Meet the Artist: Rigoletto’s Olafur Sigurdarson

What was the very first opera role that you performed?

My first professional engagement was the role of Horace Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore, performed with English Touring Opera in Cambridge. I am very much looking forward to visiting Leadville, Colorado for the first time in April and seeing the Tabor Opera House.


What’s your favorite opera?

This is a tricky one, but if I absolutely must choose it’ll have to be Rigoletto.


What do you find captivating about Rigoletto?

As well as Verdi’s astonishing music, I am fascinated by the character of Rigoletto and his battles with the world around him. 


The role of Rigoletto is one that you’ve frequented during your career. How do you keep this role fresh vocally and dramatically?

With such a demanding role, every new production means going back to the drawing board. I have to carefully study the score, even though I know it inside out. It really is amazing that every time I come back to this wonderful opera I discover something new. Meeting a new team of colleagues also means rediscovering the role, every time. I guess the key to keeping it fresh is not to take anything for granted and to be willing to explore new dimensions.


How would you describe Rigoletto’s relationship to his daughter Gilda? Is your experience different with each singer-actress you perform with in this role?

Although this is a story about Rigoletto’s desperate attempts to protect his daughter from a dangerous world, it is also a story of a young woman coming of age, wanting to break away and explore the world. In my opinion, it is exactly this that makes their relationship so real and believable. As a performer, I am always influenced by my partners on stage, and as Rigoletto, the most by Gilda. Every new production and every new Gilda helps me to find something new in my Rigoletto. As the old phrase goes, acting is reacting.


You’ve performed as both a concert musician and an opera artist. How are two similar and different?

With such a busy schedule in opera it is not easy to find time to do the number of concerts I would like. Working on an opera production usually means weeks of rehearsals until the performances take place, allowing myself to use that time to dig into my role. A typical concert will take less time in final rehearsals, but you spend more time preparing on your own to be ready for the gig. As much as I love working in opera, I do find it refreshing to do concert work every now and then.


As a performer with a busy season around the world, how do you keep yourself at top condition while going from one concert hall to the next?

As vocal health goes hand in hand with one’s physical and mental condition, it is important for me to get my regular exercise. My workout of choice would always be a good walk outside, or the gym if need be. With this lifestyle of constant travelling and late night shows it is easy to fall victim to large meals after work, something I try to avoid as much as possible. I guess I’m simply doing my best as most people.


When you’re not performing on the stage, how do you like to spend your time?

I do enjoy discovering new cities and countries, and nothing beats a good walk or a hike. My wee camera has become somewhat of a hobby and encourages me to go out and explore. With all the travelling though, my favorite time is spent at home with my family.


What’s colder, your home country Iceland or Minnesota?

Iceland is much warmer than the name indicates. I have experienced lower temperatures here in the Midwest than what we are used to on any normal day back in Reykjavik.


If you were the kind of individual to seek revenge on someone else, how would you go about doing so?

I’d invite them to a traditional Icelandic dinner, including sheep’s heads and fermented shark!

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