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Bryn Terfel: The 'Bad Boy' Of Opera

Welsh bass-baritone singer Bryn Terfel is the bad boy superstar of the opera world. His new record, Bad Boys, pulls together some of the best evil roles in opera and musical theater — from traditional classics to modern masterpieces.

In one aria from Mozart's Don Giovanni, Terfel sings the parts of three voices: Giovanni, Leporello and the Commendatore.

"Not at the same time!" he says, laughing.

Terfel tells NPR's Guy Raz that he enjoyed the challenge of molding himself into the three different characters. He recorded separate tracks for each one, and the result is spectacular. He admits he was never very comfortable playing Don Giovanni on stage.

"I never felt that I fit into his movement, into his personality. I never really enjoyed it," he says. "I thought other guys could sing it and act it better than me, so I leave that to the baritones now."

Terfel spent the first decade of his career traveling the world and taking on all the roles he could get.

"You want to have butter on your bread, you want to feed your children, you want to make a living," he says of his career's beginning.

But in the past few years, he's decided to slow down. He says it's paid off.

"Having cut down on my operatic experience as I have," he says, "it's become a little more intense, a little bit more cherished."

The singer is more selective in his roles now, only choosing those he loves best. And with numerous international performances and albums recorded, he admits he still gets nervous.

"If I wasn't nervous, then I wouldn't be the performer that I am," Terfel says. "I'm singing Scarpia at La Scala in a few years, and already I'm nervous! Already, I'm thinking I'm singing Italian in front of all of these wonderful opera lovers."

Like a true professional, Terfel uses his jitters to his advantage.

"You have to turn it around and make it very positive," he says. "I think I'm very good at that."

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