Get to know this motorcycle-riding, cello-playing, “Don’t Stop Me Now!” fan who makes his Filene Center debut this Friday as Spoletta in Tosca.
Can you tell us an anecdote or story from your training or career so far that will give us insight into what makes you tick as an artist?
Having studied with George Shirley, I must give him credit for this way of thinking about a role. While learning a character through notes and rhythms, I am thinking about character. Mr. Shirley taught that the great opera composers wrote for the voice, and when they put something on the page, they chose specific notes and rhythms on purpose. It is our job to figure out why the writing of a specific line makes sense. Then we can begin to understand how the composer meant for our character to think, to act, and to be portrayed. Of course it is always open to interpretation in the rehearsal process, but it is the best place to start from.
If you hadn’t chosen this career, what would you have pursued instead?
I probably would have done something with cars or motorcycles. I really enjoy both, and as a child, some of my chores involved helping my father repair our family’s vehicles. I also enjoyed drawing cars from magazines and going to car shows, motorcycle meets, and racetracks. As I have grown older, I enjoyed learning how to repair vehicles and rebuild them with my father, and is still a way that we bond when I travel home.
What non-operatic music do you enjoy? Do you dabble in performing/playing/singing any other genres?
I enjoy jazz music. I played jazz piano in school, and I always enjoyed attending concerts. I do still play the cello, my sister is a violinist and she sometimes asks me to play in string quartets for weddings. I also picked up the ukulele and am learning how to bette play that for fun.
What’s your favorite part (or parts) of the preparation/rehearsal/performance process(es)?
I really enjoy the staging process of rehearsal. It is so much fun to play with ideas in the room. Once we begin staging rehearsals, the character really becomes tangible; I enjoy becoming the character, and using my ideas from the practice room of text to be able to create a real person. Then reacting to my colleagues on stage makes it feel so real, and it doesn’t feel like work any more.
What aspect(s) of this career do you find the most challenging?
Of many challenging aspects of the career, I’d say constantly being on the road is difficult. I absolutely enjoy this career and traveling to new places, but it can be challenging. I find myself living out of a suitcase and I find that the rest of my possessions are in boxes at home that I haven’t opened in 5 years. I am finding how to adapt my lifestyle to ever-changing living situations and constantly changing schedules of rehearsals, while trying to stay healthy by working out, eating healthy, practicing physical movements for my onstage performances and practicing my music for the current show and the shows that I have upcoming. Being away from family is difficult as well, and just missing out on the creature comforts of having your own apartment gets difficult too. I definitely find ways to stay in touch with my family and to visit friends between shows (while re-packing my suitcase for the next adventure).
Do you have any “hacks” that make your job easier/more enjoyable?
It’s not really a hack, but I travel with my own frying pan and spices. Those are the most expensive things to have to buy if you are always trying to set up your own kitchen on the road. And most hotel rooms don’t offer a stocked kitchen, if they offer one at all. It is really important for us to eat healthy, because singers really are athletes, we burn a lot of calories every day running in our staging rehearsals and singing to project over an orchestra for 6 hours a day. Also, I prefer to drive to my engagements whenever possible, I’m still trying to find a way to bring my motorcycle with me so I could have another comfort of home with me on the road, haha!
What’s your dream role and why?
Faust in Gounod’s Faust. I love Gounod’s music and Faust is such a deep character. For a character actor/singer, the emotions that Faust feels throughout the show (when he finds joy in selfishness, remorse for things he neglected in his previous life, the anger he feels in the duel, and the fear at the end of the show to name a few), it is a real roller-coaster for an actor! And it is so fun!
What are you most looking forward to this summer?
Tosca as a whole, but I am really looking forward to working with the other Filene Artists and Studio Artists. It will be a treasure to meet and work with the future opera singers of the world and to begin building friendships that will last for our entire careers and hopefully our lifetimes.
What do you sing in the shower or in the car? (Or in a karaoke bar?)
Anything Queen. The go-to is “Don’t stop me now” but I love Queen. I’m working on my dance moves so I can bust out some M.J., I’ll let you all know when that happens, haha.
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?
The most exciting is that many new operas are being composed in English working to reach a broader audience and offering more live stage performance opportunities for audiences to easily understand and enjoy. There is really nothing like seeing a live performance! One of the most challenging things is that the business is getting heavily saturated with very good singers, and it is hard for someone to break into the career and make a living at constantly performing. The one thing that I would change is overall public concept of opera. I am preaching to the choir so to speak for you all who are reading, but many outsiders looking at opera on the surface think that it is something that you have to wear an expensive tuxedo or gown just to get into the door to watch and that you have to know a foreign language to enjoy a show. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. Somewhere in the past opera got this reputation and I don’t know why. It is not meant to be elite, it is meant to tell a live story on stage with beautiful music.