Michael Todd performs the role of Escamillo in the upcoming Carmen with Seattle Opera. Here is a snippet (full interview here):
The role of Escamillo is famously difficult to sing—some have gone so far as to say it isn’t really a bass-baritone part, but a part for a bass who has to transform into a baritone for certain passages. Do you find this a difficult role to sing?
Act II sits lower than Acts III and IV, and people expect a sort of beefy quality to the Toreador Song, a heavier bass-baritone quality. A bass wouldn’t sing it; it’s either a bass-baritone or a baritone. I’m a high baritone, so once I get through Act II, I’m home free, whereas most bass-baritones have no problem with the aria and then Acts III and IV kill them. I have the opposite problem.
Everyone always says you either have a baritone who can’t hit the bottom, or you have a bass who can’t hit the top. But in Carmen it’s not a matter of hitting the notes as it is delivering the quality of sound that people expect to hear—just as if you would never want to hear a Heldentenor trying to sing Rodolfo in Bohème. You just wouldn’t expect that. So that’s the difficult thing about this. The danger I get into is trying to beef up my sound and, in the aria especially, that just kills you. That’s what comes across as being difficult; people listen with their eyes and when they see someone on stage struggling, that’s what makes people think it’s such a difficult role. But that’s something I’m still working on. I’m 32, and Escamillo is just one of those roles that take some maturity.