Samson – Samson and Delilah
Richard Cox answered questions from Opera Executive Director Todd Simmons.
1. What was it that made you first want to become a singer?
I grew up in Chattanooga, TN. I sang in choirs and participated in Governor’s School during high school. I loved singing from a very young age. I did not come from a musical family but, interestingly enough, my parents always played classical music when I was going to sleep. I guess it was just ingrained in me from the beginning! Despite my attempts to pursue other field, I always seemed to come back to music!
2. What was your early training in music like?
I sang in choir through high school. When I went to college at Tennessee Tech University, I had a choir scholarship that required me to take voice lessons. I was fortunate enough to be in the studio of Dr. Frederick Kennedy. Dr. Kennedy is a fantastic teacher and musician with an outstanding tenor voice. He methodically taught me for 5 years, gradually increasing my range 1/2 step by 1/2 step, while exposing me to the wealth of art song literature that is out there. I have to say that was the key to my development. I learned to sing through art song, not opera. I personally feel that it is a mistake for young singers to attempt too much opera early on. I was fortunate that both Dr. Kennedy and my second teacher, Mary Henderson Stucky, were in agreement about this.
3. Did you feel from the beginning that you would be singing the dramatic repertoire you are today?
I had an idea from the time I was in my mid-20s. I remember being introduced as a “young heldentenor” and then running to the library to look up what that meant! I was always drawn to roles that had a dramatic quality to them. I personally identify most closely with the German fach of “Jugendlicher heldentenor”. These roles are “young” heroes that work best (in my opinion . . .) with a youthful sound and a balanced combination of lyric and heroic qualities. I found that singing a role like Don José in CARMEN (one of my favorites) were particularly important in my development.
4. Your resume includes many modern pieces, such as Turn of the Screw, Wozzeck, Tempest, Oedipus Rex, Le roi David, as well as more traditional dramatic roles such as Florestan, Don José, Lohengrin, and Siegmund.
Is the way in which you sing or prepare to sing the modem roles different than that of the traditional roles?
Actually, it really is the same with the exception of how much time each role may require.
5. How do they differ and how are they the same?
The process remains the same. The time varies depending on the difficulty or length of the role.
6. Do you have a preference between them?
I love them both!
7. Where do you feel the roles of Richard Strauss fit between the modern and traditional repertoire?
I believe that composers like Strauss (and Janáček, as well) really bridge the gap between traditional and modern opera. I am surprised that Strauss and Wagner tend to be grouped together for singers in my fach. I find they have completely different requirements. I had performed several Strauss roles before learning my first big Wagner role (Lohengrin) this season. I was surprised at the amount of calm that Wagner has in his music whereas Strauss has this effusive quality and “Schwung” that pulsates in every great performance of his music.
8. With Samson being a new role for you, how did you prepare for it?
I am lucky to have a wonderful coach, William Hobbs, in NYC who played SAMSON ET DALILA for San Francisco Opera a few years ago. We methodically worked our way through the role and gradually put the scenes together as I became more familiar with each scene.
9. Could you walk us through your ideas about the character of Samson?
Now we’re talking! I find it fascinating that Saint-Saëns and Lemaire chose leave out Samson’s heroic deeds that are in the Biblical story (slaying the lion, defeating 1,000 Philistines with a bone). This changes Samson from the supernatural hero to an inspiring leader, which then focuses the action on the relationship between he and Dalila. Despite this focus, it’s interesting to me that the revelation of his strength occurs offstage.
10. You have sung all over the world, including the Met and Chicago Lyric here in the USA, and in Chile and Germany abroad. How do the rehearsal processes differ between countries?
The biggest difference is the length of the rehearsal process. In the US, we normally have about 3-4 weeks for new productions and 2 weeks for revivals. In Germany, a new production will normally rehearse for 6 weeks while a revival is only given 10 days. I enjoy the rehearsal process a great deal. The joy of discovering a character with the combination of a good director and conductor is one of the reasons I love this job!
American tenor Richard Cox possesses a remarkable voice that combines lyric and heroic qualities, and is equally suited to opera, concert, and recitals.
This season, Mr. Cox returns to the Metropolitan Opera as Froh in Das Rheingold and makes his debut at the New Orleans Opera as the title role in Samson and Delilah.
A former ensemble member at Oper Frankfurt, Mr. Cox appeared in several new productions there, including ‘The Tempest, Arabella, Owen Wingrave, and Das Rheingold (which was recorded by Oehms Classics). He also appeared as Florestan in Fidelio, Peter Quint in Turn of the Screw, the Bishop of Bujoja in Palestrina (also recorded by Oehms Classics), and Aegisth in Elektra. Other recent opera engagements have included Malcom in Macbeth and First Armored Man in Die Zauberflöte at the Metropolitan Opera, Don José in student performances of Carmen at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, his role debut as Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos and Sergei in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago de Chile, Ruprecht in Viktor Ulmann’s Der zerbrochene Krug at the Los Angeles Opera (released on DVD for Arthaus Musik), Adolar in Weber’s Euryanthe at the Staatsoper Dresden as Adolar, and Claudio in the first fully-staged North American production of Wagner’s Das Liebesverbot at the Glimmerglass Festival.
An accomplished concert singer and recitalist, Mr. Cox was on the roster of the Marilyn Horne Foundation and made his New York recital debut in the On Wings of Song recital series. He has also appeared with the Seattle Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and the Kennedy Center.
The recipient of numerous awards and scholarships, Richard Cox has earned grants from the George London Foundation, Sullivan Foundation, Opera Index Inc., the Olga Forrai Foundation, Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, and the Shoshana Foundation. He has been honored with a Lucrezia Bori Grant for foreign study, the Vocal Arts Honors Recital at Alice Tully Hall, and the Campbell Watcher Memorial Award for singers from Santa Fe Opera. He holds degrees from Tennessee Technological University, Florida State University, and The Juilliard School.