Tenor Matt Anderson of Boston’s Emmanuel Music will sing Britten’s Les Illuminations, Op. 18 with Maestro Bruce Hangen and the Orchestra of Indian Hill in “I See London, I See France,” on Sunday, January 25.
The Kansas native and accomplished interpreter of Bach spoke to us about his most challenging performances, why he loves Britten, and where to see him next.
Was there a defining experience that led you toward studying voice and performing vocal/choral music?
I grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, a city with a very strong school choral program. In junior high and high school, I had a fantastic teacher and director who ran her choirs at a very high level. We rehearsed every day, we learned to sight read, and we worked on building healthy vocal technique. We also had a blast singing together! I am always amazed by the number of people I went to school with who are now working as performers, and I think that’s due in no small part to the time we all spent in school choir. [Learn about Indian Hill’s own youth choral program, Cantori Scolari.]
You’re known for performing Bach, but you have sung quite a varied repertoire. What pieces/composers stand out to you as most challenging? Most fun?
Anyone who has sung Bach’s music will tell you that it is among the most challenging music out there. There’s always something unexpected: the lines and the harmonies move in tricky ways, the vocal range is often quite broad, and there’s never anywhere to breathe! There’s so much depth and texture to dig into, though, and I finding singing Bach to be deeply rewarding.
One of the most challenging (and fun) experiences I’ve had was performing Stravinsky’s Renard at Tanglewood. It’s based on a Russian folk tale: I played a fox trying to catch a chicken who unfortunately, gets strangled and torn apart by the other animals on the farm. The performance was staged, and we were frantically chasing each other around the theater while singing music whose meter changes almost every bar and whose lyrics are Russian tongue twisters and gibberish. It’s a short piece–only about 17 minutes–but it wore us out physically and mentally!
If you could play any character in any opera, who would it be? Broadway show?
I’d love to play [Britten’s] Peter Grimes. And Bobby in Sondheim’s Company.
What revs you up about this Britten piece?
I’ve been excited about singing these songs since I first heard them in college. [French Symbolist poet] Rimbaud’s poetry has such a unique energy and is so full of striking images, and Britten is so sensitive in his text settings. Britten has always been one of my favorite composers, in part because he wrote such great music for the tenor voice. There is something very authentic about his musical voice in this piece that appeals to me. The music is bold and evocative, but at the same time it never calls attention to itself; it always exists to serve the text, to draw us further into the world of Rimbaud’s poetry. I think that’s what’s most remarkable about the piece. [Hear the piece sung by its original soloist, Sir Peter Pears, with the English Chamber Orchestra.]
What’s on the horizon for Matt Anderson?
This spring, I am excited to be performing as the Evangelist in Bach’s Saint John Passion with several groups, including my musical “home team,” Emmanuel Music. I’ll also be appearing as Damon in an exciting production of Handel’s Acis and Galatea with the Mark Morris Dance Group.
See Matt perform with Maestro Bruce Hangen and the Orchestra of Indian Hill at 3:00 pm Sunday, January 25 at the Littleton High School Performing Arts Center. Want to learn more about Matt? Catch him at the concert pre-talk at 2:00 pm, and the stage talk following the concert!