DAVID BUTT PHILIP
Butt Philip sings Boris in ‘Katya
Kabanova’ at Glyndebourne this month
Waiting to meet David Butt Philip to talk about his new role—Boris Grigorjevič in Janáček’s Katya Kabanova—I briefly eavesdrop on his coaching session with Lada Valešová. Through closed doors comes the thrilling sound of a youthful heroic tenor, who has been garnering golden notices internationally for his performances in the German repertoire, most notably for his portrayal of the title role in Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg at the Deutsche Oper. The last time I saw him live was in November in the demanding role of the Prince in Christof Loy’s new production of Rusalka at Madrid’s Teatro Real, where he has also given notice of a great future in the late Romantic repertoire. He is slated to sing the same role in a new production at Covent Garden in the near future. After singing his first Czech-language Laca in Jenůfa last summer—another role he was coached in by Valešová—his Boris, which he sings at Glyndebourne this month, represents a hat-trick of Czech roles during this mostly locked-down season.
‘Yes, it’s turned out to be an all-Czech year for me, apart from the Bohèmes with ENO last September,’ he says, referring to that company’s drive-in production. He was originally scheduled to sing two German roles as well—Florestan in Berlin and Erik at Covent Garden—but they were cancelled. ‘So I’ve been incredibly lucky because the three Czech roles I had been scheduled to sing have actually happened, which is remarkable in itself. A lot of my colleagues have had no work at all. I was engaged for Rusalka in Madrid years ago and, amazingly, it turned out to be one of the only opera houses playing to the public last autumn. My understanding is that Madrid stayed open because Joan Matabosch refused to give in. Huge credit to him.’ Butt Philip should have sung his first Prince in Tatjana Gürbaca’s production of Rusalka for ENO last spring, but that was an early Covid casualty. His Boris will be a role debut, but Janáček is not new to him: he sang Laca in English for Opera North as long ago as 2015, and then sang it in Czech for an NTR Saturday Matinee radio broadcast at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw earlier this year, with Lise Davidsen as Jenůfa. ‘Luckily, as it was a concert performance, I didn’t have to learn it by heart. But, yes, Katya and Jenůfa are the Janáček operas I plan to sing in future—though I might do Albert Gregor [in The Makropoulos Case] as well. Laca and Boris are the
Opera, May 2021