Opera star Erwin Schrott ignites the stage with his presence and passion
Erwin Schrott is two hours late for the photo shoot and interview at L.A. Opera’s home, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles. Finally he arrives, his Spanish-accented, bass voice resonating as he apologizes profusely to all. It was that damned freeway traffic, the last-minute phone calls — but he’s here now and promises to give all that is needed. “And please,” he says, “don’t make me sound like some kind of Latin lover.
”That might be difficult. With his chiseled good looks and seductive voice, it’s easy to see how Schrott has made a name for himself on opera stages around the world as Don Giovanni (Don Juan), the legendary libertine who’s slept with 2,065 women. Dark spiked hair, torn designer jeans, a clingy white shirt and a bar piercing in his upper left ear only reinforce the impression that he is perfectly cast in the opera’s title role. But with his run at the L.A. Opera’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni nearly over, he looks a bit weary. Then a model, hired for the photo shoot, enters. The idea is for her to stand behind him, with her arms and legs wrapped around him. When she moves up against him, his weariness melts away. Sparks fly. He can’t help it. Hiding his sexual magnetism is like hiding a 100-watt bulb in a dark room — it can’t be done.
Yet the 36-year-old insists on being self-effacing. He seems embarrassed when I bring up the fact that London’s Royal Opera compared him to Marlon Brando. “Oh, that’s ridiculous,” he says. “The Brando thing was silly.” He says the Royal Opera was just trying to sell tickets when it put a photo of a young Brando from A Streetcar Named Desire in the program for its Don Giovanni last summer.
Rumors abound that Hollywood has an eye on him but it’s uncomfortable for Schrott to be compared to a Hollywood icon, especially when he so passionately loves the opera. And while there are plenty of references to him as “Hot Schrott” and a “barihunk” on fan websites, his whole-hearted singing and inspired acting are what really seduce audiences, critics and directors.
Mariusz Trelinski, a Polish film director who directed him in the 2003 L.A. Opera production and the recent reprisal of Don Giovanni, said Schrott is more than just a handsome and talented singer. “I think he has incredible instincts,” Trelinski says. “His work is very organic. When he’s onstage, the body, the voice and the movement all become one.”
Very often, critics extol the passion and intensity of Schrott’s stage presence. British newspaper, the Guardian, writing about his performance as the Don, called him “a feral, sensual animal” in “what is probably the most completely realized performance of the title role you are ever likely to see.” Schrott says that kind of ferocity is what the character demands. But he also admits that his passion for theater is all-consuming. “When I am on the stage, I am full of emotions … I give my life to the character.”
That character, of course, is perhaps the most infamous lothario in cultural history. So it’s no surprise that Schrott not only wants to distance himself from the character he plays, but prefers to be evasive when it comes to his personal life as well. After all, this is the man who for the past 15 years has been – dare we say it? – opera’s own Don Juan. And if tabloids covered barihunks the way they do celebutantes, we’d be riveted by the ups and downs of the opera star’s personal life. But none of that information would come from the secretive Schrott himself.
His comments about women are made in the politically correct parlance of a presidential candidate. He says the key to a healthy relationship is consistent “drops” of affection rather than “explosions” of passion. “Like an equalizer,” he says, “you try to level it, but sometimes you need to turn up the volume because you like that song” and says its about “being able to give the best of yourself and also to resist the idea of hiding the worst.”
While he’ll talk about how Don Giovanni’s disrespect for women disturbs him, saying how important his mother, grandmother and friends are to him, he won’t offer up any details on his romantic relationships. He’ll mention his young daughter, who lives in his native Uruguay, in glowing terms, saying she’s “the love of my life” and how he likes to visit her as much as possible, but he says nothing about his failed relationship with the girl’s mother.
Check SingularCity.com next week for Part 2 of this interview — and some surprising revelations…