Young Opera Singer Tackles Difficult Bass Role

Many people, when they think of a young opera singer, think of a high and clear voice. And in most cases, that is exactly what a young singer sounds like – high and clear.

In opera, bass roles are usually reserved for majestic, aged and pompous characters. For many people, a young lover or a juvenile rambunctious prankster and a low, bass voice, somehow, don't seem to go together.

However, the young human voice does has the capacity to sing operatic bass. On the other hand, although bass roles are not usually associated with young opera singers. It's good to remember that all old bass singers were young at one time.

The performance below features a young male bass singer. It took place on October 29, 2009. It was part of round #3 of the Solomiya Krushelnytska International Competition of Opera Singers.


A Young Opera Singer Performs at Young Singers Competition

In the opera video clip above, the young singer Yevhen Orlov. He is singing a bass aria from the opera Iolanta by P.I. Tchaikovsky. Opera conductor, Myron Yusypovych, conducts.

Solomiya Krushelnytska Competition for Young Opera Singers
Solomiya Krushelnytska Competition for Young Opera Singers

The final round in this young singers’ competition gives the young participants a chance to perform a role as part of a full opera production:

  • sets
  • costumes
  • make-up
  • rehearsal work with a stage director
  • full orchestra performance under the direction of professional conductor.

Every young opera singer must apply for and participate in a variety of vocal competitions if he or she wants to become a successful and popular opera singer. In this, the City of Lviv is a frequent host to a young opera singers competition that takes place at the Lviv Opera House.


What Opera Song is This Young Opera Singer Singing?

King Ren? Performed by Young Opera Singer
King Ren? Performed by Young Opera Singer

The bass aria performed by this young opera singer is that of King Ren?. The opera song is from the opera Iolanta, composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It is sung in Russian.

The following are the opera words in the aria sung by the young male singer. Beside the original words of the opera aria is a translation from the Russian text into English. The Russian-English translation was done especially for this website.

Что скажет он? What will he say?
Какой ответ произнесёт его наука? What answers will his wisdom provide?
Увидит Иоланта свет, Will Iolanta see light,
иль суждена мне вечно мука знать дочь мою объятой тьмою! or, am I forever doomed to be tormented by my daughter's darkness.
О Боже, сжалься надо мною! O Lord, have mercy on me!
Господь, уж если грешен я, за что страдает ангел чистый? Heavenly Father! If I am the sinner, why is this pure angel suffering?
За что поверг из-за меня во тьму Иоланты взор лучистый? What have I done, that You have cast Iolanta into the realm of darkness?
О дай мне радостую весть, утешь надеждой исцеленья. I beg You, give me joyful news and bless me with the hope of a recovery.
Я за неё готов принесть корону, власть, мои владенья… In return, I am prepared to give up my crown, my power, my posessions…
Лиши меня всего: покоя, счастья. Retaining only peace and joy.
Я всё смиренно претерплю, за всё Тебя благословлю, смотри, готов во прахе пасть я. I glorify You! In agony, I surrender myself and fall before You in the dust.
Всего лишиться, всё отдать. I am prepared to leave everything, give everything away.
Но, только дай мне не видать Иоланть взор обьятым тьмою! If only You would remove the darkness from Iolanta's eyes.
О Боже, сжалься надо мной. O Lord, have mercy on me!
Перед Тобой готов во прахе пасть я. I am prepared to submit to You.
О Боже, Боже мой! Сжалься! Сжалься надо мною! O Lord, my Lord! I beg You! Have mercy on me!

What is The Plot in the Opera Iolanta?

Opera Iolanta
Opera Iolanta

In the opera Iolanta by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the plot revolves around the young Iolanta, who was born blind. At the time of her birth, her father, the King, orders that Iolanta never be told of her blindness. The young princess grows up completely ignorant of the fact that humans are endowned with sight. And, although the young Iolanta appears to live a blissful existence, her father, King Ren?, is frequently haunted by doubts.

During one such session of soul-searching, King Ren? expresses his frustration over his inability to help his child see. In the aria sung by the young opera singer above, King Ren? entreats God to look down upon him and have mercy.


What Must a Young Singer Do to Make This Opera Role Believable?

King Ren?
King Ren?

The role of King Ren? is that of a father, who has a mature daughter. The young opera singer must portay a character that is older in years than he is himself.

Opera make-up to make the singer older than his years is very important. This is the reponsibility of the opera make-up artist.

But, the hand gestures, posture, body movements must be those of a middle-aged person. This doesn’t mean that King Ren? must be portrayed as a grandfather. After all, he isn’t. But, neither is he a young suitor in the prime of youth (even though the young singer might be).

In preparing for the role of King Ren? and particularly the scene in the opera video clip above, the young male singer needs to portray the emotional struggles of a father’s love for his daughter. Again, these are emotions that are not common for young people and will probably require work.


Who is This Young Opera Singer?

Yevhen Orlov
Yevhen Orlov

Yevhen Orlov (or Eugen Orlov, as he sometimes prefers to call himself) was born July 8, 1983.

In the performance above, Orlov is 26 years old – in short, a young opera singer indeed.

Eugen Orlov graduated from the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine. His vocal instructor was I.Ponomarenko.

Currently, Yevhen Orlov is employed as soloist with the National Opera and Ballet in Kyiv, Ukraine.

A young opera star indeed!

There were 12 young tenors, who wanted to sing the role of Count Vaudemont in P.Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta as part of the 3rd round at the Fourth Solomiya Krushelnytska International Competition of Opera Singers, on the stage of the Lviv Opera House.

To my great disappointment, not one of them was given the opportunity to do this, even though most of them have the necessary vocal abilities and performed well during the 1st and 2nd rounds of the competition.

As always, there were those who performed better and there were those who did not do so well. But, there is something strange when a tenor, who is a soloist with the National Opera in Kyiv, during the 2nd round of the competition shows a number of positive traits, in particular “reaching” the high C in the aria of Faust in G. Gounod’s Faust without difficulty, maintaining the fermata, gradually fading it and yet – he doesn’t make it into the 3rd round of the competition. Not only strange, but also sad and… embarrassing!

And so I wonder: what does it mean when I hear around me the popular and currently chic phrase “a crisis of available male voices”. To my mind, the crisis is not because there is a lack of voices, but because of something completely different. And, it isn’t due to 21st century life-styles or various environmental issues.

So, for this performance, I had to be satisfied with a wonderful young male bass singer – Yevhen Orlov in the role of Rene, the King. He is a medium range bass, with a rich timbre. And, he is only 26 years old. Someone to look out for in the future!

As for the other, I guess one can’t have everything in life.

(Myron Yusypovych blog entry – October 21, 2009)