Preview: Orphee, Royal Opera House, London

Music that outsings the birds
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

At 6ft 6in, with a massive bearded face shaped like a shield and with a voice to shake the earth, 27-year-old Matthew Rose is as impressive off stage as he is on, and when he takes the role of the Judge in Philip Glass's chamber opera Orphée at the Royal Opera House's Linbury studio, he'll be at least as big a draw as the bewitching Katie van Kooten, who sings Eurydice.

How did he get to be the way he is? The answer is a very routine childhood in Sussex, during which he always sang, though without any thoughts of taking it seriously. Then, at 13, his voice broke: "It just dropped overnight. It was extraordinary: suddenly I was a bass." Was that a surprise? "For my mum, yes, but not particularly for me." But at university, where he had gone to study English, the great baritone Ben Luxon put him on the right road, and he went on to study for five years at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia; after that he joined Covent Garden's Vilar scheme, and began to tread the boards with his heroes Simon Keenlyside and Bryn Terfel. What has that taught him? "Economy and efficiency. No superfluous movement, just enough to communicate what you're feeling at the time."

After Orphée he will sing Montano in Othello with Ben Heppner and Renée Fleming, then he's off to do Don Carlos and Figaro in Wales, before singing Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne next year. "Such things I would have hardly dared dreamed about - and they give you money for it, too!" Is Wotan in his plans? Rose looks wary: "I'm not sure I have the heft or the stamina to do that - at least, not yet. Watching Bryn [Terfel] do it brought that home to me. But I'm quite happy with the bass roles for now. I'm a very lucky boy."

'Orphée', Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, London WC2 (020-7240 1200) from 27 May