Acis Access – ABS talks with tenor Kyle Stegall

After catching up with our Galatea, Nola Richardson, we also had the opportunity to speak with tenor Kyle Stegall, who will perform the role of the shepherd Acis, the other half of Handel’s “Happy We” couple.

Kyle Stegall Photo: Gas Lamp Productions

Kyle Stegall
Photo: Gas Lamp Productions

Last month thousands of ABS fans heard you in Handel’s Messiah at Grace Cathedral and the Green Music Center. What are the differences between Messiah and Acis and Galatea? Does your preparation differ for these Handelian assignments?

The more time I spend with Handel’s music, the more I appreciate it for its ability to dramatically reveal the various passions and involvements of the human spirit. Last month I had the great pleasure of performing Handel’s Messiah with ABS. Handel’s treatment of text for any aria in secular or sacred context focuses on making the story at hand relatable to anybody hearing it by highlighting the human nature within. My preparation vocally is much the same: careful consideration for how my melodic line is to fit into the greater musical context. In Acis, rather than focusing my energies on the birth and passion of Christ, and on the biblical words that relate the comfort, desperation, and victory we find in that narrative, I instead focus on expressing the universal human experience of unyielding love for another.

Acis and Galatea is one of Handel’s most enduring and popular operatic works. What do you think attracts listeners to this work? As an artist, what do you find most rewarding about it?

This piece is great, with music full of contrast and elegance that raises this pastoral beyond a simple play about nymphs, giants, and innocent love. Handel’s masterful and imaginative writing makes this an experience for both the audience and myself, which frees us to unabashedly explore the joy, jealousy, and impulsiveness of love.

Compared with other Baroque composers like Bach, Scarlatti, or Purcell, are there apects of Handel’s works that make performing them especially thrilling or challenging?

I have been blessed to spend much of my career so far with these great masters. Each of them offers a slightly different approach to the vocal line and to its interaction with the text. In addition to being highly dramatic, Handel’s music is rather kinetic in nature, always inviting the singer to give over to the dance rhythms on which much of the music is built. I find this so stirring and inspiring as an artist.

Are there any composers whose works you would like to delve into more? Dream projects?

I have been studying the Passions of Bach, and wish very much to continue learning about his music and about the Passion story through performing the Evangelists. I made my debut at Lincoln Center as the Evangelist in the St. John Passion, and feel I have only scratched the surface of this striking repertoire. I look forward to devoting much of my energy and artistry to the development of these roles with mentors such as Maestro Thomas.