Baritone opera star Christopher Job is returning to Los Angeles to perform in LA Opera's new 1920s-set, multi-cultural production of La traviata. A native of Anaheim Hills and graduate of Cal State Fullerton, this production constitutes Mr. Job's LA Opera debut. On the eve of his Angeleno opening, I had to find out - opera, East Coast vs. West; what's the difference?
Find out what he says and more in my conversation with Christopher Job.
Roger Q. Mason (RQM): First of all congratulations on your LA Opera debut. How does it feel to be performing opera in Los Angeles?
Christopher Job (CJ): Thank you very much. It feels amazing. I was just talking with a couple of my best friends who happen to be in the chorus at L.A. Opera (we've known each other since our days at Cal State Fullerton) and I said "All those years ago, could you even imagine that we'd be sitting here today? All three of us at L.A. Opera. On that stage together." It's quite thrilling to have this opportunity in our home town. It's certainly a homecoming for me, and it's quite surreal.
(RQM): Tell us about your role in La traviata.
(CJ): I play the role of Doctor Grenvil. He's a dear friend of our protagonist, Violetta, as well as her physician. So he's aware of her illness; and amidst the parties, the decadence and the debauchery in their world, he is continually looking out for her well-being. Aside from the two lovers at the center of the drama, this is largely an ensemble piece. However Doctor Grenvil appears in the final act, in one of the more intimate and emotional scenes of the opera. As an actor, it's nice to get to play a range of emotions in your scene work.
(RQM): You're worked as an opera performer on both coasts. What's the difference between making opera on the East Coast vs. in the West?
(CJ): Opera started in Europe, so naturally the first major opera company in the United States would form on the East Coast; so there's a lot of history over there. Making opera is largely the same to the performers, no matter where you are in this world. We are mostly transplanted colleagues, and we know how to collaborate in numerous situations and places. Now to further answer this question, I would start out by saying that I'm a Californian. I was born and raised here. And after many years of living in New York City and witnessing audience reactions, both when seeing opera myself and surrounding my own performances, I feel that the culture and people of every locale very much play into their varied reactions. We Californians are as we've been described; a very chill group of people. New York is as described; busy and hectic. Both coasts are very knowledgeable and appreciative; but sitting in the audience for El Gato Montes last week, I could feel the Californian flavor to the audience. It's very good to be home again.
(RQM): What has been your favorite role so far? What's your dream role?
(CJ): I'd have to say Leporello in Don Giovanni or Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro. Mozart and his characters are a lot of fun to play. However I have had a taste of "the devil," playing Mephistopheles in Gounod's Faust, and I have to say that I'd like to explore more of these "darker" roles in the future: Mefistofele by Boito, The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz, Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky, and the four villians of The Tales of Hoffman, have long tempted me.
(RQM): After La traviata, what's next for you?
(CJ): I am contracted for the entire 2019/20 season at The Metropolitan Opera, so I will be taking as much vacation time as possible this summer (mostly in Italy), surrounding two great performance opportunities. This July I will be in Tosca in Vail, Colorado with Yannick Nézet-Séguin (head of music at the Met) and his Philadelphia Orchestra, and then in early August I will go to London to record Handel's Messiah at Abbey Road Studios with the Royal Philharmonic. It's a pretty exciting summer for me.
And, to support La traviata, visit LAOpera.org/performances/season-2018-19/la-traviata
Featured image: Christopher Job, photo by Suzanne Vinnik