Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.
Sound Bites: Alexey Lavrov
Photographed by Dario Acosta in New York
Clothes by Massimo Dutti / Grooming by Affan Malik
© Dario Acosta 2015
Alexey Lavrov’s baritone has a diamond-hard core, but there’s nothing “tough” about his singing; he knows how to spin out a line with exquisite suppleness, and he is dramatically incisive without lapsing into excess. His talents have been recognized with prizes from the Gerda Lissner and Loren L. Zachary Foundations. He is now under top industry management, a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, and he appears this month at Cincinnati Opera as Malatesta in Don Pasquale. It might sound like he has enjoyed a streamlined, untroubled path to success. He hasn’t.
A native of Russia’s Komi Republic, Lavrov left home at twelve to study at a special boarding school for musically gifted children. “Since twelve, I am without parents,” he says. “It was difficult. My family was very poor. The 1990s in my country were very bad — two wars with Chechnya, no chance to get real job. My parents were fired from their positions. Tough time. But I learned what it means to really be part of this life. Everybody is a teacher. I started to live this, believe this.”
At Russia’s Republican Art College, he first studied to be a choir director. “I was a tenor then and sang a lot in the choir, and it hurt my voice.” He had developed a false idea of his sound — all covered and velvety — but a new voice teacher helped unlock his potential. “He told me, ‘Be crazy. Go with your feelings. Don’t block yourself.’ And step by step, I found my voice.”
When Lavrov arrived in the U.S., he spoke no English at all. “I hesitated to have a conversation with anybody,” he recalls, launching into a hilarious imitation of an impatient New York City MTA employee: “‘WHAT? YOU WANT WHAT?’” At the Lindemann program, Lavrov’s talents were honed by the likes of Craig Rutenberg, John Fisher and Ken Noda. (Lavrov now studies privately with voice teacher Mark Oswald.) He particularly remembers Stephen Wadsworth’s acting class. “He asked me, ‘Can you tell me, please, what you felt when your parents broke up? Because you’re going to live with this family for at least two years, and we should understand if you can be flexible with every kind of circumstances.’ I was open for everything there. Stephen helped me to be myself, not to exaggerate my movements.”
As he made the rounds of auditions, Lavrov learned a thing or two about keeping things in scale. “I thought in the beginning you had to learn the biggest. I learned ‘Si può?’ and ‘Il balen.’ After a while, I thought, ‘I’m going to kill myself!’ But Maestro Levine told me that I don’t have to sing the most difficult arias ever. He said I was born to sing Belcore, Malatesta, Don Giovanni, and so on. I have to prove to the Met that they did the right choice.”
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