The role of Simon Powers is performed by the renowned baritone, James Maddalena. Simon is described as “a billionaire entrepreneur obsessed with his death. Mid-sixties. Mad, eccentric, charismatic, virile, successful. Has a devilish side to him, mischievous.” Maddalena appears on stage in the first scene, at the end of which he vanishes into The System that he has constructed in order to perpetuate his presence in the world after his physical body dies. For the rest of the opera, he performs his role off-stage. Sensors measure his voice and gestures in real time and represent his emotions and movement through the massive moving walls and musical chandelier.
Here is an excerpt from Scene 1 of Death and the Powers, recorded during rehearsal at the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston, August 2010. Libretto by Robert Pinsky.
“Once out of Nature I will never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
From hammered gold and gold enameling…”
Da-da, da-du-dum, mechanical parakeet…
“And set upon a golden bough to sing.”
Ah, the immortal William Yeats!
He can have his bird.
Yeats, I give you the bird!
Maddalena commands a large and varied repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to contemporary opera. He first gained international recognition for his notable portrayal of the title role in the world premier of John Adams’ Nixon in China, directed by Peter Sellars at Houston Grand Opera. His association with John Adams continued in two more recent roles: the Captain in Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, which premiered at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels and received performances at the Opera de Lyon, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, San Francisco Opera, and at the Vienna Festival prior to being recorded by Nonesuch under Kent Nagano; and Jack Hubbard in Doctor Atomic for San Francisco Opera. In September 2010, Maddalena will make his debut with the Opera de Monte-Carlo in the premiere of Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers.
An active concert artist, Maddalena can be heard in repertoire ranging from Bach to Hindemith. He has performed The Messiah with Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, Hindemith’s Requiem with Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Orchestra of the Accademia di Santi Cecilia in Rome, the St. John Passion in Turn, Italy, Harbison’s Words from Paterson with the San Francisco Symphony, and Carmina Burana in Seville, Spain and Palermo, Italy. He sang Schubert’s Die Winterreise at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Robert Spano as accompanist and the complete cycle of Bach cantatas with Boston’s Emmanuel Music.
Maddalena has recorded for Decca/London, BMG, Classical Catalyst, Nonesuch, Teldec, Sony Classical, Harmonia Mundi, and EMI. He can be heard on the Grammy Award-winning recording of Nixon In China (Nonesuch) and the Emmy Award-winning PBS telecast, now on DVD.
View James Maddalena’s profile at California Artists Management.