Frédéric Antoun on The Exterminating Angel

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Canadian tenor Frédéric Antoun is one of the voices in most demand in the world of opera today. In the last five years, he has become the singer of choice for the most prestigious opera houses around the globe. He has performed Ferrando in Cosi FanTutte at the Paris Opera and the Opéra de Marseille, Tonio in The Girl of the Regiment at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, Nadir in The Pearl Fishers at Opernhaus Zurich, as Amadeus Daberlohn in Charlotte Salomon and Raúl in the world premiere of The Exterminating Angel at the Salzburg Festival. He is also in high demand for concerts and for oratorios. His repertoire includes Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Mozart’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Bach’s Magnificat and St John Passion.

More recently, he performed the role of Raúl Yebenes in The Exterminating Angel at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. His performance was well received by David Shengold of Classical Voice North America: “Raúl’s music got brilliant utterance by debuting Canadian tenor Frédéric Antoun, sounding – with his clarity and pliancy of timbre and his dynamically sensitive phrasing – like a major addition to the house’s French wing.”

What are the difficulties of your role in The Exterminating Angel?

The first difficulty was to learn it by heart. The rhythmic meters often change. It also uses a lot of irregular meters: 7/16, 5/12, etc. Even 1/6 and 2/6 that I had never seen before. It would be impossible for someone who does not read to learn this work correctly! Once the music is learned, however, it becomes perfectly organic, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is among other things the genius of composer Thomas Adès.

The other difficulty is, of course, vocal. High notes after high notes! They are sudden and frequent, contrary to the traditional repertoire. So you have to be constantly on your guard and be ready to jump like a tiger on its prey! Fortunately, my character in the piece is often angry, and that helps to make it more natural!

How did you get the opportunity to create this role?

Thomas Adès wrote the role for my voice after our experience in The Tempest at the Opéra de Québec where I sang the role of Caliban. It’s still one of my best life experiences. It was also an opportunity for me to work with Robert Lepage for the first time. Thank you, Gregory Legendre!

Is contemporary music harder to sing?

Yes, most of the time. The contemporary music that I sang was more difficult on the voice because it is less linear. There are more jumps; it is often more pointillist and expressionist, less lyrical. You have to have a solid technique to avoid tiring or damaging your instrument. In fact, I do not sing anything else when I am in the middle of a contemporary music production, especially pieces by Adès. His pieces are so different from the usual repertoire that if you try to learn or rehearse another role at the same time, one or the other will suffer.

The Exterminating Angel in the cinema: The Exterminating Angel is part of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series. It will have encore broadcast on the big screen on December 9, 11 and 13, 2017 and January 7 and 13, 2018. www.cineplex.com

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