I recently had a pleasant little chat with a lighting guy from the Royal Opera House, who informed me that during Simon Keenlyside's performances in the title role of Don Giovanni, he had been asked to direct the lights in order to make SK look as naked as possible. "My job was basically to light Simon's bits," he laughed, as I tried to prevent myself from fainting on the pavement. I'm supposed to be talking about singing, aren't I? I know, I know. Gosh.
I don't even know when or where I first heard Simon Keenlyside (please note that I didn't write 'see Simon Keenlyside' as I'm trying to be serious now...) but he possesses a voice that, for me, always seems so full of intelligence and emotional depth. It's what you would expect from opera's most prominent zoologist. Add to this the aforementioned physical attributes, and what you've got is opera magic. As I write this, I'm listening to him singing with Natalie Dessay in the Met production of Thomas's Hamlet and my heart is just twisting itself into knots. I know he isn't everyone's cup of tea. I recently met a lovely lady who told me that for her, he isn't an actor and doesn't move his face enough, but I seem to witness something entirely different. He's in that class of opera singer who can really make me feel something, and I laugh at his Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflote as much as I cry at his Rodrigo in Verdi's Don Carlo. But his Hamlet is really fantastic. I'm going to pick a bit with Jennifer Larmore's Gertrude, because he moves his face. A lot. So there.