating warlord.
Heinrich as half King, half politician. Royal Danish Theater 2016
Photo, Ran Arthur Braun. Production, Nicola Raab. Costumes, Julia Müer
In St. Gallen in the 16-17 season, Heinrich wore strictly the politician hat to praise of the critics. The breast plate and shield banging were replaced with suit and bowler hat modeled after Walter Rathenau, the famous politician of the Warsaw 30's. Peter Hagmann: "Heinrich der Fowler, the vulnerable King of Germany, who came to Brabant to call for soldiers, is here (represented by) a mid-1900 citizen in a somewhat coarse three-piece suit. His crown is replaced by a simple black mens hat. The people here are represented by the class of royalists who fear nothing so much as the change (he brings)."
Nov. 2, 2016 - opera review.
Steven's take on the politician shows that even without the crown, Heinrich can be effective. "Heinrich carried a pen and not a sword. In our setting he was devastated by the realization that the political cycle would continue and war would return. Lohengrin was salvation and in the end, without him, Heinrich was cursed again with facing the endless battles that plague society as a whole."
Heinrich as 100% politician. St. Gallen Theater, 2016 - with Elisabeth Teige and Elena Pankratova.
Stage photo, Iko Freese. Production, Vincent Boussard. Costumes, Christian LaCroix.
Staunch politician, old fashioned king or quivering human in front of giant rats. However you like your Heinrich these days, Steven is sure to deliver.
2015-2016 announcements are finally in. Steven Humes sings König Marke in a new, fully staged production at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. He returns to the role of König Heinrich at the Royal Danish Opera.
19 June 2015 — On board with the 2015-16 season at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Steven Humes will sing König Marke in Tristan und Isolde with Daniele Gatti conducting. This fully staged production by director Pierre Audi will also feature Torsten Kerl as Tristan, Emily Magee as Isolde, Brett Polegato as Kurwenal and Michelle Breedt as Brangäne.
In January, 2016, Mr. Humes returns to a familiar role as König Heinrich in Lohengrin at the Royal Danish Opera in Kopenhagen, conducted by Alexander Vedernikov. Also in the 2015-16 season Mr. Humes will be performing Fafner in a concert version of Rheingold in Odense, Denmark, Banco in Macbeth in St. Gallen, Switzerland and Beethoven 9 concerts throughout Italy.
This past season and on extremely short notice Steven Humes jumped in as Vodník in Opera Roma’s troubled waters. In their season opener of Rusalka he was praised as having a beautiful bass voice, a strong stage presence and his aria was, as the French say, un modèle d’équilibre.
Speaking of the French, Steven joined Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard (along with famed French actors Eric Genovese and Christian Gonon) on a tour of Honneger’s Jean d’arc. This multi-city run culminated in four final performances in Avery Fisher Hall with Alan Gilbert at the helm of the New York Philharmonic.
The positive reviews keep pouring in of Steven Humes’ interpretations of Fafner, Daland, Commendatore, Hunding, et al. In the recent revival of the RING in Geneva, his “solid bass” was hailed as “henceforth THE Fafner” of major productions. While words to describe his craft include stentorian, powerful, deep, sterling bass with moving and impeccably clear diction, he also continues to garner the highest praise of “best cast” and the one singer who “dominates the distribution” of roles.
On Short Notice, Steven Humes joined Opera Roma as Vodník in Rusalka in November.
His 2014-15 Season Also Includes Konig Karl in Fierrabras at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, Commendatore in Don Giovanni in Boston, Honneger’s Jean d’Arc in Monte Carlo, Toulouse, Paris and New York City.
31 August 2014 — Everyone’s all about that bass! The positive reviews keep pouring in of Steven Humes’ interpretations of Fafner, Daland, Commendatore, Hunding, et al. In the recent revival of the RING in Geneva, his “solid bass” was hailed as “henceforth THE Fafner” of major productions. While words to describe his craft include stentorian, powerful, deep, sterling bass with moving and impeccably clear diction, he also continues to garner the highest praise of “best cast” and the one singer who “dominates the distribution” of roles.
One of the highlights of Steven’s 2014-2015 season is his role as bass soloist in Honneger’s Jean d’Arc. With Academy Award winning Marion Cotillard as Joan of Arc, this semi-staged concert series conducted by Alan Gilbert and Kazuki Yamada will be performed in Monte Carlo, Paris, Toulouse and New York’s Avery Fisher Hall.
A busy singer this season, Steven will join Thielemann in Dresden for the revival of Arabella. In Brussels, Steven also will have a role premiere of Konig Karl in Schubert’s Fierrabras conducted by Ádám Fischer.
On this side of the pond, Steven returns to his Alma Mater hometown of Boston (New England Conservatory AND Boston University) for Commendatore in Don Giovanni with Boston Lyric Opera. Steven recently wowed audiences in Paris with his "imposing basso profondo" in recent performances of Don Giovanni that "for once was formidably sung", and was praised for having a "nice voice compared against the blunderbusses so often cast in the role." Le Monde
Steven Humes' 2013-14 Season Offers Ring Cycles in Geneva, Monte Carlo; Flying Dutchman in St. Gallen; Concerts in Bonn; Arabella with Thielemann in Salzburg.
Steven enjoyed many outstanding reviews for this past season's performances of Das Rheingold (Munich, Geneva), Siegfried (Munich) and Die Walküre (Palma de Mallorca). After being "magnificently cast" as Fafner in Geneva's Das Rheingold he returns as the dragon in Geneva's Ring Cycle with Siegfried this Fall. The entire Ring Cycle will play again in May 2014.
Perfect for Commendatore, Steven wowed audiences in Paris with his "imposing basso profondo" in recent performances of Don Giovanni that "for once was formidably sung", and was praised for having a "nice voice compared against the blunderbusses so often cast in the role." Le Monde
Easter 2014, Steven will be joining the highly acclaimed Beethoven Orchester of Bonn, Germany as the bass soloist for Bach's Matthäus-Passion. -SW
Photo: NCPA, Beijing
Steven Humes' 2012-13 Season Offers Ring Cycles in Munich and Geneva; König Heinrich in Beijing; Concerts in Torino and Palma de Mallorca; Wagner, Wagner and More Wagner.
In November Steven travels to China to perform another role premier as König Heinrich in Wagner's Lohengrin at Beijing's NCPA. Steven then returns to Hamburg for Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte followed shortly by his first interpretation of Fafner in both Das Rheingold and Siegfried in the Bayerische Staatsoper's RING. Steven's second RING of the season will be again as Fafner in a collaboration with Dieter Dorn in his much anticipated Das Rheingold in Geneva. Siegfried will follow in 2013-14.
Spring sees Steven In Paris (♪ ♫) returning to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées as Commendatore in Mozart's Don Giovanni and performing his first Hunding as the Teatre Principal de Palma celebrates in concert form Wagner's Walküre in Palma de Mallorca. As a local favorite in Munich, this July Steven returns once again to the world famous Bayerische Staatoper Festspiel for repeat performances of Das Rheingold and Siegfried.
With two complete RING cycle performances in January, one again in July, separate Walküre, Holländer and Lohengrin performances with a Rheingold from yet another RING cycle to be completed next year, you can't actually say that Steven Humes has done FIVE RING cycles this season... but you can say that this (with a side of Mozart and a dash of Berlioz) is a hell of a lot of Wagner to put on anyone's plate. -SW