Friday, April 28, 2017

Late April Update

Dear Readers,

Forgive me for the "radio silence" since the last post.

La Fanciulla del West was a hit.

I am compelled to share a personal anecdote about my experience in MOT's production of The Girl of the Golden West:

As you might recall from my previous post, Mr. Mark Delavan sang the role Jack Rance in this production. It was a real treat to be on stage, and witness him do his work - which is of, if I do say so myself, the highest caliber (it is not universally loved, but whose is? - plus: this is my blog, so... you're stuck with my opinion). It was a joy to see him work; he's one hell of a singer.

I might have embarrassed him (or myself?) by telling him what I am about to share with you all. More than "a joy" and more than "a real treat" it was a dream come true. I'll explain...

I first heard Mark sing in spring of 2005. I was 18 years on, in my final semester of school at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. During that spring, I was gearing up for college auditions, and singing with The Collegiate Chorale (who has since rebranded as The Master Voice). The Chorale, in its 63rd season, was presenting a concert at Carnegie Hall entitled Shakespeare & Verdi; a tribute and birthday party for the Bard and Joe Green. It was a star studded event: the Chorale was led by the late Robert Bass; excerpts from Shakespeare's works were performed by the late Roger Rees, Dana Ivy, and Richard Easton; the Chorale was featured and bolstered by its Side-by-Side program - of which I was a member for many years; the principal artists were Lando Bartolini, Kallen Esperian, Heidi Grant Murphy, Rodell Aure Rosel, Cynthia Lawrence, and Mark Delevan; the Orchestra of St. Luke's nailed every note of Verid's music. 

Mark was an inspiration. He was at the top of his game, and I had never witnessed anything like that on stage. He made me want to be a Verdi baritone. He made me want to do that! 

A few years later I got tickets to see Andrea Chenier, and who chews the scenery and steals the stage? Mark Delavan! 

In 2009, I moved down to the University of Georgia for my Master and Doctor degrees, and as a result was away from much live opera performance for the majority of those years (save for my own live performing).

In 2013, Dr. Frank Block, II generously included me in a week-long trip to the MET. We saw Rigoletto, Giulio Cesare, and the entire Ring Cycle. One of my favorite baritones was scheduled to sing Wotan for this run: the great Bryn Terfel (side note: I have sung in the chorus behind Mr. Terfel several times, including one of his last Elijah's at Carnegie Hall and his Don Giovanni at the Verbier Festival). For one reason or another he was indisposed and his cover replaced him. Mark?!? Mark Delavan?!? As WOTAN?!?! WHAT A TREAT! 

The events of 2013 played a significant role: somehow the seeds of the future were planted then. I sang Hoffman in Les Contes d'Hoffmann at the Martina Arroyo Foundation's Prelude to Performance summer program. During my time there I took a master class with Mr. Richard Leech, and had two follow up lessons. This information will be important later, hope you're taking notes ;).

I graduated with my Doctorate in the fall of 2014. Some of you might remember that I was commuting between Athens and New York for much of that period. After submitting my Document, I drove to New York and planned to be home for the foreseeable future. Back home I strung enough work together to get by, specifically with the help of the Chorale (who, at that point, had rebranded to become The Master Voices) to bolster its numbers in two performances: the first was the "Defiant Requiem, a poignant multimedia tribute to Sch├Ąchter, who along with most of his choir died in captivity, was created by the conductor Murry Sidlin, incorporating Verdi’s" requiem (quotation from the NYT). The second was The Road of Promise, an oratorio adapted from The Eternal Road by Ed Harsh, (U.S. debut at Carnegie Hall). The Road also featured a star studded cast: the actor Ron Rifkin, Anthony Dean Griffey, Philip Cutlip,  Justin Hopkins, Megan Marino, Lauren Michelle, and ... you guested it  Mark Delavan.

That summer, while working at the Orans family's Quisisana (a musical resort on Lake Kezar, in Lovell, Maine) I received a call from Mr. Leech, who remembered my work at Martina Arroyo's program fondly. He offered me the tenor position at the Michigan Opera Theatre in its inaugural season of the MOT Studio; an offer I couldn't refuse. 

Fast forward two years and the story comes full circle: I am nearing the end of my second year as Michigan Opera Theatre studio artist, and there he is again! Almost exactly 12 years to the day to finally be in a staged production with Mark. I had to finish high school, get two degrees as a double bassists, a doctorate in voice, and move to Detroit for two years: it was a dream come true.

That is my Mark Delavan story. Now you know... 

Since Fanciulla work has been good. Things have slowed down here a bit. Dr. David DiChiera's master work Cyrano will be the final production of the year. I am not cast in the opera, and as result will be performing for donors and public events over the next 4 weeks. 

Exciting new for the summer is on its way, stay tuned.

As ever,
Sincerely your,
Joe

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