The West

Lewis paints vocal pictures
Alexander Lewis

The exchange of music lessons for helping his mother move house this week seems like a pretty good deal to Alexander Lewis, particularly when she runs the vocal studies course at the WA Academy of Performing Arts.

Lewis and his older brother Ben - sons of acclaimed opera singers Patricia Price and Michael Lewis - have both carved out careers in musical theatre and opera since they graduated together from WAAPA in 2004.

Alexander is based in New York where he recently secured a principal artist contract with the Metropolitan Opera - and major roles in Gogol's The Nose and Verdi's Rigoletto - after three years in the Met's young artist program.

Lewis, 31, who played Raoul in the 2008-09 Australian tour of The Phantom of the Opera, may have an accelerating international career but he says it never hurts to keep learning from his mum, one of the best in the business.

He has spent the past two months back in Perth, where his father flew in from Sydney to see him wrap up a season as Tamino in WA Opera's The Magic Flute.

Lewis also is preparing for his performance in the recital series SwanSongs this weekend. Soprano Lisa Harper- Brown will round out SwanSongs on August 17.

Accompanied by David Wickham, Lewis will celebrate in song the lives of great painters. The program centres on Britten's Sonnets of Michelangelo, Poulenc's song-cycle tributes to Picasso, Chagall, Klee and Miro, and contemporary American composer Ben Moore's Dear Theo, songs inspired by poignant letters from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother.

"The letters give a remarkable insight into a troubled human being, a very special person obviously in the art world," Lewis says.

"I immediately latched on to (Moore's song cycle) because it is fantastic character-driven storytelling, given my background in musical theatre."

Lewis will resume at the Met in September pending a threatened lockout over opera union contract talks. The company wants to cut wages as it faces faltering ticket sales, a depleted endowment and rising operating costs.

"My thoughts are with everyone involved," says Lewis, who is due to perform in The Death of Klinghoffer followed by The Merry Widow. "It is a difficult time. I'm sure they'll come to some arrangement."

Lewis keeps close tabs on brother Ben, 34, who played The Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies and soon debuts on the West End in the show Forbidden Broadway.

"We are both very excited for each other," he says. "It is hard for mum and dad because it is a bloody long way for them to get to see either one of us. It is the nature of the beast with the performing arts industry. You have to go where the work is."

SwanSongs is at the Perth Town hall at 3pm on Sunday. Tickets:

The West Australian

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