Behind The Mask: Thomas Cooley

Behind the mask of Acis: tenor Thomas Cooley. His performances have received rave reviews around the world, and now he’s coming to the Catskills!

What are you putting into this project, and what are taking away from it?

Thomas Cooley headshot credit Paul Foster-WilliamsAs the shepherd Acis, who loves the nymph Galatea, my job is to express the depth of that love in an honest, clear and non-sentimental way. The lovers should evoke feelings of love within the listeners, and there should be a sense of loss when the monster Polyphemus hurls a rock through the air and kills me.

What about this project do you look forward to?

Acis and Galatea is one of my favorite pieces by my personal favorite composer. Handel was a genius at setting texts in an honest, emotional, truthful way, especially when we consider that he was often writing music for languages which were not his mother tongue. I have sung this work a number of times in various forms, but I am really looking forward to doing an Acis with a truly Baroque ensemble. Singing this music is a gift, for which I am ever thankful, and I am excited to share this piece with the audience.

What about a mask or masquerade is appealing to you?

I have never done a true opera in a mask, so that will be a new experience for me. Having a mask to play with will be interesting on many levels. In one way, it will make us all more like “avatars”, which is indeed the point of a masquerade. In some ways, it may help to keep the story, which is not a complicated one at all, extremely clear and precise.

What do you hope to accomplish with this project?

As ever in my singing, I hope to connect to the audience through the emotional substance of the text and with my interpretation of that. The world of nymphs and shepherds which Handel’s music provides, creates a mythical, romantic, delicious experience and I cannot wait to share that with the audience.

Reserve your seats (through our ticketing website, or by calling the reservation line at 518-263-2063) for Acis and Galatea on September 6th at 7:30PM in the Orpheum!

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Behind The Mask: Andrew Appel

Next in line for the Behind The Mask interviews, Musical Director Andrew Appel!

What are you putting into this project, and what are taking away from it?

I have the very happy responsibility of selecting almost everyone who will take part in this production.  I’ve chosen the singers because they move me the most, and I feel that each one of them has so much to add to his or her role in the opera.  I’ve chosen each one of the instrumentalists and have performed many times with each.  They are always an inspiration to me.  I’ve asked Stephen Hamilton to direct.  I love his work on the legitimate stage; this is his first operatic effort.  Carlos Fittante is one of our country’s finest Baroque dancers and he is bringing a group who can match his grace.  Finally Joyce Kozloff, one of my favorite contemporary artists, is designing our masks for the opera.  What a THRILL!

Appel_PressI have known Acis and Galatea for many decades and have performed it with the Four Nations Ensemble and with other ensembles many times.  It is a masterwork.  At its lightest and most charming, and at its most melancholy or tragic, it is a work of genius.  And so I bring to this an understanding of how much we can do to make the music and words come to life.  But I can assure you, everyone in the cast and crew understand this as well.

As a performer, I hope that this most recent effort at Acis will be my best, nourished by past performances and improved by a maturity and great understanding.  More than that, I hope to walk away from a theater filled with people who will begin a relationship with the work, and love Handel for the life affirming genius he is.

What about this project do you look forward to?

I look forward to every singer opening his or her mouth and introducing me to this old friend of an opera again.  I also look forward to the first time working with a few colleagues and learning from them as we carve out our performance.  This will be the first time I serve as musical director for a fully staged production.  We have some good ideas and concepts and I look forward to working them out.

What about a mask or masquerade is appealing to you?

In the Baroque, dancers always wore masks.  Singers did not.  Parties were so often masquerades allowing people to act in a less controlled fashion.  The mask was a major player in Venice and Paris in the time of our music.  Stephen Hamilton and I thought of ways in which the masks will serve to transport our singers into the fictional story and also to underline when they are being honest and vulnerable and when theatrical and playful.  The masks are serving as catalysts to the exploration of the work!aaseated200large

What do you hope to accomplish with this project?

If you ask any artist this, they will say…beauty and truth.  That’s it…beauty and truth with joy!

Reserve your seats (through our ticketing website, or by calling the reservation line at 518-263-2063) for Acis and Galatea on September 6th at 7:30PM in the Orpheum!