I hope you are all staying well. As my work on a small project continues I was reminded of a post on the OperaGene blog that I was featured in.
Here is a link to the blog http://operagene.com/new-blog/2020/1/29/why-maryland-lyric-operas-thas-a-young-artist-perspective.
Be sure to give OperaGene a few hits of traffic, in the mean time: below, I've copy and pasted the page.
Tenor Joseph Michael Brent obtained a doctoral degree from the University of Georgia in 2014 and in 2018 spent a period training in Maryland Lyric Opera’s Young Artist Institute. He has appeared in several MDLO productions since then and after a concert appearance in 2019, I wrote “I thought Mr. Brent was good when first I heard him a year ago. He is now even better, a career worth following. Kudos to him and to the MDLO team.” He will play the role of Nicias in the upcoming MDLO performances of Thaïs. His answer to the question posed in my previous blog report came in too late, and perhaps in too much detail, to be included there. However, it was much too interesting not to use. Here is a young artist’s response to my question.
Why did you decide to make Thaïs part of your life?
My decision to make Thaïs a part of my life was multivalent. Until I was contacted by Maryland Lyric Opera, Thaïs had never made a blip on my professional radar. I had written transcriptions of the Thaïs meditation for double bass, and as a duet for double bass and violin, but never conceived that I would be singing Nicias, a role that I have come to adore. Thaïs is not standard repertoire, and as there is no proper aria for the tenor (Nicias), there wasn't previously any powerful impulse to engage with the score. In an effort to streamline my answer, I would like to simply state that when the Maryland Lyric Opera calls I pick up; if MDLO inquires or offers a role, I consider it. I have ineffable appreciation, respect, and trust in the tight-knit team of artists who are at the helm of this company. Mr. Brad Clark (President and Founder), Matthew Woorman (General Manager), and Maestro Salemno (Music Director and Conductor) are a powerhouse triumvirate forging an impressive opera company, one that I am grateful to work with and for. They take care of their artists, and they prioritize great music making: what more could you want from an opera company?
Though I fear any display of hubris, I'll hazard to admit that I have come to personally identify with this character. I also have found that Massenet's setting of Gallet's text feels well suited to my voice, individual subjectivity notwithstanding. Nicias is an armchair philosopher, iconoclast, fatalist, epicurean, and dare I say hedonist; he takes people at their word and celebrates aestheticism over asceticism. I also find the underlying contention of the opera - the drama that percolates between Thaïs and Athanaël, and the provocative questioning of faith, paganism, and lust - fascinating, and engaging. Much of the music is quite beautiful, and Massenet's use of associative musical gesture at times is nearly “leitmotivic”. The  trichord (three note grouping), for example, is heard melodically and harmonically throughout the opera during scenes that feature Athanaël. You will hear this unmistakable cell used “motivically” by the orchestra in his first entrance. The two-bar phrase is actually a statement of the  trichord in one bar, followed by an inversion of the same trichord in the second bar, together creating a haunting affect. Other statements of this motive cell are rather recondite."
In summary, I chose to make Thaïs a part of my life because accepting this contract meant that I would be working with a great company (run by inspired artists), singing a role suited to me, exploring a relatively obscure opera, being surrounded by fantastic artists (on stage, off stage, and in the pit), offering something special to the audience, and - not least of which - earning some money to eat, pay my rent and student loans. I have to emphasize that working with Claudia Zahn (Thais Director) is an absolute treat, she is fantastic. I would be remiss if I did not include both Sam Fleming (Thaïs Costume Design) and Anne Nesmith (Thaïs Wig Design), who have contributed to making a beautiful show. Their amiable and brilliant personalities are perfect complements to their professional skill, a true joy to know these three artists. The high quality of person and artist that this company employs, from management to the pit, create an atmosphere that is an exhilarating delight both artistically and professionally. Tenor Joseph Michael Brent, who plays Nicias.
The Fan Experience: Mr. Brent makes a cogent point in his last paragraph not mentioned by others. A singer must also be able to put food on the table. If we want to continue watch and hear young artists entering opera careers, we have to support them by attending performances. MDLO is making that possible.
Thanks for reading. Stay safe y'all