Bass Andreassen comes home to Portland stage

Putnam grad lends his deep voice to 'La Boheme'

At an age where other singers - the ones reaching the high notes - might start to lose their voices, opera bass Gustav Andreassen figures he has just reached his prime. His prime might last another 20 years.

'I've seen people who are kind of wrapping up their careers, and they're my age,' he says. 'For my voice type, I'm just getting started.'

Andreassen, 41, a 1986 Putnam High School graduate, makes his first Portland-area appearance this month, portraying Gustavo Colline in Portland Opera's 'La Bohéme,' Sept. 25 and 27 and Oct. 1 and 3 at Keller Auditorium. Andreassen, who lives in the Cincinnati area with his wife, singer Stacey Rishoi, has performed in many states and extensively in Germany, but never in Portland since he left the city when he was just 18 to pursue his career.

'It's funny, I've been offered a few roles over the past four years or so (in Portland) and had to turn them down,' he says. 'I was booked in other places, and I was really happy when I could accept a contract.

'I'm trying to talk my wife into moving here. The Portland airport is awesome, as chill as you can imagine; that's what a singer needs, a good airport.'

Andreassen's parents, Dave Andreassen and Ruth Dvorak, still live in the area. Andreassen marvels at the fact that his Putnam High director, John Baker, still works at the school and 'doesn't look any different.'

Hitting a low A

But Andreassen's life has taken him elsewhere, and he has performed on major stages to high acclaim.

He'll also perform with the Indianapolis Opera and Louisville Orchestra this year. Last season, he appeared in Arizona, Toronto, Hartford, Atlanta, South Dakota, with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., Boston and Aspen.

Last summer, he sang as soloist at the Aspen Music Festival in Shoskatovich's Symphony No. 13, 'Babi Yar.' 'It's a dream piece for a bass, with a 100-bass chorus in the background,' he says.

He is a frequent presence at Utah Opera and Arizona Opera and has also appeared in San Francisco, Florida, Cincinnati, Seattle, New York, Omaha and Alabama. His favorite role has been King Phillip II in 'Don Carlos,' which he has done for five years, including for a year in Germany.

Andreassen had not intended to be a singer, but a teacher. He schooled at Edmonds Community College and University of Arizona and then worked on his master's for three years at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. But he also auditioned well for the Metropolitan Opera, and his singing career took off.

After successful parts with the Orlando Opera and Opera Colorado, he moved to Germany in 1999 and worked all of 2000 there.

He first discovered his voice at age 14. 'I could sing a low B, and now I can sing a low B-flat. I can also sing a low A,' he says. 'You have to exercise (your voice) without hurting it.'