Airing Don Basilio’s Dirty Laundry: Meet Isaiah Musik-Ayala
Lying. Cheating. Vocalises… All in a day’s work for Don Basilio, Rosina’s slimy music teacher. From spreading rumors to happily accepting bribes, Basilio works the plot from all angles. Bass-baritone Isaiah Musik-Ayala couldn’t be more different than his character. We caught up with this down-to-earth singer to find out some of his favorite moments in opera and to get his thoughts on the two Barbers. Don’t forget to check out the playlist to hear some of his favorite operatic moments!
Photo by Vanessa Preziose
• OSO: What was the first opera you ever saw?
IMA: My mom took me to Rigoletto at the Mendocino Music Festival, not far from where I grew up. They do shows under this big beautiful white tent overlooking the ocean, and I remember loving it.
OSO: Name from an opera…Your favorite:
• OSO: Aria?
IMA: Whatever I’m working on at the time! So right now it’s “La calunnia” haha… But I remember the first aria I really loved was “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” from Samson and Delilah after hearing my mom and others sing it for a voice class when I was a child.
•OSO: Love duet?
IMA: Does the final tomb scene in Aida count as a love duet? Regardless, that’s one of my favorite scenes of all time, and I will always have that music floating in my head.
IMA: Lucrezia Borgia’s! It is essentially a big scene and aria for the soprano. Almost everyone dies and the music is amazing and lets the soprano show off.
IMA: Cesare Siepi.
• OSO: Do you play any instruments? If yes, what instruments?
IMA: I try to play piano… and I enjoy but am very bad at playing guitar.
• OSO: Favorite cocktail?
IMA: I moonlight as a bartender so it kinda depends on my mood, but if I’m not drinking something neat, I’ll just say…a good vodka martini with olives or a fresh lime juice margarita. But I do make the best Manhattan in the city 🙂
• OSO: Last book you read?
IMA: “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” by Timothy Egan, about the life and photographs of Edward Curtis, who created the most definitive record of the American Indian. But I usually read escapist fiction.
•OSO: Is this your first time performing Paisiello’s music?
IMA: Yes! Although, I think that technically I have been singing “Nel cor piu non mi sento” since I was a boy soprano…
• OSO: Have you performed in the Rossini Barber? If so, what are the differences you note between the two Barbers?
IMA: Yes, I’ve sung Basilio in Rossini’s Barber, and they are very similar. Paisiello’s Basilio feels more serious. But I would say both Barbers are silly in their own way.
• OSO: The subtitle of the opera is “The Useless Precaution.” Have you ever taken, what you feel like, are useless precautions? Has the result been as comedic as in the opera?
IMA: Everyday! I read something that says using my debit card a certain way will make it more secure, etc… so I start doing that, I have a million separate passwords for all the many accounts one manages to have in this day and age, and I save all kinds of receipts for some possible audit in my future, and none of it will probably end up mattering at all!
• OSO: Beaumarchais characters from his “Figaro Trilogy” are some of the most beloved in all of opera. What excites you most about performing Paisiello’s version in a site-specific production?
IMA: I love the idea of performing opera in different spaces. Especially hand-picked spaces that a director like Eric can do amazing things in. Getting to see opera up close and personal is going to be a big part of what it takes to keep opera alive and relevant in the future, and I am excited to be a part of that!
• OSO: What is the greatest music-related advice you’ve ever been given?
IMA: I remember Richard Miller saying “Don’t show the seams of the art.”
• OSO: Besides On Site’s Barber, what projects are coming up next for you?
IMA: I’m excited to be joining Jay Lesenger for his last season at Chautauqua Opera this summer. I’ll be singing Zaretsky and covering Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, and I’ll be singing the Doctor and covering Banquo in Macbeth.
Check out the playlist below to hear some the music mentioned in Isaiah’s interview!
Join On Site Opera for Paisiello’s The Barber of Seville
June 9, 11, 12, & 13 at 7:30pm | The Fabbri Mansion
Tickets are $40 and available online at bit.ly/OnSiteBarber or by phone at 866.811.4111.
American bass-baritone Isaiah Musik-Ayala (Basilio) is an alumnus of Irene Dalis’ Resident Artist ensemble at Opera San Jose, where he performed the title role in Le nozze di Figaro, Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola, Count Des Grieux in Manon, Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville, Colline in La Bohème and Alexei Karenin in the West Coast Premiere of Anna Karenina. Isaiah most recently performed as an Apprentice Artist with the Caramoor Music Festival, competed as a finalist in the 2014 Irene Dalis Vocal Competition and performed Escamillo in Opera San Luis Obispoʼs Carmen. Other recent engagements include Simone (Gianni Schicchi) and Frank (Die Fledermaus) in a return to Opera San Jose, Raimondo (Lucia di Lamermoor) with West Bay Opera, Colline (La Bohème) with Hidden Valley Music in Carmel under the baton of Stewart Robinson and a recital with the Beverly Hills Recital Series. Other performance highlights include Ramfis (Aida), Baron Duphol (La Traviata), Pistola (Falstaff), Sacristan (Tosca), Don Alfonso (Così fan tutte) and Sharpless (Madame Butterfly). Isaiah is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory, where he studied with the late Richard Miller. http://www.isaiahmusik-ayala.com/