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Bryn Terfel: Baritone in the Big Apple

Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel conquered the world of opera in the '90s, singing at major houses the world over. Critics praised his nuanced musicianship, as well as his remarkable voice, which can fill a stadium as easily as it can fill an opera house.

Terfel recently made two New York appearances: He sang in Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah at Carnegie Hall, and is currently performing the role of Figaro in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro with the Metropolitan Opera.

Though it is an oratorio — essentially an opera-like composition without the theatrical aspect — Terfel describes Elijah as "very, very operatic."

"Dramatically, of course, it's got a message as well, but every utterance, every breath that you take, has to have a characterization with Elijah, and Mendelssohn had a strong element of dramaticism going through the piece Elijah," Terfel says.

Terfel is also in New York to perform as Figaro for the last time. At 42, he says he's getting too old to perform the demanding part.

"This production here at the Metropolitan [Opera] is a wonderful way to just close the door on that element, on that chapter in my life as a singer," Terfel says. "Because Figaro for me was a wonderful calling card in heavily pressurized situations, like your debut in the Metropolitan, like your debut in La Scala, like my debut in Wales — which sometimes is the most difficult debuts [sic] ever. So you wanted something that you were very comfortable with, and Figaro was always that."

Terfel joins WNYC's John Schaefer to talk about his Big Apple performances, the buzz surrounding recent appearances in Europe, his Welsh upbringing and his plans for next year. After he performs with the Welsh National Opera, Terfel says he plans to break from opera to concentrate on song recitals in 2008.

Copyright 2007 WNYC Radio

John Schaefer