*Non-lady baritone David Kravitz lunched with me this past weekend where we talked about Stephen Sondheim, Mohammed Ali, and giant robots.
KYLE THOMAS HEMINGWAY DICKINSON: So, David Kravitz, what are you working on now?
DAVID KRAVITZ: Right now I’m getting ready for performances of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music next weekend with Emmanuel Music. I really think this piece is one of Sondheim’s greatest achievements, and that he is one of America’s greatest composers, especially in the world of musical theater. It’s something of a departure for Emmanuel to take on a piece like this, which makes it exciting.
KTHD: And who are you playing?
DK: I play Frederik Egermann, a lawyer who suddenly finds himself in the throes of middle age and newly married to an 18-year-old. In—certain respects—he isn’t finding the marriage entirely satisfactory.
KTHD: And, somewhat ironically, I’ve heard tell that you used to be a lawyer!
DK: That’s right!
KTHD: In what ways, if any, does that inform your performance?
DK: That’s an interesting question—I certainly know what it’s like to be a lawyer!
KTHD: Are you just having a ball with your cast?
DK: I think this cast is absolutely wonderful. Most of the cast are Emmanuel Music regulars, but you’ve certainly not seen them quite in this way. Sondheim is a bit different from Bach, at least on first blush!
KTHD: Before you head to Night Music rehearsal this evening, though, I hear you’re headed to another rehearsal?
DK: That’s right! I’m crazy enough to be rehearsing two shows at once. The other is being presented by Intermezzo Opera, a new work they’ve commissioned about Anne Hutchinson. She was a colonial-era religious—I’m not quite sure how to describe her—she was a heretic, essentially. She was booted out of Massachusetts Bay Colony for her theology by Governor John Winthrop, who I play in this performance.
KTHD: What’s it like playing a historical character? Have you ever done that?
DK: Because Winthrop lived so long ago, it doesn’t feel that different from playing a standard fictional character. My general philosophy with these kinds of things is that when you turn historical events into a piece of theatre, you’re not making a documentary; so it’s a bit of a trap to get wrapped up in too much historical accuracy. The strangest experience I’ve had with this was last year when I did an opera based on more contemporary events, about Mohammed Ali.
DK: I was not playing Mohammed Ali.
KTHD: I was trying to imagine all that makeup work!
DK: I was playing a journalist whose biography of Ali was the basis of the opera, who was present at the performances—I was portraying a character based on the person sitting across from me in the rehearsal room. That was a different experience!
KTHD: I bet! Something else you have upcoming is a remounting of Death and the Powers in Dallas. Has anything changed since we saw it here in Boston?
DK: I don’t really know, actually. The score looks generally the same on first scan. With the exception of the lead role of Simon Powers being played by a new performer, the entire cast comprises singers who premiered the piece in Monte Carlo.
KTHD: So they’re just going to stick the giant robots on flatbed trucks and drive them down to Texas?
DK: You joke, but that’s basically what will happen!
KTHD: It’s awesome to see that opera companies are willing to take a risk on mounting this piece, and that it’s getting a life outside Boston.
DK: Absolutely, and for those who can’t make it to Dallas, the performance is actually going to be simulcast throughout the US and Europe!
KTHD: So, far from giant robots, you also frequently collaborate with the Arneis Quartet on chamber concerts.
DK: I love working with Arneis so much. I think it’s healthy for a singer to seek out a balance of large-scale and smaller-scale performance opportunities. So I knew about some of this repertoire for string quartet and voice and we’ve put together this great program. We’re actually having a piece written for us this year.
KTHD: Between formerly practicing law and running the most widely-read political blog in New England, how did you make the leap from that to performing?
DK: By and large, they’re all just things that interest me; but I can say there is a great deal of theatricality in the practice of law.
KTHD: To wrap this up, I’m going to quickly James Lipton you with a few final questions. Outside what we’ve discussed already, what is something about you that most people don’t know that would surprise them?
DK: I love bluegrass and folk music.
KTHD: What Boston arts event have you attended recently that you just loved?
DK: I saw Camelot at New Rep and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was lovely.
KTHD: With your former [Mikado] castmate, Erica Spyres!
DK: Yes! Who was a total highlight of the production playing Guenevere. She was stunning.
KTHD: And finally, what is and where can you find your favorite cocktail in Boston?
DK: I’m very new to cocktail culture, you were actually present for a substantial part of my inauguration at a now-infamous Lower East Side speakeasy crawl organized by Graham Wright. What I can tell you is that I was delighted to receive a bottle of St. Germain for Christmas which my wife and I have been enjoying experimenting with.
KTHD: Maybe your next move after law to music is to bartender!
DK: Never say never!