Last week our London Theatre Guyd spoke about talented opera singer Ed Lyon. After reading Keith’s post and after seeing Ed’s pictures, I wanted to find out more! I spoke to him about all things Opera (and sexiness) in London earlier this week…
DH: When did you start singing?
EL: I started singing properly at 13. My voice broke quite late, and took a long time to do so, so I sang as a countertenor until I was 17. I became interested in classical music at school, through choir, but really wanted to be an actor. It seemed to be the best option to try and combine the two things I liked, with at least one I was good at!
DH: How did you become an opera singer?
EL: I think most opera singers will understand when I say it wasn’t an option – it’s just what I am. Of course, there are hoops to be jumped through to become a professional – music college (the Royal Academy of Music in London), the National Opera Studio (an amazing institution, much undervalued, to which I am fiercely loyal) and then finding work. I really don’t think one can decide to become an opera singer anymore than you can decide to be an athlete, it’s just what you do.
DH: Who helped you get where you are today?
EL: I was very fortunate to have a school that provided a good musical education, and I had very supportive parents who supported me while I studied. I am also very grateful to William Christie – (the founder and conductor of Les Arts Florissants) – and to my great friend Oliver Gooch who gave me my first opportunities to perform. It was Bill who cast me in ‘Hercules’ alongside Joyce DiDonato when I was 26, which was my first big break. Without a platform to show what you can do as a performer, it is very difficult to get others to trust in your abilities. I think this is true of any profession, but more so in the performing arts. You need to be seen to be working in order to attract work.
DH: Do you think opera is less accessible than other forms of music and theatre?
EL: Less accessible, no. But it does require a bit more effort than some other art forms. Classical music benefits enormously from a bit of homework – listening to the piece beforehand, reading a synopsis. That’s not to say that I don’t think it works without those things, but they help deepen an understanding of something which is incredibly multilayered – culturally and artistically.
There is often a language barrier, but surtitles can fix that. Opera can be as cheap as cinema, even at Covent Garden or the Opera de Paris, and is certainly cheaper than premiership football or West End musicals.
DH: What has been your favourite role?
EL: My favourite role at the moment is Colin in L’Ecume des Jours, an opera written by Edison Denisov in 1982, based on the novel by Boris Vian. It tells the story of an innocent rich guy who loses everything trying to save the girl he falls in love with – his money, his art, his politics. And he fails. It’s heavily influenced by jazz (Duke Ellington period) and by Wagner. There’s an amazing narrative arc for my character, as well as some really great music.
DH: What’s been your sexiest role as an opera singer?
EL: There’s a long sex scene on YouTube (see video below) of me in Ulisse singing Eurimaco – insert jokes or tongue here! This is probably the raunchiest I’ve got. Or playing the god Pan in Cavalli’s La Calisto – 7 ft tall with massive goat legs – fiercely buggering Jupiter!
DH: Tell us about your current role in Hippolyte?
EL: I play Hippolyte, son of Thesues and Hippolyta, who has fallen in love with a prisoner of war, Aricie. He in turn is the object of his mother-in-law Phaedra’s affections. Thinking that her husband has gone to the underworld never to return, she confesses her love for Hippolyte, who is understandably appalled and rejects her. Theseus sees the end of the argument, and thinks Hippolyte is trying to rape Phaedra, so he banishes him, and summons a sea monster which swallows him (as you do). Phaedra kills herself but I’m happily brought back to life. Pretty standard Greek tragedy/opera type stuff! It’s a great role – I get some beautiful love duets with Aricie, and the argument scene is really great dramatic stuff. In our show, that scene is set in a half section of a house – proper soap opera style.
DH: What are you top tips for projecting a good strong voice?
EL: My top tips are breath and resonance. Always make sure breath is flowing through the voice, and if you want to make more noise, don’t put pressure on your larynx, just try to utilise the bits that resonate – the chest, the sinus cavities.
DH: Are you single, and what kind of guys do you go for?
EL: I’m not single, no. But I like all sorts – from myscle bears thru otters, to hot jock twinks. Why limit oneself? *laughs.* I like people with a sense of humour and personality. Looks are not important. Oh, and I want world peace.
Ed Lyon plays Hippolyte at Glyndebourne till August, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni for Scottish Opera in October and November, then 24 performances as Freddy in My Fair Lady at the Châtelet in Paris (in English) in December.
You can follow Ed on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ed_lyon