|Big voice at Buxton Festival: Jason with lean and hungry look
John Robert-Blunn, Manchester Evening News
"I LOVE singing anything and everything," said Howard Haskin over tea and biscuits in a very English neo-classical hotel in Buxton. He was commenting on my surprise that he had recently sung in Verdi's Requiem in Dublin and that in May next year he is booked to sing in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde in Haifa.
I had thought, wrongly, that this 31 year-old black American tenor who is impressing capacity audiences at Buxton Opera House as Jason in the festival's controversial production of Cherubini's Médée, was an opera-only man.
But Haskin is, and intends to remain, an all-rounder, despite the acclaim he has won in Buxton and the fact that after returning briefly to his Paris home after the Médée run he will be singing the taxing role of Paris (he intends no pun) in Tippett's King Priam with Kent Opera. And if plans go well, he will be happy to repeat his Jason in the projected Buxton Festival performances in Lyon next year.
To say that he was lucky to land this Buxton Festival role depends on which side of the ledger one looks. He does not yet command a fee or a name, let alone a frame, as big as, say, Pavarotti. On the other hand, musical director Anthony Hose and producer Malcolm Fraser, having secured soprano Rosalind Plowright for the title role, had been looking for months for a worthy partner who had sung Jason.
It was only in June that Haskin's agent, Tony Kaye (who is also Rosalind Plowright's agent and husband) rang him in Paris. An audition quickly followed and Hose and Fraser were impressed.
Haskin, who has been studying for eight years with Marie-Henriette Dejean ("a wonderful teacher"), said: "Many people think of me as a Mozartean kind of tenor, but when I open up I have a bigger voice than they suppose on first hearing." (He sang Radames four nights running with the am-pro Northern Opera in Newcastle, where he could not understand a word of Geordie).
He admits that this is because, at around 5ft 8in, he has a lean and perhaps hungry look. "Perhaps I should try to build up muscle," he says. And he does do weightlifting and enjoys swimming just as much as the freshwater fish he often tries to catch.
On stage at Buxton he looks lean but fit and athletic. But he sounds impressive and acts well.
Haskin seemed destined for the stage when, at three, he began "dancing" to the music of Gerswhin. He started learning the piano the following year. Much later he studied at Wichita State University and Indiana University.
After two years in Zurich he was offered work in Germany and had to decide whether to go on studying in Pariswhere he had made his professional European debut in Porgy and Bess. He chose Paris.
"It is a wonderful place," he says, quickly adding that he is enjoying England and Buxton in particular. He pours me a second cup of tea while munching on a digestive biscuit.
A diplomat as well as a singer. And Buxton clearly likes him.
Copyright © 1984 Manchester Evening News
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Impressing capacity audiences.
Mr. Haskin in the role of Jason with Rosalind Plowright in Médée.