9 April 2015 at 3.32pm | Comment on this article
‘I used to repeatedly watch the Royal Opera House DVD of Thomas Allen in Don Giovanni, and never imagined I’d be on the same stage as him, but today, I was joking with him in rehearsals!’, says Jette Parker Young Artist Luis Gomes.
The Portuguese tenor is currently in rehearsals for Rossini’s farce Il turco in Italia. He plays the role of Albazar, alongside a star-studded cast that includes Aleksandra Kurzak, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, Alessandro Corbelli and Thomas Allen.
‘Rehearsals are going very well. We have an incredible cast, who have done it before and know all the nuances of the piece, so it’s great fun to be on stage with them and learn from their experience,’ he explains. ‘Albazar is a fun man – he’s Zaida’s servant, but a little bit in love with her. My role is quite small and, on the surface, not very challenging. However, there are subtle dynamics to the music that are hard to bring alive while also doing the staging.’
Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s production – bright, energetic and Fellini-esque – is set in the 1960s. Watch an interview in which the directors discuss their vision for the piece.
‘This production is one my favourites’, says Luis. ‘Patrice and Moshe have created a simple but clever staging – there are no big changes in the lighting or special effects, but the story comes alive very easily. It’s colourful, accessible and entertaining, and I can feel people having fun watching it. It reminds me a bit of Laurent Pelly’s L’elisir d’amore, for which I covered the role of Nemorino.’
Since joining the Programme at the start of the 2013/14 Season, Luis has covered numerous principal roles; last Season, he stepped in at the last minute to perform as Chevalier de la Force on the opening night of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites.
‘It was about 8.30pm and I had just finished a Masterclass with Antonio Pappano in the Clore Studio, when I had a call from Company management saying I was needed for the second half of Dialogues des Carmélites. I thought it was a joke at first, but ended up going straight into costume and make-up and, before I knew it, I was on stage!
‘To walk on the main stage and perform a lead role in an institution like the Royal Opera House is a moment you wait for your whole life. Simon Rattle was in the orchestra pit, and 2,400 people were waiting in the auditorium. I didn't have much time to think about it until the few minutes before stepping on stage, which was probably a good thing! Fortunately, I had done the dress rehearsal, and I felt comfortable. It was a great experience.’
Alongside extensive coaching in music, language and stagecraft, covering roles is a key part of the Young Artists Programme.
‘It’s a very specific skill’, says Luis. ‘It requires you to be triple-prepared as you might come in half way through rehearsals, but you still have to deliver a first-class performance. For Young Artists, it's also often a debut role, which is very challenging. But watching other singers, and seeing how they tackle the role, is a very positive thing – not least because often they have the same problems as you!’
Working with top-class singers, whether covering a role or performing a smaller part on stage, is something Luis considers invaluable.
‘There is nothing like actually being on stage and working with the amazing people who come here. I've lost count of all of the fantastic people I've worked with’, he says.
‘I’m next performing as Fenton in Falstaff, a role I was originally meant to be covering. It’s the main tenor role in the opera – and will be a debut for me – so it’s going to be a real highlight. It’s a great production that is fun, charming and captures the brilliance of the piece’, he says. ‘I’m most looking forward to working with Ambrogio Maestri. There’s not much interaction between our characters, but it will be a great experience being in rehearsals with him.’
Surprisingly, Luis, who grew up near Lisbon in Portugal, is the first of his family to show a passion for music.
‘Apart from my great grandfather, who used to play the accordion to friends, my family has no musical background. I started singing in school – nothing operatic, but pop music and school shows – and, when I was 11, someone told my father I should have lessons.’
Luis’s teacher introduced him to the world of opera, triggering a love of classical music that led him to enroll at the Lisbon Music Conservatory. Eleven years on from his first singing lessons, he moved to London to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, subsequently joining the National Opera Studio.
‘There wasn't a moment when I knew I would pursue a career in opera – it was more of a gradual process – but I have always felt drawn to the acting as much as the singing. As I started to feel comfortable on stage, my confidence grew and things started happening’, he explains. ‘This is now something I love, and I can't see myself doing anything else. I think I’m slowly managing to convert my family to opera. My 15-year-old sister is now a huge fan of Jonas Kaufmann!’
The Jette Parker Young Artists Programme is supported by Oak Foundation. Find out more about the Programme.