Ear Supply: Handel, With Care

In a new opera, a tenor suffers a Messiah complex.

Tenors, as goes the stereotype, don't exactly suffer from either low self-esteem or a high level of intellect. So to hear of an opera that purports to look inside the mind of one—well, the jokes just write themselves. This is the premise of San Francisco composer Ben Bernstein's monodrama, The Man in the Mirror, but Ross Hauck, the tenor who helped him develop the half-hour piece and who performs it here this week, bucks the popular image. Bernstein interviewed Hauck extensively about what goes through a singer's head while he waits to go on. Hauck's honest, soul-baring confessions—the confidence, the self-doubt—went directly into the opera, transformed into an electronic chorus of voices that haunt and torment the tenor as he dresses for a Messiah performance ("You should have been a dentist!"). Issaquah-based, the intrepid Hauck's made a name locally in music ancient (Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses with Pacific Operaworks) and contemporary (performances with Music of Remembrance and in Igor Keller's notorious oratorio Mackris v. O'Reilly). Part of the American Handel Festival, the piece is a brilliant choice: a modern take on Handel's music and legacy (Bernstein constructed much of his score out of surreally collaged Messiah fragments) and a glimpse at what really goes on inside the handsome heads we only ever see onstage under the bright lights, soaking up adulation. 

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