Bass wins role in Mozart classic

Updated: 2014-04-17 11:21

By Michael Barris in New York (China Daily USA)

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Life keeps getting sweeter for Ao Li.

Fresh from emerging as a winner in New York's prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions singing competition, the 26-year-old bass-baritone has been hired by the Met as an understudy in the opera company's production of Don Giovanni.

The native of Dezhou, Shandong province and a resident of San Francisco, "accepted an offer to cover (the opera term for understudy) the role of Masetto in next season's performances of Don Giovanni, which runs from February 4 to March 6, 2015," Sam Neuman, the Met's associate press director, said.

In a phone interview from the San Francisco airport where he was waiting to board a China-bound plane, Li called his latest achievement "very unbelievable".

"I never thought I would be singing here (at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts)," he said. Rehearsals for the opera, one of the most-performed in history, start in January.

With music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, Don Giovanni is the story of Don Juan, the mythical seducer. Although critics heaped scorn upon Mozart's work in its day, it eventually came to be regarded as a masterpiece.

Two weeks ago, when Li prevailed as one of five winners in the Met singing competition, he performed a Don Giovanni aria that is sung by Leporello, the title character's servant. "In San Francisco, I did Don Giovanni two years ago," Ao Li said. "I put this role in my resume." The competition's other Chinese winner was Yi Li, a 29-year-old tenor and Jinan, Shandong, native who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Asked for comment on Ao Li's selection for the role, Neuman told China Daily the opera company "doesn't comment on specific singers".

Li already was busy as a performer before his victorious competition appearance. "But after the competition, I got more contracts," he said.

Once back in China he will teach at Shandong Normal University, where he also studied. He also will perform in a contemporary classical opera, singing in Mandarin at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, and perform in a classical music festival in St. Petersburg, Russia.

He said he is looking forward to being reunited with family members. "I traveled a lot so I missed my family," he said. He'll also be filling out paperwork to get US permanent-resident status, a condition of his employment contract with the Met.

As an understudy, Li's job will be to substitute for the regular singer on short notice, if necessary. "If I'm lucky, I'll get in the show," he said.

After winning the Met competition, Li revealed in a New York radio interview that he broke into tears the first time he visited the Met and saw the iconic fountain in the Lincoln Center plaza that is often featured in the opening of opera-performance DVDs.

"Now I can stand on the Met stage," he said, proudly.

 Bass wins role in Mozart classic

On the heels of winning a prestigious competition in New York, bass-baritone Ao Li landed a spot performing Don Giovanni. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 04/17/2014 page3)