Day 56: Tenor David Margulis in the Artist Spotlight

During the 2015 season, the blog will feature interviews with our Filene Young Artists. Today, we hear from tenor David Margulis, Léon in The Ghosts of Versailles and Goro in Madama Butterfly.


Which experience(s) most influenced your decision to become a professional singer? What’s the earliest point in your life that you can identify in pointing you in this direction?

When I was a kid, I auditioned (through no choice of my own) for the Florida Singing Sons Boychoir. For whatever reason, I was asked to join. I didn’t really want to, but again, I didn’t have much of a say.

The director of the choir was a man named Jeffri Bantz. Mr. Bantz had a huge baritone voice and a love for singing that was infectious. Pretty soon, skipping baseball games for choir concerts didn’t seem like the worst thing in the world. By the time my voice changed, I had traveled with the choir to more places than anyone else I knew and had a working knowledge of music theory that would put a collegiate music major to shame. I owe so much of my love of singing to Mr. Bantz.

If you hadn’t chosen this career, what would you have pursued instead?

I think if I wasn’t singing, I’d be a writer. Maybe a sports writer. I’ve loved writing even longer than I’ve loved singing. Sadly, I don’t do much writing these days.

What non-operatic music do you enjoy? Do you dabble in performing/playing/singing any other genres?

Classic rock. Or maybe some old school jazz. About a million years ago, I was a pretty good trumpet player. Playing jazz was just fun. Especially the high notes.

What’s your favorite part (or parts) of the preparation/rehearsal/performance process(es)?

My favorite thing is discovering new things about my character during the staging process. With every character I’ve played, at some point, I find something that I hadn’t previously considered, and it’s always an eye-opening moment.

The other thing I truly enjoy is finally putting it all together and performing for an audience. After all the work that goes into bringing an opera to life, there’s something so satisfying about just getting up and performing.

What aspect(s) of this career do you find the most challenging?

There are some stressful times where you’re not doing much of anything. At that point, maintaining whatever momentum you’ve built and keeping the faith that you’re on a good path can be downright terrifying.

Do you have any “hacks” that make your job easier/more enjoyable? 

I don’t think this necessarily qualifies as a hack, but knowing your text inside and out is so crucial. I was recently having a friendly argument with a director about a character’s motivation, and I was able to bring him to my point of view by being able to cite the text.

This is definitely a hack: TSA Precheck. Makes dealing with airport nonsense twenty percent less annoying.

What’s the most exciting thing you think is happening in the opera industry today? The most discouraging/challenging thing? If you could change one thing about our art form and/or industry, what would it be?

To me, seeing more and more companies presenting premieres and seldom seen operas is a beautiful thing. New works are what keeps this art form alive and fresh.

If you were talking about opera with someone who has never experienced it, what part(s) of it would you be most excited to explain to them?

For me, opera is the total package: the crazy plots, the bigger-than-life characters, the vocal acrobatics…what’s not to love?

What’s your dream role and why?

That changes on a near daily basis. Right now, I’m a bit hung up on Hoffmann and Peter Grimes (although I think Jon Vickers may have ruined any chance of me getting to do that role). Besides those both being great sings, I’m drawn to the idea of the tortured antihero, and I’d like to explore those characters.

Do you have any artistic heroes? People whose careers or artistry you particularly look up to?

I admire the way Lawrence Brownlee goes about his business. He never let anyone tell him that he couldn’t be great, and that’s how I want to be. I admire Neil Shicoff for the fire he still has for this business, and the way he fought back against huge odds to have a brilliant career. And I admire Steven Blier for the thoughtful artistry he brings to everything he does.

If you could travel back in time to meet any composer/artist from a former time, who would that be and why?

I’d want to meet Mozart and ask him why he made all of his music so difficult.

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

Making music and trying out new roles in an amazing setting. No better way to spend a summer.

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