Opera Interview: LUCAS MEACHEM (Now Appearing in LA Opera’s DON GIOVANNI)

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by Michael M. Landman-Karny on September 29, 2023

in Interviews,Music,Theater-International


Baritone Lucas Meachem, now appearing in LA Opera’s Don Giovanni, was born on June 11, 1978, in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. He initially pursued his passion for singing through Karaoke before venturing into the world of opera. Meachem’s educational journey in music took him to Appalachian State University, the Eastman School of Music, and Yale University. His professional career took a significant step forward when he became an Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera. In 2003, Lucas Meachem achieved a notable milestone by winning the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. In 2006, he had his big break by stepping into the role of Oreste in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride opposite Susan Graham at Chicago Lyric Opera. This career-defining moment came after the originally scheduled artist, Simon Keenlyside, withdrew from the role. Meachem’s performance received critical acclaim, thanks to his effortless singing, impeccable French, and remarkable theatrical prowess.

Today, Mr. Meachem is highly sought after by some of the world’s most prestigious international opera companies, including The Metropolitan Opera, Opera de Paris, The Royal Opera House, SF Opera, and the Vienna Staatsoper. He is recognized for his versatility, seamlessly transitioning between lyric and heavier roles, and mastering operatic works in various languages, including German, French, Russian, Italian, English, and Spanish.

Meachem is a Grammy Award winner for his contribution to LA Opera’s production of The Ghosts of Versailles and has also been honored with the Richard Tucker Award.

For Meachem’s performance of the title role in LA Opera’s Don Giovanni, Stage and Cinema‘s Michael M. Landman-Karny stated “Lucas Meachem as Don Giovanni effortlessly navigated all the intricacies demanded by the Baritone role. He infused his Serenade with a seductive quality, delivered the rapid-fire “Fin ch’han dal vino”  (“Till they are tipsy”) aria with a dynamic spark, and imbued the final scene’s confrontation with the Commendatore’s ghost with a powerful and thunderous intensity. From a dramatic standpoint, his confidence was equally evident. He adeptly portrayed the witty and charming facets of Don Giovanni’s character, while also burning up the stage in moments of explosive brutality.”

Mr. Landman-Karny recently spoke with Lucas Meachem after seeing a performance of Don Giovanni at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Lucas Meachem in LA Opera's 2023 production of Don Giovanni (Cory Weaver)

Michael M. Landman-Karny: Your portrayal of the malevolent and self-absorbed Don Giovanni was truly remarkable. Have you ever considered taking on the titular role in Sweeney Todd, a Broadway classic that has also found its way into the world of opera?

Lucas Meachem: Well, earlier in my career, I did entertain the idea, but I eventually realized that it might not be the right fit for me. Sweeney Todd demands a certain roughness in one’s voice, which I don’t naturally possess. Similar to the role of Jack Rance in Fanciulla del West, there’s a need for a particular gruff quality that doesn’t quite align with my vocal style.

Alan Williams, Craig Colclough, Meigui Zhang, Lucas Meachem,
Anthony León, Guanqun Yu  (Cory Weaver)

MLK: I’m a big fan of your YouTube videos, particularly the one titled “If People Spoke to Me in Real Life the Way They Do on Social Media.” How do you manage to ignore the negativity on social media, especially when it’s impossible to please everyone all the time?

LM: Well, I appreciate the sentiment. First and foremost, I believe that internet trolls can target anyone. <chuckles> What they’re essentially saying is, “I care,” and that’s what I choose to hear. Whether it’s positive or negative caring, it’s still caring. Social media is a numbers game, about reaching people. If someone leaves a negative comment, there are others who come to my defense. I enjoy seeing people passionate about opera, even if they disagree with my interpretation of a role.

Lucas Meachem as Don Giovanni at LA Opera (Cory Weaver)

MLK: Speaking of online discussions, do you think today’s opera singers are unfairly compared to those from the past? Do people tend to view the past with rose-colored glasses?

LM: It’s natural for people to reminisce about the “good old days.” Whether you’re in your 40s, 70s, or 90s, in your time, the best were the best. Take sports, for example. Lionel Messi is a fantastic player, but he’s not Pele. Michael Jordan was compared to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in his era. Nowadays, we have a wealth of recordings that people can compare. These recordings often feature close-miked performances, allowing for a more intimate, darkened vocal quality that may not have been possible in larger venues. So, it’s not always a true reflection of a singer’s abilities.

MLK: Could you share some of your experiences working at LA Opera over the years, perhaps a humorous anecdote?

Lucas Meachem in The Ghosts of Versailles (Craig T. Mathew)

LM: Of course! When I was performing in Ghosts of Versailles at LA Opera, I actually proposed to my wife at the Griffith Observatory in L.A. The city holds a special place in my heart. Now, about a funny story, I once missed an entrance during a performance at LA Opera. Back then, you could turn down the monitor in your dressing room if you didn’t want to listen to what was happening on stage. I was studying my next role and didn’t realize that the calls [to go on stage] were also turned off. They had to rush to get me, and when I finally made it on stage, Chris Maltman hilariously quipped, “A baritone is always late.” It was quite embarrassing.

My first performance at LA Opera was in 2009 in Barber of Seville, featuring an amazing cast including Juan Diego Flórez, Nathan Gunn, and Joyce DiDonato. At the time, I didn’t have a place to stay, so I crashed on a friend’s couch in Beverly Glen. It was quite the commute. Now, I’m renting a house in West Hollywood, which is much more comfortable.

Dimitri Pittas, Andrea Silvestrelli, Joseph Lim, Dale Travis
and Lucas Meachem in Lyric Opera's 2013 La Bohème (Dan Rest)

MLK: I must commend your excellent diction in Italian, French, German, and even Russian, from what I’ve heard. Will you consider tackling Czech opera in the future?

LM: It would be quite the challenge, and at the moment, it’s not on my radar. I’m happy singing in the five languages I’ve already mastered. Seriously, I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to diction. If I make a mistake, I get pretty hard on myself. I work diligently to ensure that my diction and vocal quality are the best they can be.

MLK: The downside to singing Czech is singing words that have no vowels. The upside: nobody knows that you’re screwing it up! What is your dream role?

Lucas Meachem and Sondra Radvanovsky
in Chicago Lyric Opera's The Queen of Spades (Cory Weaver 2020)

LM: My dream role is Rodrigo in Don Carlo. I was actually scheduled to perform it before COVID-19 disrupted plans.

MLK: Do you have any upcoming roles with LA Opera?

LM: Currently, there’s nothing in the pipeline, but I’ll always come back to LA whenever they invite me. It’s my favorite city in the United States, and it’s a vegan mecca, and there are so many great vegan restaurants.

MLK: What is next on your schedule?

LM: In November, I am excited to be performing in a wonderful new opera, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly at Dallas Opera. It’s the true story of journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby who awakes from a coma unable to move or speak, “locked-in” like a diver at the bottom of the sea. But his mind is as brilliant as ever, and with the help of his assistant, he creates his memoir—an extraordinary story of resilience, creativity, and the indomitable spirit to overcome adversity. It is composed by Joby Talbot with a libretto by Gene Scheer. I play the lead role and the wonderful Sasha Cooke and Andriana Churchman will be co-starring.

MLK: Dallas audiences will be in for a treat. Thank you again for chatting with me and good luck on the rest of the run of Don Giovanni.

Lucas Meachem Season Calendar

September 23 to October 15, 2023Los Angeles Opera Presents Don GiovanniLos Angeles, CA

November 3 to November 11, 2023The Dallas Opera Presents The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
[World Premiere]
Dallas, TX

January 21 to February 1, 2024Staatsoper Hamburg Presents Il Trittico and Il TabarroHamburg, Germany

April 11 to April 13, 2024Chicago Symphony Orchestra Presents ElijahChicago, IL

April 18 to April 20, 2024Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Presents Zemlinsky’s Lyric SymphonyBaltimore, MD

April 26 to May 11, 2024Metropolitan Opera Presents Madama ButterflyNew York, NY

June 30 to July 22, 2024Teatro Real Presents Madama ButterflyMadrid, Spain

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