Q: There’s a lot that Bryan Fuller and Mads Mikkelsen did to humanize and bring nuance to Hannibal Lecter’s persona, but when he’s singing he’s going to be even more deeply empathic and immediately relatable to an audience. Is that scary, or is it freeing, or both? Especially since you’ve chosen to cast a countertenor—what does that casting choice do to our preconceived notions of how that character functions and who they are? Can Hannibal be genderqueer, for example, and still exert the same emotional impact on the audience?
A: In Fuller’s drama, Lecter was not just an omnisexual, but he was beyond an enigma, a contradiction. What vocal fach [a vocalist’s musical range and tone quality] would best represent something not binary but along the spectrum of Hannibal, possessing both monstrous and humanistic qualities? Would casting a countertenor for the title role queer the character’s gender, sexuality, and frankly entire identity?
Hannibal presents as a man, but sings in a “feminine” vocal spectrum—or is he a woman hidden in the body of a man? Is he a man who desires women, a woman in the body of a man who desires men, a gender-fluid person who desires men and women, or something else entirely?
There’s tension for the audience in believing Hannibal to be one neat thing, to be seduced into a vision of the character’s identity, and then to have these multiple and contradictory facets revealed—to truly get to “see him” and “know him.” I believe this interpretation will have more emotional impact than a straightforward, “Oh, he was bisexual all along.”
A sensitive countertenor allows a delicate union of male and female, of the terror and the sublime, which both exist in the character. I’m confident that our audience will be mesmerized by the elegant and supernatural vocal qualities from our countertenor performing the title role, Nicholas Tamagna.
– Sung Jin Hong being interviewed by Aja Romano in One World Symphony conductor tells us why ‘Hannibal’ is on the menu for opera lovers (dailydot.com, 18 October, 2015)
[I love the idea of the character Hannibal being cast as a countertenor!]