Bryn Terfel | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Bryn Terfel


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Since his operatic debut in 1990, Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel has sung major parts in operas by Wagner, Richard Strauss, Handel, and Verdi; in Mozart's Don Giovanni he's played Leporello and Masetto, as well as the title character; and at this point the role of Figaro seems written especially for him. In his push to widen his repertoire, the thirtysomething Terfel has taken a part or two that didn't suit him--in Puccini's Tosca he was all huff and puff, stuck in the one-dimensional part of the villain Scarpia like a tiger in a paper bag--but his magnetic personality and bright, robust voice usually breathe life into even the least-developed characters. He's like a burly regular at a neighborhood pub who stuns the room into a hush with his soaring singing, then puts his arm around the fellow on the next stool and calls for another round. In performance he's serious but casual, strong but vulnerable, sentimental but not sappy; in his hands opera never seems elitist, fey, silly, or foreign. Later this month Terfel will open Lyric Opera's season in another role he was born to play--the eponymous antihero in Verdi's comic masterpiece Falstaff--but for those who can't wait, this Sunday he'll sing in front of an orchestra at Ravinia, in a lighthearted crossover program of arias, duets, and Tin Pan Alley numbers by Rossini, Bernstein, Gershwin, Berlin, and others. Unlike some opera divos, Terfel can put on the tone and nuances of a Broadway pro; I can't wait to hear him strut through "Anything You Can Do" with Welsh soprano Rebecca Evans, his partner at this concert, or tackle "How to Handle a Woman" and "Some Enchanted Evening." British conductor Bramwell Tovey will helm the Ravinia Festival Orchestra, made up of Chicago Symphony Orchestra members and crackerjack freelancers. Sunday, 7 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Stoddart.

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