Carnegie Hall is one of the most
renowned musical venues in the world, so it says something about a
young performer when he gets his first performance there at merely 20.
However, this is where Swedish-born, New York-educated opera singer
Charles Eliasch finds himself. He will be making his Carnegie Hall debut on March 31, 2013
at the Weill Recital Hall.
What are your
earliest musical memories?
My earliest memory is singing in choirs.
Really the one which is significant I can't particularly
remember. When I was two years old, my mother
[British director Amanda Eliasch] took me to the opera
to see Don Giovanni by Mozart. She thought at
intermission I'd be fed up, so she decided to leave. When I realized
that, apparently I made a huge scene and insisted that we stay for the
When did you first
decide you wanted to be a singer?
I would say when I was about 13. My grandmother
[Caroline Brown] was
an opera singer. It was also when one of my mother's friends showed me
a film called Farinelli. There was something about that film,
which was about an opera singer in the 18th century. I don't know, it
just inspired me to become an opera singer. Also, there are a lot of
musicians in my family, so that has been an instrument. But it was that
film that started it all.
Your mother is a
filmmaker and your grandmother was also an opera singer. Do you think
artistic tendencies can be passed down in families?
Definitely. I think the majority of the time
that's the case. I mean, there are lots of cases where
[artists] have no
musical people in the family, but I think, yeah, definitely. My cousin
is Stefan Solyom, the director of the
There are quite a few pianists, not professional
pianists, but there are quite a few of them [in my family]. My great
grandfather was a film director as well.
Who are some of the artists who inspired you to become a singer?
This is a really hard question. I would say Maria
Callas, Franco Corelli. Jussi
Björling, who is Swedish. I'm Swedish, so he is very close to me. The
list could go on. In the past there have been so many incredible
singers. Nowadays, the two singers that I love most are Joseph Calleja
and Joyce DiDonato.
You are only 20 and
making your Carnegie Hall debut – how exciting is that? How does that
make you feel?
It's... (chuckles) It's quite daunting.
It's now only two weeks left and the days are creeping up. I'm
rehearsing every single day. (laughs) The nerves are starting
to creep in. Which is a good thing. But apart from that, it's really
exciting. It's a platform to spring out from.
Now that you are
playing a legendary venue like Carnegie Hall, what are some of the other
opera houses you would most like to perform at?
My absolute dream would be The Royal Opera House in
London, at Covent Gardens.
You have a very
dramatic look and fashion sense, almost like from another time. How do
you come about your stylistic choices?
I've always had this love of the past. When I was
little I would walk down the street and I would imagine that I would see a horse and carriage go by. (chuckles) I
did have, and still do if I want to, an extensive imagination, where I can
change what I want to see. On top of that, I went to Harrow School in
England, which is the rival of Eton. One of the uniforms is one of the
19th century uniforms. There was something about this. Lord Byron went
to my school as well. It all became entwined. I just always have felt
a closeness to the past. I don't feel like I'm in this time.
(laughs) I feel like I'm someone from the past in this century.
Most people your age
in the current day, when they look at going into music and singing, they
don't necessarily gravitate towards opera. Do you think it is
surprising that more young people aren't really in that world?
I actually do. I think the view of opera has almost
become closed off, like that's a really exclusive thing which not many
people can see. I'm really against that. I believe that it's for
everybody. For me, and I'm sure for a lot of others, it's the highest
form of art, because in that art you have singers who are acting. On
top of that you
have speech. There is vocal theater in opera.
Then there is the art side, where you have the stage sets and
everything. Then you have fashion with the costumes. It's all
connected with the music. A lot of opera, like Mozart, is still popular
today. Every week there is Mozart being played somewhere. This is 300
years after the composer, which says a lot. Mozart is set to help
people when they are revising and you have it playing in the background,
it helps you. I've heard that they've done studies on this. So, I
really encourage that people go to the opera. It's fundamental, because
we're stuck with all the music of today. The foundations of that is
either in African music or in classical music. One or the other. We're
very familiar with African music. It's the foundation of western music,
which is what we call... I hate this term... classical music, because
it's too generalized a term. Even in there, there are different points,
different styles. I think we should have the knowledge of the past to
create the future. Really, if we don't, we lose our foundation.
What other types of
music intrigue you?
I love jazz. I really do. Especially early jazz.
Even jazz today, there is some wisdom, because it's created in a form
which is where the blues meets with classical music. Those are very
strong ties. The way that you sing it is very similar to how opera
singers approach their music. Of course, we're singing it in a
completely different way, but there are similarities in how it is
approached. We're meant to be gentle. The range is very large in
jazz. It's not just a small range like very much it is in pop music
today, where most singers keep to an octave, which is just eight notes.
But, yeah, I just love jazz. I love music up to really the 60s. There
is something in it which really wants to make you move.
You are from Europe,
but I believe you went to school in New York.
Yes, I went to Mannes College of Music, which I
finished in December. At the moment, I'm sort of in between. I'm going
to be going to the Royal Welsh College of Music in September.
Are you enjoying
staying in New York leading up to the show?
Yes, I have been. What Europeans don't realize is
that it's very much a working city. Everybody is working. It's very
exciting and there are loads of opportunities. And there are things
here which they have different outlooks. Things are much more
officious. There are different outlooks into how things work, which I
find very interesting.
What would people be
most surprised to know about you?
I don't know. When I meet people, people assume
that I'm aloof. I'm not at all. I'm shy, that's my problem.
(laughs) I'm very shy. When I get to know people, I'm actually a
lot of fun and quite funny. (laughs again) I'm not talking from
my own experience, I'm talking from other people's experience. I never
judge a book by its cover. That's what I encourage other people to do.