Thursday, April 30, 2015

Beethoven and Carmen (a long post indeed)


I am happy to say that the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium ( gave a fantastic concert last Friday in Anderson, South Carolina. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to sing my first Beethoven Symphony no.9 "An die Freude" with such a warm and passionate group of singers and players. The Liebeslieder op. 52 were also stunningly orchestrated, and sweetly executed.

Dr. Don R Campbell is one fearless leader, whose great efforts yield an impressive result. Cheers to you Maestro and your fabulous group.

Below is the press release:

Selections from Johannes Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes will follow with soloists Michelle E. Jarrell, soprano and Joseph Michael Brent, tenor.
GAMAC’s 24th Concert Season will conclude with Ludwig von Beethoven’s bold and brilliant choral finale to his famous Symphony No. 9 in D minor- the “Ode to Joy.” Recognized as one of Beethoven’s most well known musical settings, the text is based on the poem of the same title written in 1785 by German poet, playwright and historian, Friedrich Schiller. Beloved as both a protest anthem and a celebration of music itself, the “Ode to Joy” melody is well known in traditional church music as Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. The work has also been used prominently in film scores and has become a favorite among “Flash Mob” groups over the past decade. The ode was adopted as the “Anthem of Europe” by the Council of Europe in 1972 and subsequently the European Union. Alto Lucie Svatonova and baritone Sean Anderson will join Michelle E. Jarrell and Joseph Michael Brent for this beautiful finale.

In other news, I will be singing my second Don  José next weekend. New York Opera Exchange asked me to step in to sing this great role for their upcoming production.

Below is an interview I had with (Link to the Interview) 

1. Carmen is the title role, but would you say that Don Jose undergoes a greater transformation throughout the opera? What is your approach to playing him?

I do not believe José undergoes a greater transformation; in fact, I would hazard the interpretation that José does not actually undergo a transformation at all. On the contrary Meilhac, Halévy, and Bizet present the full spectrum of his character. If one spins a dice four times and the dice lands on a different number each time, has the cube gone undergone a transformation or are we seeing different sides of the same object? The violent, lustful, machismo, and possessive attributes that dominate the José of acts three and four are, at least, latent – if not tangible - in his character from the first scene. A performer (and audience member) should ask himself/herself: “What event(s) has taken place to lead us to this moment?” Luckily, we have Prosper Mérimée’s original story from which the libretto was constructed to provide that information. What we witness, as audience members, is not José’s transformation but the somatic manifestation of his mercurial psychological state. As a result, my approach to the role is to try to play José as human as possible. 
2. What is your take on Jose's personal history before the beginning of the opera? What is his background? What kind of a man is he? How strong are his values?

José is Basque, from the city Elizondo in the Baztan valley of Navarre, situated about 600 miles north of Seville, bordering south-western France. His full name is José-María Lizzarabengoa, but is sometimes referred to as José Navarro. His pre-opera personal history is a bit troubled. He flees his home town to become a dragoon with the Almanza Cavalry Regiment after murdering a man over a tennis match (José would admit to winning the match and is guilty of murder). He is pugnacious, yet well-mannered; he suffers from an Oedipus-complex; he is the archetype of European machismo. His values rest firmly in his masculine pride, and attachment to his mother.

3. How do you see his life after the opera ends? How has he changed? How much longer does he live?

After the opera ends José gives himself up to the police and as a result of his unlawful, homicidal behavior is incarcerated then sentenced to death. He does not live very long after being imprisoned.

4. Tell us about your musical and vocal process with this role: how does Bizet's music help convey Jose's character?

Bizet managed to imbue the text of the libretto with a special dramatic realism, which is the result of three specific compositional techniques: syllabic text setting, attention to tessitura, and development of rich orchestral colors. Bizet and Ernest Guiraud sculpted melodies and melodic gestures that exquisitely express the sensibilities and emotions of the characters. As a result of these melodies and gestures José lives and breathes in the pages of the score. José is a role that feels like it sings itself. Throughout the opera there is a genius balance between drama and beautiful singing.

5. What is the most important part of the opera for Jose? Is there one moment or scene that particularly defines him?

I do not believe that there is one most important part of the opera for José. His extended scenes with Carmen are the most descriptive, expressive, and personal. One should take notice that José sings Micaela’s melodies throughout their first act duet, not his own expression but manufactured equivocal melodies. The act two scene which includes the famous flower song is one of the first moments that the audience sees a more complete picture of José. 

Thanks for reading,

Friday, April 24, 2015

My inspiration...

This is my inspiration for tonight's Beethoven 9 in Anderson. I have had the pleasure to share the stage with Rene Pape, and one day I will meet the dynamic and brilliant Jonas Kaufmann!

I this might be controversial, but I think Kaufmann is that iconic tenor - truly the Franco Corelli of our day - he is a dream boat, and incredible singer. 


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

And the hits just keep on coming

Dear Readers,

I am so excited for this Friday's performance of Beethoven 9 and Brahms Liebeslieder waltz op.52 No. 17 with Dr. Don Campbell and the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium in their "Brought to you by the Letter B" Master Works series concert. 

This will be my first time singing as the tenor soloist in the demanding final movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony - An die Freude or Ode to Joy. I have to give special thanks to the Collegiate Chorale, who have - on two occasions - brought me to the Verbier Festival in Switzerland to sing this master work. The first, in 2006 with Maestro James Levine (I was singing in the bass section), and then again in 2013 with Maestro Charles Dutoit (I was singing in the tenor section). I also have to thank Dr. Gregory Broughton who forwarded this opportunity to me.

It is an incredibly challenging work, with limitless historical potency. Beethoven's 9th symphony was a milestone and because a stepping stone for musicians and composers ever since.

I arrived safely in South Carolina yesterday in the early afternoon - after some rather expensive car trouble - tried to settle in after the long drive. Our rehearsal last night went very well, this will be a great treat for those who can attend. 

Concert is this Friday, 24th, at 7:30 pm in Anderson, South Carolina at the Boulevard Baptist Church - if you can make it 
wink emoticon

In the meantime I will enjoy this beautiful spring weather in the south!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Much Anticipated...

Dear Readers,

Please first allow me to thank you for staying strong and checking in, despite the paucity of updates.

The first four months of 2015 have flown by! They were chilly here in the North East, but also productive. I am currently working again with New York Opera Exchange, reprising the role of Don Jose, which I first sang at the University of Georgia!

Before I get too far into current events, I would like to share with you some rather flattering reviews I received from recent operatic performances. I am reminded of an anecdote, which was shared with my by Prof. Frederick Burchinal: A great tenor (Alfredo Kraus) said "I don't read the reviews because: if I believe the good ones, I have to believe the bad ones." I will try to cultivate this perspective but in the mean time... I felt obliged to shared these.

In January I sang the role of Mayor Upfold, in the Bronx Opera's production of Benjamin Britten's satirical comedy Albert Herring - as well as covering Albert (and performing in a reduced version for children). Of my performance as the Mayor DAVID SHENGOLD of Opera News wrote:
"Joseph Michael Brent, sang Mayor Upfold with a penetrating sound and remarkably projected diction (the best of the entire cast)."

 Shortly after, in February, I sang my first Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, to which I received the following review from the allegriconfuoco bloggers:
"Tenor Joseph Michael Brent made me weep too, his sound is beautiful, round and tender but also agile and powerful. Brent is truly a romantic hero, with a handsome stage presence and an expressiveness to match. He also worked great in his duets with both Lucia (Ah! Verranno a te sull’aure) and Enrico (O sole più rapido a sorger t’appresta). In his arias in the finale, Brent was heart breaking, particularly in Fra poco a me ricovero, when Egardo still thinks that Lucia betrayed him. He may have rushed a touch too much in Tu che a Dio spiegasti l’ali, but otherwise proved himself as a swooningly excellent tenor."

It is very exciting to see and read that my hard work is being appreciated by strangers!! I am sure you could understand the sentiment. 

I leave for South Carolina in 10 days for Beethoven 9 and Brahms Liebes Lieder waltzes.

It's late o'oclock here in New York. 

As ever - Thanks for reading,
Sincerely yours,