Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Interview with Tenor Anthony Webb

Tenor Anthony Webb makes his Union Avenue Opera debut in A Streetcar Named Desire singing the role of Harold "Mitch" Mitchell. He last performed in St. Louis as a Gerdine Young Artist with Opera Theatre Saint Louis, where he sang the role of Pirelli in Sweeney Todd. His recent repertoire includes the roles of Sam in Susannah, Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Wagner/Nereus in Mefistofele. Phil Touchette of Operatic Saint Louis recently interviewed Mr. Webb on preparing the role of Mitch and his experience in this production.

Why do you think Mitch is drawn to Blanche? Could it be that her airs and pretense excite him as something different than most of his female contemporaries in New Orleans or is there something deeper? 
I think it's much deeper. Mitch talks a lot about his mother and I feel that his every action is motivated by his relationship with her. She wants him to settle down and find a nice girl to spend the rest of his life with. Blanche, being new to the scene, is another means to that end. She is beautiful and confident in ways he's never experienced, and she's certainly not like any other girl he has even dated. I think this excites him very much.
Do you believe that the brief courtship between Mitch and Blanche is based in mutual attraction? Are Mitch's motives entirely virtuous?
Mitch is extremely attracted to Blanche and there is no hidden agenda in his actions. He wants, almost desperately, to love her and for her to know of his love. He is extremely uncomfortable in his dealings with her because she is unlike any girl he has ever been with and I think he works so hard to make her "the one" that it heightens his nervousness.
Towards the end of the piece, Mitch develops anger towards Blanche when previously he'd been at least enamored of her. Why does this happen? Do you believe his anger is fully justified or is he manipulated by Stanley to feel that way?
Blanche has lied to him. She lied about her past, about nearly everything, and Mitch is devastated. It starts off as anger--sheer anger at being deceived--but then that need to take care of her (like he does his mother) takes over. He then tries to become something he is not because he believes that is what Blanche wants. Again, Mitch will do anything he thinks he must in order to win her over, but then he goes too far and gets too rough. He is absolutely justified in this anger because of her lies, and this is crippling to Mitch. Stanley surely doesn't help the situation. I don't think Stanley manipulates Mitch knowingly, but his words are certainly a dagger in Mitch's heart.
Have you found that this character compares in any way--musically or dramatically--to roles you have previously sung?
No, Mitch is unlike anything I've ever done before and it's amazing. I am loving playing Mitch!
Which musical passages in Andre Previn's score define your character and his motivations? What parts of the score stand out or especially intrigue you?
I think Mitch's arioso "I'm not a boy" in Act Two is certainly his defining moment. It's his moment to finally open up to Blanche and profess--in a roundabout sort of way--his love for her but she doesn't hear it that way. His mini-sonnet about love just conjures up all the memories of her first love and it's in this scene that I think Previn really brings the best music of the score.
You are no stranger to St. Louis, having previously sung for Opera Theatre. Do you have any favorite places to see and things to do in your free time while you're in town? How has the experience at Union Avenue Opera been so far?

I love St. Louis! I really enjoyed my time here in 2012 working on Sweeney Todd at Opera Theatre Saint Louis and I'm falling in love with this city all over again being here for Streetcar. I love Forest Park--all of the free things to do there are amazing. I've been staying near the Central West End which is another area I really enjoy. I'm a big "foodie" so all of the things that Euclid Avenue has to offer are so wonderful, and even better because it's all within walking distance. My experience at Union Avenue Opera so far has been nothing short of wonderful. The cast, the staff, everyone is just amazing. This is a truly special company and I'm so honored to be here!

You can learn more about Anthony at his website and by following him on Twitter @TenorWebb.

A Streetcar Named Desire opens Friday, August 1st and continues its run Aug 2, 8 and 9 at Union Avenue Opera, 733 N. Union Blvd. Performances begin at 8:00pm. Production sung in English with projected English supertitles. Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling 314-361-2881.

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