Opera’s top Gunn is cutting his own path to greatness
One of the most sought‑after opera stars of his generation, Nathan Gunn has generated as much press for his matinee‑idol looks as for his impressive lyric baritone and accomplished performances in a variety of roles."Houston Chronicle
Fortunately, Gunn’s ever-expanding and increasingly diversified résumé in recent seasons has passed the tipping point, putting that “barihunk” designation well in the background.
Gunn has returned to Houston Grand Opera for his much-anticipated role debut as the titular “demon barber” in “Sweeney Todd,” composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s chef d’oeuvre.
Making time for an interview backstage at HGO, Gunn is casually charming as ever. Yet onstage, as the wronged protagonist out to avenge himself by slashing every throat within reach, Gunn is grimly obsessive, sometimes downright scary – in effect, the anti-dreamboat, after such rollicking figures as Figaro in “The Barber of Seville,” one of Gunn’s signature roles.
“I’ve played lots of barbers,” Gunn says, “but never one who wanted to kill people. The role is exhausting. When he returns to London at the start, after escaping from prison, he’s thoroughly emasculated. He’d done nothing wrong, except having a wife whom he loved, whom someone else (Judge Turpin) coveted. He tries to create a new life, a new identity. Then he has this crazed mad scene, his ‘Epiphany,’ and it’s then that he really decides he’s going to be this god of vengeance and kill everyone.”
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Image: Lynn Lane