Friday, December 9, 2016

Ankyloglossia - Day 11

Dear Readers,

Thank you so very kindly for the overwhelming support. While those might seem like trite words, the sentiment is logarithmically earnest and true. It's important to know that in vulnerable moments there is a supportive community. As many of you know, I shared the previous blog entry about my lingual frenotomy (frenectomy) on facebook.  I received the largest number of views (638 as of the writing of this post) in the three years that I have been keeping this blog, as a result of sharing that blog entry.

As an opera singer, it does take courage to disclose one's vocal health. One of the main reasons to share my experience is for other singers with the same lingual impediment. It was very difficult to find information about adult frenotomy (aka adult frenectomy, or adult tongue-tie, or adult ankyloglossia). Furthermore, it was supremely difficult to find information about singers who have had the condition and the procedure.

I couldn't find any evidence of problems, mistakes, or botched surgeries. I also could not find conciliatory words of advice, or of specific success stories. Some singers and technicians have posted about the procedure as a tool for mobility in rolling the "r," which is heard and utilized nearly all of lyric diction, and in the most common languages of the operatic canon.

Some words for those who are interesting in getting the surgery:
  • The procedure was quick, simple, painless. It took approximately 8 min.
  • Local anesthesia injected into the tongue.
  • The doctor used scissors to "un-tie" the frenulum.
  • I bled lightly for several hours, with light spotting for two days after. I used gauze under my tongue to collect the blood.
  • I do 3 tongue stretches all day.
  • I took pain killers for 9 days.
  • The pain was often server, but never incapacitating.
  • I could eat and speak immediately following the surgery, and in the days following.
  • Obvious speech impediments were never exaggerated and they resolved themselves over the course of 4 days. As the pain subsided so did the small lisp and slur.

I was shocked to see how much tongue was actually IN my mouth. The mass and volume

Thank you for reading, and thank you for the support.

More updates as they seem relevant.

Below are photos from the last two days:

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ankyloglossia - Day 5

Dear Readers,

I have been severely tongue tied.... since birth.

Ankyloglossia - "A condition that restricts the tongue's range of motion," also known as tongue-tie,  "is a congenital oral anomaly that may decrease mobility of the tongue tip and is caused by an unusually short, thick lingual frenulum, a membrane connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth." 

On Monday, November 30th, at 4 pm I had a procedure to "un-tie" my tongue. It was a liberation! The glamorous and stead-handed Dr. Linda Dahl performed the "untying."

In April of this year Dr. Dahl diagnosed me with ankyloglossia. For my close friends this came at no surprise. I have spent years sharing the struggles of having a severe under-bite and a short tongue. Personal anecdote: for those of you who were present in the summer of 2014 at Opera Theatre Pittsburgh's master class with Marianne Cornetti I even publicly announce how short and fat my tongue really was.

There is an axiom, supposedly Persian in origin, that says "Whatever is in the heart will come up to the tongue." If we accept this premise, then maybe we can - by a rule of logic - also accept that as the tongue is freed, it will be free to express what is in the heart.

After discussing the procedure with other singers, teachers, and months of research I came to the conclusion that I should have it done. The surgery might, as an ancillary benefit, proved great freedom at the base of my tongue and in vocal production. The primary benefit is in the mobility of my tongue to articulate consonants and vowels clearly and easily. Language, and by extension singing, can be logically reduced to the function of three interrelated mechanisms: breath, phonation, articulation. Assuming that I do my rehabilitative stretched to prevent the frenulum from re-growing then I should have added if not maximum mobility of my articulators (tongue, teeth, lips and mandible - though I do still have my malocclusion a.k.a under-bite).

For the weak stomached readers I suggest you not look away.
Below please see before and after photos:


Immediately After:

3 days after surgery:

I haven't sung yet since the surgery.
Once the majority of the pain has subsided and I am off the pain killers I will start slowly working my voice back, because I've been dormant for 10 days.

Thanks for reading,
All the best

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Silent Night @ Michigan Opera Theatre: Post II

Dear Readers,

In just 2 hours Michigan Opera Theatre will present its 2nd performance of Kevin Puts Silent Night.

The reviews were very positive of our opening night; the cast was really on point. I am sure this mid-week performance will be just as effective. Unfortunately, you only have 3 more opportunities to see this production here at MOT. If you missed the live broadcast, and are not planning to be in Michigan this weekend then I will mourn with you. It's exciting to be a part of this revival, directed by the production's original director, with so many of the original cast members.

We were very fortunate to have master classes this week with Dean Anthony and Maestro David Abell. On Friday we will work with the imitable Martin Katz.

On a personal note, I have made an appointment to have a procedure known as frenulectomy (I've also seen frenuloplasty) to correct ankyoglossia (colloquially known as tongue tie). More on this soon.

Thanks for reading,
warm thoughts to you all

PS: In other news, it has officially been 2 years since I passed my final defense and was award my Doctorate in Vocal Performance from the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, Franklin School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Georgia! I found out that my DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) capstone document on selected vocal compositions of Giovanni Paolo Bottesini is now a cited source in the bibliography on Wikipedia. What a great way to celebrate my 2 year anniversary.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Silent Night @ Michigan Opera Theatre

Dear Readers,

I feel particularly unqualified to address the current unrest, and contentious Zeitgeist present in our lives as Americans (and felt globally). Others are far mor eloquent, sensitive, and galvanized by this milieu than I. I will say: in the aftermath of a tumultuous week, at the culmination of a tenuous 18th month period - one filled with pride for some and heartbreak for other - I am honored to share with you an update and invitation...

Michigan Opera Theatre opens its second production of the 2016-2017 DiChiera legacy season tonight, Saturday, November 12th with composer Kevin Puts' Pulitzer Prize winning opera Silent Night. Please accept this "invitation" to hear the opera live streamed, tonight only, from Detroit's own classical/jazz radio station WRCJ. For those of you not in the Detroit Metro area please tune in at the WRCJ website: at 7:30 P.M. EST

If you've been keeping up with my posts, you will know that I am singing the some-what manipulated and mischaracterized, sinister role of Kronprinz Wilhelm, the last Crown Prince of Prussia, whose full name was Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Augustus Ernst, eldest son of Kaiser Wilhelm II. According to some sources he was referred to jokingly as "Little Willy." Enough with the multi-claused history lesson! He is characterized in the opera as a herald of the archetypical German-Nazi, a character trope which I believe is well now quite common - however anachronistic.

I will share the stage with a team of fantastic singers, who are equally effective actors. Though I've identified them in my previous post I would like to explicitly restate this cast of tremendous colleagues:
Erin Wall (Anna Sorensen);
Chad Johnson (Nikolaus Sprink);
Phillip Addis (Lt. Audebert);
Kristopher Irmiter (Lt. Horstmayer);
Gabriel Preisser (Lt. Gordon);
John Robert Lindsey (Johnathan Dale);
Yours Truly JOSEPH MICHAEL BRENT as the Kronprinz;
Jeff Byrnes (William Dale);
Daniel Belcher (Father Palmer);
Alexandre Sylvester (Ponchel);
Ricardo Lugo (French General);
Brent Michael Smith (British Major);
Briana Hunter (Madeleine Audebert);
The unduplicatable David Charles Abell conducting
Mr. Eric Simonson directs

I am proud to be a part of this revival of Eric Simonson's original production from 2012. It's a pleasure to work with Eric and Maestro David Abell to recreate this brilliant work. This opera, like Weinberg's The Passenger, which we performed last year at Michigan Opera Theatre, is gaining quite a bit of currency.

Pictures to come.

Thank you for reading,
With a warm embrace in mind

Friday, November 4, 2016

On Wenlock Edge - Music From The Trenches

Dear Readers,

An exciting few days are among us. I am not referring to the World Series, nor to the election, but contrarily to WWI "inspired" musical programs!

Just around four hours ago I performed Ralph Vaughn-William's "On Wenlock Edge" with the piano quartet from The Scarab Club's Chamber Music at the Scarab Club concert series. I was so honored to have Dr. David Dichiera and Mr. Wayne Brown, as well as several Michigan Opera Theatre Studio resident artists, and of course all of the faithful opera lovers in attendance.

The show went very well, it's such an honor to be selected to preview or introduce the music of Kevin Puts and his opera Silent Night.

Tomorrow morning at 10:30 we have a run through of Silent Night. Then again at 3... Sunday we'll have the Sitzprobe at 2 then concert the second "Music From The Trenches" at 7!! Maybe I'll sleep when I die.

Exciting few days...

More soon

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Silent Night - Fall 2016

Dear Readers,

Two posts in one week!?!? Do you feel spoiled? While the dust settles from the shock wave of irony, I am happy to update you on Michigan Opera Theatre's production of Kevin Puts' Pulizer prize winning opera Silent Night. You'll also read in this post about my approaching performance of Ralph Vaughn-Williams' song cycle On Wenlock Edge with the Michigan Opera Theatre chamber ensemble at The Scarab Club, here in Detroit.

No sooner was the curtain drawn on thunderous applause for the cast and crew of Michigan Opera Theatre's 2016 performance of Carmen than the stage management were setting up for our first day of Silent Night rehearsal. I can't say that it's uncommon for singers to have less than 24 hours between different productions, but I also cannot - with reasonable honesty - say that it is standard practice. We (opera singers) are typically learning or preparing other productions while engaged in a current production, but starting at 10 AM the morning after a matinee (which was given the afternoon following an evening performance) is specifically rare.

From Kevin Puts' website, a blurb on Silent Night:
"Silent Night is an opera in two acts by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, based on the 2005 film Joyeux Noël... The opera is sung in English, German, French, Italian and Latin...."
Specifically Silent Night is a piece of historical fiction, displaying a moment in the lives of soldiers during the Christmas armistice of 1914. 
Our production is off to the races, and by the end of week one we have staged the entire show. I am headed in tonight to work with the chorus. I am eager to see how the next three weeks plays out. Before I get too far along in commentary, here is the list of brilliant singers hired to bring this work to life:

Erin Wall (Anna Sorensen); Chad Johnson (Nikolaus Sprink); Phillip Addis (Lt. Audebert); Kristopher Irmiter (Lt. Horstmayer); Gabriel Preisser (Lt. Gordon); John Robert Lindsey (Johnathan Dale); Yours Truly JOSEPH MICHAEL BRENT as the Kronprinz; Jeff Byrnes (William Dale); Daniel Belcher (Father Palmer); Alexandre Sylvester (Ponchel); Ricardo Lugo (French General); Brent Michael Smith (British Major); Briana Hunter (Madeleine Audebert); the fantastic David Charles Abell is conducting and Mr. Eric Simonson directs.

What a tremendous group of people.

We had nice party last night, what Maestro Abell called the Silent Night Lonely Husbands Club. So far it seems to be two great casts in a row. It's turning out to be a special year.

More on Silent Night soon...

More importantly: Chamber Music at the Scarab Club - "Music From the Trenches" Nov. 4th and 6th

I am so excited to join the quintet for Chamber Music at the Scarab Club featuring: Mary Siciliano – piano, Velda Kelly – violin, Andrew Wu – violin, James Greer – viola, and  Nadine Deleury – cello

The event is called "Music From the Trenches." We will be performing Ralph Vaughn-Williams touching and powerful setting of A.E. Housman's poetry in a cycle entitled On Wenlock Edge. There will be music by Kevin Puts, Suite en Sol for string quartet by Jacques de la Presle, and others.

The program is meant to whet-the-whistle for the approaching performances of Silent Night.

I have to run to rehearsal.

More soon,
Thanks for reading

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Carmen Post-Mortem

Dear Readers,

I am sorry that I, again, have been so delinquent in writing to you. I realize that between hand-written letters to friends, facebook, and twitter that I neglect to update this blog. I apologize. There is a lot to share, buckle up!

I would like to tell you what a fantastic experience I had as El Remendado in Michigan Opera Theatre's of George Bizet's Carmen. The cast of Carmen was probably the most inclusive and amiable cast with whom I have worked in Michigan. While I am not a religious person, we must have been blessed to open the David DiChiera legacy season with such an affable and talented group: Ginger Costa-Jackson (Carmen); Sandy Eddy (Carmen); Marcelo Puente (Don Jose); Alok Kumar (Don Jose); Cecilia Violetta Lopez (Micaela); Luis Alejandro Orozco (Escamillo). Of course the MOT Studio was beautifully represented by Jeff Byrnes (Don Cairo); Brianna Hunter (Mercedes); Angela Theis (Frasquita); Brent Smith (Zuniga). I can't forget the fantastic Harry Greenleaf (Morales). You should remember Harry from MOT's production of Copland's The Tender Land. That boy is on fire! He will be back at MOT for two other production this year; we're lucky to have him.

I heard one reviewer write "an embarrassment of great talent." This could be said of our Carmen.

While this was my third production of Carmen, it was my first as El Remendado [If you are a long time reader of my blog then you'll remember my May 2015 posts, and my November 2013 posts in which I recounted my performances as Don Jose]. In addition to playing that Gypsy Smuggler, I gave a lecture at Macomb County Community College introducing a packed auditorium to the Opera. We even had to turn about 40 people away! It's nice to exercise my Doctorale muscle from time to time.

I am also happy to say that my program notes, and the synopsis that Chris Voss and I collaborated on were used by Michigan Opera Theatre on its website. Those notes are slowly becoming my only scholarly work of any real value. I am proud of them.

I'll try to find some photos.

If you were on of the lucky people to be able to hear or see the show, good on you. If not, consider this post as some consolation.

As ever,
truly yours,

PS More soon!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

MOT Part 2 - An So It Begins

Dear Readers,

I am happy to report that I am back here in Detroit for a second year of the Michigan Opera Theatre Studio program!

You'll see posts with some familiar names: David DiChiera, Richard Leech, Brent Michael Smith, Angela Theis, and Jeff Byrnes. You'll also be hearing about newbies: Tessa Hartle and Briana Hunter.

We are - as I am sure you imagine - hitting the ground running; singing at two events this weekend. The first is tonight: we're singing for the MOT Opera Club at the home of Nate Wallace. Tomorrow we will be singing for the DiChiera Society Thank You Party at Leon & Lulu's in Clawson with Jordon Broder and NuClassica.

Michigan Opera Theatre will be presenting Carmen, Silent Night, Little Women, Fanciulla del West, and David DiChiera's first opera Cyrano. This is the DiChiera Legacy Year.

More to come,
Keep those cards and comments coming.
Thank you for reading,

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Nach AIMS; Wiedersehen, Graz!

Dear readers,

As the summer winds down, I wanted to offer you some updates.

After six weeks, I am finally home. That's a little misleading: after six week of living in Austria I flew home to New York. I am currently in San Francisco visiting the induplicable, tenacious bass singer (my bestie) Richard B. Block, and his lovely and brilliant wife Zanda Svede.

My summer at AIMS in review:

When Susanne Acton approached me, during rehearsals for The Magic Flute, about accepting a scholarship to study in Graz, Austria at the AIMS program I was a bit overwhelmed. Only minutes later did Dr. David DiChiera congratulate me on "my" decision to attend. Later that day I was approached by Elizabeth Anderson for my contact information and was promptly telephoned by Mr. Don Manvel from AVL, who is personally responsible for the Shelly Manvel Pocket Angel Scholarship. This generous scholarship honors his late wife by funding the recipients participation in the AIMS in Graz program. It was, as I hope it seems, a whirlwind.

I spent the month of June home in New York, following the end of the MOT season, preparing for AIMS. I started working with the inimitable Ron Raines. June flew by, and there I was: on a flight out of JFK to Munich, four our layover then on to Graz. "Auf Wiedersehen, New York, und guten Tag Oesterreich!" I was bumped up to business class, which was one of the most glorious things I

The following six weeks were documented in the previous three posts, and here is a brief summary: I worked closely with Tom Harper, Kathy Wright, and Greg Smucker. I attended German language classes 8:00 - 8:45am, Monday through Friday. We were fed a starch heavy breakfast every morning, except Wednesdays and Sundays. On those two days we were fed warm food, prepared at the nearest Gasthof called Goesser. Breakfast at Goesser featured runny scrambled eggs, rare bacon, hearty bread, marmalades, yogurt and the occasional Sunday surprise. Monday through Friday lunch was also provided at Cafe Global on Leech Strasse, near the Elizabeth Schule, where most of the days activities were held. The cuisine was international, and dense.

I sang arias and solos with the orchestra on several concerts. I sang "The Flower Song" from Carmen with maestro Alexander Kalajdzic; the tenor solo from Mozart's Requiem with maestro Markus Landerer; "Ah! Leve-toi soleil" from Romeo et Juliette with maestro Karen Kamensek. I also passed the first and second rounds of the AIMS Meistersinger competition. I was an alternate in the final concert/Meistersinger compeition. I sang "Tombe degl'avi miei... Fra poco" from Luci di Lammermoor with maestro Kamensek. I sang well, and though I was an alternate and as such ineligible to win a prize in the competition I was awarded an encouragement award.

I also had the great fortune to work with Beth Parker, Darryl Cooper, and Gabriele Lechner. I worked closely with diction faculty Roberto Rocco, Carmen Grasso, and Nina Radtke.

As for the nitty-gritty, the dirty details and rumors... those are better discussed over a drink or a meal, those interested are welcome to come to Detroit for the insider, behind the scenes stories.

Over all it was quite a learning experience. It turns out that my time at AIMS was more about fostering personal pride, gaining self-trust and solidifying self-confidence rather than skills and technique. It is nice to know that after six years, two advanced degrees, 18 roles (17 with orchestra), 7 oratorios, and countless concerts with piano I have something valid to say as an artist - and my experience is represented in my performing.

I should get going.
Round two of MOT soon to begin.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dritten aus Graz

Liebe Readers,

Thanks for staying connected to my blog. We're starting week four here at AIMS. Last week I sang the tenor solos on the Mozart Requiem with three fantastic young singers: Daniel Noyola, Esther Tones, and Urska Ariana. We sang with the fantastic AIMS orchestra lead by Maestro Markus Landerer.

Today we gave the Grazers an Italian brunch concert at the Graz museum. I sang "Addio Fiorito Asil" from Madame Butterfly and I sang in the quartet from Act III from La Boheme. The concert was sold out, and a very sweet old Austrian woman told me that I touched her heart and it was a fabulous concert. It's those moments when someone stops you on the street a mile from the venue to express their appreciation that really make this profession with while.

This week I'll be singing with the orchestra again. I'll be singing on the Mostly Shakespeare concert. I will have the great fortune to sing at the Stefaniesaal again. I actually saw a brilliant Beethoven's Nineth symphony last night by the radio orchestra of Steiermark. The tickets were astronomical but there was a free love stream into the Landhaushof, which I eagerly attended. They played on period instruments!

Now for the photos you've been waiting for.

Gates to Schloss Eggenberg 
They let us in!

The Schloss Eggenberg

On our way down the path to the Schloss


PS. It's far too difficult to add captions on this tablet that I am using. The basilica of Mariatrost and the hall is the Stefaniesaal.

Thank you for reading

Monday, July 18, 2016

Zweiten Post

Grüß Gott aus Graz,

Here we are in week 3 of the American Institute of Musical Study in Graz, Austria. Last week I had the great Fortune to sing Don Josè's "La Fleur que the m'avais details" a.k.a. "The Flower Song" from Carmen with the AIMS orchestra in one of the most glorious music halls I have ever seen. Here in the city of Graz they have a brilliant Concert Hall called the Stefaniesaal. The Acoustics and the Aesthetics of the Hall create the ideal atmosphere for classical music. In my next post I will share with you photos from these last two weeks and of course I will include photos of the Stefaniesaal.

I would be remiss if I did not specifically mention how wonderfully the Orchestra played. The orchestra is made up of players from 21 different countries and absolutely rivals in ability some of the famous orchestras that I have heard in the United States. Yes of course they are young and a little green but tackled demanding repertoire and a variety of styles with ease and accuracy. They are certainly a musical bunch and respond well to their conductor.

This week I will be performing the tenor solo in the quartet for the "Tuba mirum" from Mozart's Requiem with the AIMS orchestra.

I have been having a great time learning and exercising my developing German language skills. I spend the majority of my days rehearsing, practicing, studying German, and creating my own funny sentences to understand and use the complex but interesting and useful Teutonic grammar. I also have to admit a guilty pleasure: if I find myself, late at night, unable to sleep I will attempt to watch the movie " the third man." I guess really just to get my Austrian thoughts in order.

We had 3 days off this past weekend and I had planned to make a trip to Vienna, but instead I chose to remain in Graz to decompress and enjoy the city. There's a lot of very cool aspects of this city, I encourage you - in your spare time - read a little bit about the history of this city. It is not only famous for Arnold Schwarzenegger but such important forward looking and innovative astrophysicists as Johannes Kepler have contributed to make this city a special place.

It is of course with great pleasure - both in writing to you and in the experience - that I am again working with Kathy Wright; whom, for those of you who don't know, was the coach with whom I worked for the majority of my tenure at the University of Georgia.

You will have to forgive my sentences because I'm stuck somewhere between all of the German that I'm learning and somehow easily influenced by James Agee's "let us now praise famous men." I've noticed that he really speaks my language. I've also noticed that his observations about education in rural Alabama in the 1930s could easily be applied to American Education in the 21st century without losing a Beat. I did not see the immediate benefit of reading his book while I was singing in Aaron Copland's opera "The Tender land." However, since, I have discovered that the book is brilliantly insightful, fascinating, artistic, eloquent, fun, sad, distributing, and challenging. I absolutely recommend it especially given the current atmosphere of the United States.

Thank you so much for reading.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Der erste post Österreich

Dear Readers,

I am happy to report that I am in Austria and eager for the AIMS 2016 summer in Graz program to commence.

We start on earnest on Monday the 11 th.

Much more to come. It's such a pleasure to be in Europe again, and to - for the first time - be singing in a German speaking country.

In other news, if you haven't already heard, I accepted Michigan Opera Theatre's offer to renew my contract for a second and final year. I am eager to get back to Detroit this fall! Great repertoire and fantastic colleagues.

Till next time.

All the best

Friday, May 20, 2016

Magic Flute

Dear Readers,

I have been so very delinquent in updating this blog, my apologies. There is no excuse for not keeping you in the loop. Now, after 19 long days I am back!

We have our final two performances of Magic Flute tomorrow night and Sunday afternoon. With that show my time in Detroit is practically at its end. We have another 7 days of MOT Studio work, but as for the company - our opera season is over. It's not time for summer opera! The Detroit Free press was quite brutal in its review of the production, but I've been very happy with my performances. I've also been given fantastic feedback about my acting and singing - which is always nice.

I am pleased to announce that I will be participating in the American Institute of Music Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria this summer. I am happy to accept the Shelly Manvel Pocket Angel Scholarship.

 It's late now, here in the D. We had three long days in a row, though I am not complaining. I like to be busy! Wednesday we had a brush-up rehearsal, an audition, and our second Magic Flute performance. Thursday a 6 hour master class with Dean Anthony. Today we had a 5 hour master class with Dean Anthony, followed by a master class with Maestro James Meena. Tomorrow is the 3rd flute performance, but we have the morning to ourselves.

Thanks for tuning in.
Hopefully more interesting and detailed info to come.
Thanks for reading

PS Please check out my twitter or facebook page for more regular updates

Sunday, May 1, 2016

As the wheel spins

Dear Readers,

Our run of Macbeth was a success! It felt great to, after months od working for the Michigan Opera Theatre, actually sing a legitimate - albeit comprimario - role on stage at the Detroit Opera House.

Yes, I did sing 3rd SS Officer in Weinberg's The Passanger in November. Malcolm, the comprimario role that I sang in Macbeth, is a much more significant and fulfilling role than 3rd SS Officer. Malcolm also lacks the psychological, emotional, and existential hurdles present in every aspect of a piece like The Passanger.

Macbeth closed last Sunday and Magic Flute, which we are performing in English, startes rehearsals Monday. Only now, a full week later, do I feel like I have recovered. Most people don't explain the necessary emotional detatchment that comes with the end of a production. Having virtually no break between the two disperate operas - operas disperate in style, theme, and characterisation - has left me feeling uneasy.

Furthermore,  I am covering the role of Tamino while singing 2nd priest and 1st armoured man. As I am sure you assumed it means I spend all of my time in the rehearsal hall either on stage or sitting and observing... absorbing.

More soon...

Thank you for reading

Friday, April 15, 2016

Struggle and Perspective (and a little about Macbeth, too)

Dear Readers,

We're on the eve of Macbeth's prima rappresentatione. Tomorrow night will be a first for many; I will sing my first Malcolm (the sun of Duncan and usurper of Macbeth), and MOT will present it's first production - in it's 30 year history - of Verdi's Macbeth. Furthermore, I will not be the only singer making his/her debut in Macbeth: the fantastic Stephen Powell will be playing the title role.

This will be a fantastic offering, one that shouldn't be missing (if you're in the Detroit area). The cast includes the dedicated and able MOT Chorus; supporting, the above mentioned, Stephen Powel as the tragic murderous King, Susanna Branchini as Lady Macbeth, Leonard Capalbo  as Macduff and bass Burak Bilgili  as Banco/Banquo. The amiable powerhouse Michael Chioldi and the elegant Jill Gardner sing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, respectively, on April 24). My fellow MOT Studio Artists join the cast for comprimario roles: Raehann Bryce Davis as the Lady in Waiting, Jeff Byrnes as the First Apparition, Angela Theis as the Second Apparition, Brent Michael Smith as the Doctor. We are lead by Maestro Stephen Lord at the podium, with direction by Bernard Uzan.

Since my last post we've presented a concert at the Detroit Institute of Art, highlighting the Verdi-Shakespeare and Shakespeare-Music connection. It seems appropriate during the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death. We also brought our formidable opera quintet to the Detroit Yacht Club, on Belle Isle. Both were beautiful venues in which to sing.

As for the arcane title of this post: "Struggle and Perspective"
As I am sure those of you faithful readers have noticed from both the content and infrequency of my posts that, vaguely put, something is going on. Recall the Thanksgiving post, and it's respective spring time counter-part? Those odd, emotionally driven, stream of consciousness posts?

I have hesitated writing in great detail about my internal and circumstantial struggle. My hesitation comes from two sources; the first: I believe that this blog is not my personal online journal, and as a result, not the venue for readers - like yourselves - to read the most intimate and/or inchoate thoughts. It is a digital convenience to share, with those interested in my career (what a strange thing to say/think - still learning to deal with that), an engaging and unintrusive means to stay uptodate. The second: this is a public forum, and as a result, my posts could be potentially incriminating, professionally corrosive, and just down right inappropriate.

I've been having a difficult time here in Detroit (if it hasn't been obvious). I seek a greater perspective, and comfort amid my internal turmoil. While I have trepidation about writing in detail, there is some mental motivator convincing me to share this with you. Yes, lots of good things! I could not thank MOT enough for the opportunity to practice (like a Doctor Practices his/her craft) my craft. The stage is, in my opinion, the best playground for singers and actors to enhance and perfect his/her skills. It may seem obvious, but one does not experience a singer or actors full ability in a small class room or studio in the same way that one WILL from the audience in an opera house with an orchestra. This is, and continues to be, a great opportunity - for which I am grateful.

I cannot find the courage to be any more specific... I am sorry. I am taking and making all reasonable efforts to pull myself out of the despondent and painful circumstance I am in. Searching for a helpful hand or a mentor, as well as personal strength. I feel impotent, helpless, and bitingly resentful of those feeling while experiencing them - and trying to do my job simultaneously. I am trying to move forward, but every time I that I've found "ground to stand on" it no sooner turns to "quicksand" or some "non-Newtonian fluid."

Yes, the grass is always greener - and I refuse to spiral into the thoughts of "if only..." Telling myself that "In time things will be better" or "this is temporary." I fear that permanent damage is being done, if not physically - emotionally, and mentally. I cannot find my way out of this maudlin 19th-century Werther-inspired condition, yet I condemn it and desire a more pragmatic objectivity - rather a 20th-century empiricism. I feel in constant meta-struggle with my ontological and epistemological thoughts - neither of which are rooted in and firm understanding or experience in those fields.

It's 20 min to 9am, I have to be at the theatre by 10 to warm up - makeup - and get into costume for our 11 am prova generale (final orchestra dress rehearsal).

Thank you for your own dedication to reading through my messy posts...

On ward!!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Post Tender Land - into Macbeth

Dear Readers,

2 weeks and 4 shows since the last post, we find out protagonist hard at work in new endeavors... let's take a look*:

A few days ago a gentleman in the opera house stopped me. He asked "Shouldn't we be saying 'The Scottish Opera'?" Of course my response was: "But which Scottish opera would one assume? I'd think Lucia ... or maybe Donizetti's Scottish opera:  Maria Stuarda..." The list goes on and on with other composers, but really - what would you think? It's important to keep in mind that the opera world doesn't maintain the theatrical superstition surrounding "Macbeth." In fact, I don't know any opera superstitions - we're a practical bunch, aren't we [he says, cheekily]?

O.K. not the best story to start this post - but its an effective way to transition from Aaron Copland's The Tender Land to Verdi's Macbeth. Between productions I found myself again at Detroit's Assumption Grotto Church, this time for Easter services singing the tenor solos in Schubert's  Mass in Bb and Mozart's Regina Coeli.

Tomorrow will be a full day. The Michigan Opera Theatre Studio will sing a Shakespeare in Music concert at the Detroit Institue of Art. Shakespeare concert sounds familiar, doesn't it? My final recital as a doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia was a Michelangelo and Shakespeare concert - those in attendance might remember. I'll be adding both a duet from Romeo et Juliet, and MacDuff's aria from Macbeth to my Shakespeare and vocal repertoire.

Here are some more photos from the Copland:

*I thought that was a cute way to start the post...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Tender Land Post for # 4

Dear Readers,

On the eve of our opening night I would like to provide you with some photos, and a video.

The making of the Tender Land has been a unique process, which teemed with highs and lows. I would be insincere if I said that every moment was a dream. I would be equally dishonest if I didn't expressly admit that this experience is one for which I am tremendously grateful.

A big cheers and TOI TOI TOI to the Michigan Opera Theatre Studio: Angela Theis, Brent Michael Smith, Raehann Byrce-Davis, Gordon Schermer and our guest baritone Harry C Greenleaf. In bocca al lupo a tutti! Shout out to the brilliant, and sardonic Kristine Macintyre, Maestro Suzanne Acton, and the designer Monika Essen.

We [Michigan Opera Theatre + The MOT Studio] open Aaron Coplan's The Tender Land tomorrow night. Details below:

Joseph Michael Brent, who sings the role of "Martin," discusses his character's star-crossed relationship with "Laurie" in Aaron Copland's The Tender Land. Interview with rehearsal clips.
More about Michigan Opera Theatre's The Tender Land, opening this weekend.
Performances at Macomb Center for the Performing Arts
Saturday, March 12, 2016 at 7:30PM * BUY NOW
Sunday, March 13, 2016 at 2:30PM * BUY NOW

Performances at Heinz C. Prechter Educational & Performing Arts Center
Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 7:30PM * BUY NOW
Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 2:30PM * BUY NOW

Thanks for reading,

PS more info at

Sunday, March 6, 2016

WRCJ - Tender Land - Radio - MyTunes

Dear Readers,

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris Felcyn at WRCJ 90.9FM in Detroit. He had me on for a segment called "MOT Unmasked." The show airs on Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th.

"MOT Unmasked" goes behind the score of MOT's "The Tender Land" with Stage Director Kristine McIntyre, followed by me, the MOT Studio Artist, discussing some of my favorite songs with host Chris Felcyn. You'll learn a lot about Aaron Copland's only opera, and find out which composition I start every long road trip with.

Several ways to hear the WRCJ broadcast:

I think you should listen to the entire program - if you've got 2 hours. If not, I am on the second half wink emoticon (sorry Kristine, but seriously - listen to Kristine, she's amazing)

Thanks for reading,



Friday, March 4, 2016

Tender Land Post #2

Dear Readers,

Last night, violinist Siobhan Cronin and I teamed up for another great event. We performed selections to honor the Yatooma Foundation for the Kids at the Mandaloun Bistro in Bingham Farms, Michigan.

I was happy to see such a great turn out, and enthusiastic audience. I am sure Donald Trump and the other republican presidential hopefuls pulled a larger crowd last night. But, I am also sure that those witness to the madness down town did not have the exciting, heartfelt, and rich musical experience that Siobhan and I presented to those present at Mandaloun.

Because you are my faithful readers, I am tempted to give you some of the dirt and insight into this career path - but a public forum is no place for a heart-to-heart. I could be a little corrosive about the details of the event, but I concluded: in the end, when making great music with good people to support an important foundation, the Italian's said it best chi non rischia non rosica [nothing ventured, nothing gained]. Our good deeds will be rewarded.


On to the"main event" of this post.

Promotional Photo for MOT's The Tender Lands
Left to right: Ms. Laurie Moss (Angela Theis), Martin (Mr. Joseph Michael Brent)
Photo courtesy of Mitch Carter (MOT) 

Today, is our first RUN of Aaron Copland's The Tender Land.  Following 2 weeks of successful MOT Studio performances at the Grosse Point War Memorial, and The Berman Center for the Performing Arts (for the Jewish Federation of Michigan); and for the MOT Opera Club series, we started rehearsals on the 22 of February.

Now, after a week and a half - we have the show on it's feet!

I have to run to rehearsal - now, but be on the look out for more Tender Land updates.
If you're in the Detroit area, or attached to an internet accessible device, please check out my interview with Chris Felcyn at WRCJ 90.9 on the series entitled "MOT unmasked." The episode will air this weekend, Saturday and Sunday.

Chris and I sat down last Tuesday and discussed some of my favorite music. More on that soon!

As ever, Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tender Land Post #1

Dear Readers,

I wish I was able to give you all an update, in the style of a play by play. I have been meaning to post for day. In fact, this very post you're reading was started 7 days ago.

We are in the thick of Tender Land rehearsals here at Michigan Opera Theatre. We open the show in just 8 days from today - run don't walk to get your tickets! It's going to be, if I do say so myself, a fantastic show. Harry Greenleaf, a master of music student at CCM, is joining the studio artists to sing the role of TOP.

Shenanigans and hijinks are a brewing!

My computer is about to die.


Thanks for reading,

Friday, February 19, 2016

Rehearsals for Tender Land, T minus 3 days

Dear Readers,

You have, yet again, found me in another period of epistolary celibacy. My most sincere apologies for the delay. Much has happened in these last few weeks.

First, I would like to wish you all, albeit belated, HAPPY LUNAR NEW YEAR! Cheers to the year of the Red (Fire) Monkey. I cannot admit to being entirely trusting, or accepting of astrology, and like pseudosciences. I do, however, admit to finding much charm in the mythology, theology, astrology of ancient civilizations; including the lasting traditions of the Chinese.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Chinese astrology  (I am certainly no expert, having a casual - if not cursory - interest) find here a brief primer about the system and the year of the Red Fire Monkey:
"In Chinese astrology, each year is associated with a Chinese zodiac animal sign and one of the five elements: Gold (Metal), Water, Wood, Fire, or Earth. Both the sign and element of your birth year are said to affect your personality and destiny. Element-sign combinations recur every 60 years. The Monkey is ninth of the 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle."

As some of you know, I was born on March 30th, 1987, which - according to Chinese astrology - means that I was born in the year of the Fire (Red) Rabbit. (March 30th also has me in the Aires category,

For the sake of those uninterested in this topic I will limit my thoughts to wishing everyone a Happy Lunar New Year, and encourage those who are interested to read more on any website from their favorite search engine. 

Second: I have had several successful performances with Michigan Opera Theatre. We flew to western Florida for 2 "snow birds" concerts in Naples and Sarasota. We had a Valentine's day concert last week at the Grosse Point War Memorial which went very well. We have also had several opera club events previewing The Tender Land for audiences in the Detroit Metro Area of Michigan. We've had masterclasses and coachings with the brilliant Kathleen Kelly and the charming Carol Vaness. Tender Land rehearsals start on Monday, and thus will begin the spring season at MOT!

Third: In other news, sadly, my parent's dog Annabelle passed away 2 nights ago. It has been a serious and sad loss for our family - I suppose, as the passing of any pet can be. I have felt the death acutely. Annabelle was an amazing friend. Her life with my family was special, because she - in some ways - took the place of my brother and me at home. She deserves a fair and thoughtful tribute, this paragraph does no justice.

Fourth: My bass is in the shop, it cracked due to the lack of humidity (despite having a humidifier pumping 24/7). An expensive repair - it tough to be with out my bass.

Thank you for your patience while I sort out an appropriate means to using all of the social media for my career, my personal journaling and keeping up the blog.


PS - I enjoyed seeing the University of Michigan preview/workshop of The Red Chamber (Bright Sheng). I have also taken the opportunity to see the Detroit Symphony Orchestra play twice in the last 4 weeks. Tonight I will try to see Opera MODO's transgender (orange is the new black) Carmen.