Lessons In Love And Violence: Samuel Bolden’s lyric tenor voice is suited to baroque music | Theatre | Entertainment
Occasionally he straps on rollerblades to get to rehearsal on time – it’s quicker than taking the Tube.
In a performance earlier this year as Ulysses’s son Telemachus in Monteverdi’s The Return Of Ulysses, he set the pace on a tandem cycle as he whizzed round the circular stage of Camden Town’s Roundhouse.
Boden’s new role for the Royal Opera House, as the Young King in the hotly anticipated world premiere of composer George Benjamin and playwright Martin Crimp’s Lessons In Love And Violence, involves five or six lightning-speed costume changes, which he had been going through in a technical rehearsal when we met.
“The adrenalin really kicks in as you have to get out of pyjamas into a suit, running off stage undoing buttons as you go and back again in nanoseconds with hardly a pause in singing.
The director, Katie Mitchell, has in common with George and Martin an economical way of getting to the point, which brings a very raw feeling to the opera.”
George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s highly acclaimed previous work, Written On Skin, is the most performed new opera of the 21st century and is based on a medieval tale of retribution.
The unnamed king in Lessons In Love And Violence, is King Edward II of England. In 1327 Edward was deposed for misrule, extravagance and having homosexual favourites that included – among others – the notorious Piers Gaveston.
The son who eventually succeeded the deposed and probably murdered monarch was Edward III, one of the more successful of the Plantagenets.
Unusually for a king, especially from such a dysfunctional family, he became a devoted family man as well as a popular ruler.
By creating non-specific roles in their new opera, Benjamin and Crimp can mine the universally relevant theme of the clash between love and political expediency.
Stark and violent scenes contrast with moments of extreme tenderness. The son learns the lessons of love and violence from witnessing the tortured relationships of his chaotic father with Queen Isabel and her lover Mortimer, military chief to the King.
French baritone Stéphane Degout sings the role of the King, Canadian high soprano Barbara Hannigan the role of Queen Isabel, tenor Peter Hoare is Mortimer and baritone Gyula Orendt is Gaveston.
Boden’s lyric tenor voice is well suited to early or baroque music, and many of the roles he has sung previously have been in early opera.
He made his Royal Opera debut in the title role of Cavalli’s L’Ormindo in 2014 at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – a gorgeous romp set in baroque Venice.
“Early and contemporary music have much in common, because of the importance of the words to the music,” he says.
“George Benjamin colours the words with his music and it is the same with baroque music, such as that of Monteverdi. The words and the music support each other.”
Bilingual in French, Boden is exploring the work of 18th-century French composers and as a high lyric tenor is attracted to the baroque “Haute Contre” (high tenor) repertoire.
After the London run of Lessons In Love And Violence, followed by the tour to Amsterdam, it is back to the baroque for a summer of concerts in Siena, Tuscany and Vienna.
George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s Lessons In Love And Violence opens on May 10 at the Royal Opera House, London WC2. Tickets: 020 7304 4000/ roh.org.uk ; £4-£100)