Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Alexander Lewis

by F. PAUL DRISCOLL

Sound Bites Lewish hdl 1114
Photographed by Dario Acosta in New York Grooming by Affan Malik
© Dario Acosta 2014
Sound Bites Lewis sm 1114
© Dario Acosta 2014

Alexander Lewis, who sings Flask in next month's Washington National Opera premiere of Moby-Dick, knocked Manhattan operagoers back on their heels in 2011, when he sang Vašek in Stephen Wadsworth's staging of The Bartered Bride, the inaugural production in the Met+Juilliard series. Then in his first year as a member of the Met's Lindemann Young Artists Development Program, Lewis stole every scene, slicing crisply through the action in a trim little suit and spectacles and cavorting as if he were a singing, dancing Harold Lloyd. His tenor — pleasantly light and moderately reedy — put across every syllable of J. D. McClatchy's English-language translation. "That was a slightly intimidating experience. Sorry, it was a hugely intimidating experience — because I had been an opera singer, technically, for about five minutes. But [Vašek] was a great theater-singer's role, and working on that characterization with Stephen Wadsworth was fantastic. And to have James Levine at the helm — tremendous!"

Lewis was born in Australia, the son of opera singers Michael Lewis and Patricia Price, and raised there and in the U.K. as part of what he calls "a full-time operatic family." His elder brother, Ben, is now an actor in Australia. Lewis began his professional career as a lyric baritone in musical-theater roles; by the time he was in his mid-twenties, his resumé included Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd for Opera Australia and Raoul in an Australasian tour of The Phantom of the Opera. Lewis says it was during the last of these that he thought he might be developing into "a lyric tenor of some description. Those high As were popping out a little too easily."

After a few competition wins and a summer in the Merola Program in San Francisco, Lewis joined the Met's Lindemann program. "As we say in Australia, [the Met] took a punt on me, given that much of my training was in musical theater." Lewis made his Met debut in 2012, as a Guard in Manon, and in 2012–13, he was the Peter Lawford-esque Borsa in Michael Mayer's Las Vegas Rigoletto and Ferrando in the Met+Juilliard's Così Fan Tutte. This season, Lewis's Met assignments have included the title role in The Nose and a repeat of his sprightly, microphone-tossing Borsa. "When we did a dance in Bartered Bride, the first time Maestro Levine saw it, he said, 'Al, don't ever let a director know you can do that, or you'll be doing it in every opera for the rest of your career.' And that is pretty much what happened in Rigoletto and even in Così as well. But I've accepted the fact that in opera I can take advantage of everything I learned in my old routine. I have fun, enjoy myself — and the voice ends up coming out better anyway." spacer

F. PAUL DRISCOLL

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Current Issue: September 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 3