Thursday, February 16, 2023

An Artist's Mind and Purpose

 Dear Readers,

I know that I am not alone in the disparate and varied thoughts that shoot through my mind. Those instantaneous synapses firing, electric currents filled with biological code.

I was reminded while writing this morning that I have a purpose. 

That word can sometimes wear a scary mask, and come with heavy baggage, but today it doesn't. Today, I am reminded of why I accept the struggle, and why I put myself in vulnerable position of performing. That vulnerability is something that is underrated and understated - I find - in the common discourse around musicians. I can't speak for anybody but myself, and even then I - like everyone else - am not entirely reliable witness of my own experiences. Let us not forget the first filter that what we witness/experience/live is our own mind. On a separate note, I have been keenly aware lately of the baggage we bring to debate and conversations on important topics. 

Why do I keep inconsistent and odd hours? Why do I spend my time working 4-5 different jobs at a time? Why do I live in this small space? 

It's not grandeur, or the pipe dream of fame. It is not a psychosis. 

I put myself through the desultory schedule of chaos and inconsistency because I want this career to pan out. Because I am not giving up. I am not giving up because I have purpose, and that purpose is to prove to that little Giuseppe and all of the little Giuseppes that it is possible. Maybe, I at the end of it all I will find that it wasn't possible? Maybe, in the end I will find out that it could have been possible? Or perhaps - just maybe I will tell the story of my success. I will tell people by my actions, by demonstrating: it is possible. 

What is it? 
To be a kid from Whitestone, Queens and have a successful career as a musician. To be a kid from Whitestone, Queens without the pedigree, wealth, hereditary line to be a superior musician in this rarefied and special field of classical music. 

I want to show people that it's never too late to start. I want to prove people and detractors wrong. 

I want to show them that you don't need to have perfect pitch, lessons from infancy, the perfect body, the smartest fastest computer brain, the easiest and most natural voice, that you don't need to be a savant. I want to prove that you can be a kid from meager upbringings, go to public school, and be this person. I want to demonstrate that you don't need to go to the big conservatories, or the well publicized programs. I want to prove that my voice, both literal and my cumulative identity, can have this career. 

Others have done it. Others from small towns, from destitution, from hardship from struggle have done it. 

I didn't know that classical music was my future when I was young. In fact, I didn't consider classical music as a calling until I was in college. I liked operatic singing, I liked art, I liked music - but I thought that I would have a career or try to have a career as a jazz musician. I thought that maybe I'd play in an orchestra and a salsa band in some city in the US and just live that life. That being said, I lacked a little bit of courage and talent in that field as well.

Then Tim Cobb accepted me to his bass studio at SUNY Purchase and the rest I kind of improvised from there. I never thought that opera would be my career and then Frederick Burchinal accepted me into his studio at the University of Georgia, Athens, and as I did before, I kind of improvised from there. I've been kind of improvising since. The pandemic really set a lot back, when I was truly feeling like I had some traction in the opera business. 

I can do this. 
I want to do this.

I still have much in my way, an Everest to climb, and maybe my days will end and it will be as it has been: sporadic, struggle, pain, disappointment, mistakes, chaos. Fortunately, by that time it will be the end of my days and it will hardly matter. 

Thanks for reading,
- Giuseppe

Saturday, January 28, 2023

January 28 2023 ossia "Sometimes a journey makes itself necessary"

 Dear Readers,

If there are any of you still out there...

It has been an immensely long hiatus since my last post, about Figaro with Maryland Lyric Opera in 2022.

It is now, as is obvious from the title of this post, and the date stamp, that it is the end of January 2023. I have just returned home, to my 10.5' x 7.5' room in Crown Heights, Brooklyn from an extended tour of sorts.

Instead of giving you a play by play run down of my last few months (::spoiler:: which you will get at the end of this post for sure...), as if that is something that any one would find particularly interesting, I am rather going to write a detailed response/reflection to a message I received from a dear but distant friend.

My friend Reuben Walker wrote me a message several hours ago asking me "How are you holding up?," which I had read after waking up from a much needed mid-afternoon nap. 

Reuben is a very fine human being, one of the most gentle and thoughtful people that music has put me in touch with. We never really know who will become or make themselves major players in our lives, and especially given the plethora and multitude of humans that I meet as an itinerant musician, this number becomes logarithmic. Reuben is one of those particular, unique friends, not to be understated is his beautiful singing.

It was 2016...

We met singing with AIMS in Graz, Austria (This is a summary from 2016) I can't say what Reuben must have thought of or did think of me then (nor can I say what he - or anyone for that matter - thinks of me now), but we became fast friends.

I am sure it was one of those final days in Graz when Reuben asked me if I had interest in hiking up a near-by mountain. I thought "well, the Germans and Austrians love to wandern," and - always game for an adventure - accepted the invitation and we proceeded to go on a fantastical hike. 

Bärenschützklamm, a steep mountain through which a waterfall flows, studded with over 50 wooden bridges, is situated in Styria. It's only 43 kilometers (26 miles) north of Graz, in an area called Mixnitz. The hike features a peak in an area referred to some-what awkwardly as the pre-alps. I found out, through first hand experience, that the Austrians - as common practice - have breweries/stube situated at important junctures on long hikes. It was a gift to arrive at, what I then thought was the summit (a Latin word 😉), to find a charming Austrian sort of Bier Garden as a reward for investing my energy and time in nature. That was only - yes, you guessed it - about halfway to the peak. We ventured on and eventually arrived at the tippy top, 4,000 feet (1.2 km) closer to the heavens. It was a hot summer day, and we thought that the hike was 6 miles (9.7 km) round trip, but much to our chagrin it is in fact double. We had to rush down to catch our bus or train, I can't even remember which method, back to Graz. I also feel oddly obliged to explain that I was disturbingly poor if not destitute at the time. I was ill prepared for 6 weeks of adulting in Austria. I was subsisting on European kit-kats (which are better), 50 cent Austrian beer, brot and käse for weeks. (The Three Posts I made while in Graz, 2016)

A true adventure has a way of building bonds. I had a similar experience with Edward Speaker, ten years earlier. Ed and I fled our study abroad boundaries in Alessandria, Italy and absconded to Lugano, Switzerland. We took a reckless hike up Monte Brè at night with no money, no plan, just youthful propulsion.

I digress... 

The story with Reuben doesn't end there! The rest of that trip was filled with the banalities of life. He and I kept in touch and then... I found myself, in 2018, following my partner at the time to Germany. Berlin. It became my home, and it was home to Reuben. An expat. My friend. We spent some time together, not as much as I wound have liked, but we reunited. He was an invaluable resource, but more importantly my good friend. He became one of those important connections one forms as an expat in a foreign country. 

Then in March 2020 the world fell apart. 

In January I had said my "goodbye for now" to Reuben and the fantastic friends I made in Berlin. My opera career finally felt like it was heading in a great direction. FINALLY!

I was studying with Jeanette Favaro-Reuter in Leipzig, I was coaching with John Norris and Adelle Eslinger in Berlin, created a strong connection with Damon Plumis and Stephano Lano in Weimar, started working with Britta Wieland as an agent and had four handsome operatic contracts in the United States.

Then nothing.

6.7 million people died. A few friends, and several acquaintances.

A post about the pandemic is WAY OUTSIDE the scope of why I started writing in the first place... 

Where was I... Reuben asked me how I am holding up. Right.

When had I last heard from him? He and I were last in touch in January of 2021. 

What has happened since January of 2021... how am I holding up? I mean... What is there even to say... how can I?

What do I write to you, dear reader? 

What can I even remember of that time?

Since January of 2021:

  • I have had 3 different bar jobs, 4 if you include my Electuaria Beverage Education business
  • I returned to Germany to collect my belongings from my apartment in which they sat from January 2020 till August 2022. 
  • I have had 4 opera contracts, Turandot (Puccini) Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart), Falstaff (Verdi), and I sang my first Des Grieux in Manon (Massenet). 
  • I have done 5 concerts or so, and a hand full of local touring. 
  • My partner of 6+ years and I decided to uncouple, I had a break up with another person with whom I had developed a deep connection. 
  • I've been to Mexico City, England, Scotland (twice), Germany, Michigan, Maryland and all over New York State. 

What else...

I live in Brooklyn now...I moved on November 1st 2021. I teach, I bartend, I sing, I play bass, and I work as an apprentice blender at the Kings County Distillery (and infrequently as a tour guide).

I reconnected with a very important person with whom I have fallen madly in love. It's been a year now since we reconnected and it has been glorious. 

How am I holding up?  In some ways it feels like January of 2019 to April of 2022 never happened. It feels, on the one hand, like I am back - taken steps back - returned to a former world. That in the last two years I have re-stitched and hemmed together the path that I had set myself on leading into 2019, which I had detached from when I left for Germany. 

On the other hand, my life is wildly different and the effects of my experiences, the pandemic, the people in (and out of) my life, and my choices in that interim have created something else for me. 

The truth is, I am confused and feeling quite sad. There is plenty to feel and be grateful for, and I do indeed feel and express my gratitude for those things but there is some other darkness that I experience - some other pain or something unsettled in me. 

I am holding up, and holding up quite well... not where or how I wish to be, but I am here. I am here. I am active, I am trying, I am doing my best.

Thanks for reading, y'all.

Until next time... with a warm embrace in mind...


Giuseppe (Giuseppe Michael Brent)

Allow me to reintroduce myself to you:

Hello, my name is Giuseppe.

Yes, I am changing my name to Giuseppe.

You might be asking why:

1. In 2021, my grandfather George L Annunziato passed away. My grandfather, the only grandfather I knew, used to call me Giuseppe and this decision is partially in homage to this deeply important person in my life.
34 years of “hey! Giusep!” I miss him dearly. I miss him daily.

2. People can’t seem to remember “Joe.” Many people easily forget my given name; people call me Josh, John or Johnathan and that is absolutely irritating. They will learn Giuseppe and like it.

3. If you know me, you know that I prefer the (even if merely an illusion of) intentional choice. My parents bestowed me a name that suited me and now I wish to choose how I am called.

4. Ultimately, (get ready for nihilism and existentialism) life has the meaning with which we imbue it, and in the brief time I have to exist in this flesh prison called a body on this planet, I would like to do the best I can as I wish (see reason 3).

Please, call me Giuseppe. 🙂

Monday, June 27, 2022

Figaro MDLO IG Take Over

 Hey Folx!

I have been elected to host an Instagram #takeover by Maryland Lyric Opera

Starting at 10 AM today (Monday June 27th 2022)

Follow along on Instagram Marylandlyricopera on Instagram

Browse link below for more details

Check out my IG @joebrenttenor 

 #opera #marylandlyricopera  #tenor #lenozzedifigaro #themarriageoffigaro #mozart #daponte #italian #theclariceumd #classicalmusic #singer #singersofinstagram #ugaalumni #fssaalumni #franksinatraschoolofthearts #alumni #purchasecollegealumni #bluekeyhonorsociety #detroitoperastudioalumni #atwaterreedartists

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Learning Don Basilio - Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart/Daponte) III

This is the third video of my recitatives!

Hope you have enjoyed this tutorial.

Best wishes,

Learning Don Basilio - Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart/Daponte) II

This is the second video of three of my recitatives!

Hope you're enjoying these tutorials.

Best wishes,

It's 2022 and we're off to the races

 Dear Readers,

There has been so much going on, and I've been regrettably out of practice in updating this blog - though, I have no hubris to imply that I ever was in practice. 

A brief re-cap of 2022 up to this point:

In February, I was contracted to sing Pang in Maryland Lyric Opera's Production of Puccini's Turandot. It was a perfect segue back into performing after at two year hiatus.

In March, I sing for the Metropolitan Opera Guild and playing bass in New Jersey Lyric Opera's production of La Boheme.

Musically speaking it has been an absolutely marvelous way to get things back on their feet. I am happy to also share that in the fall of 2021 I was invited (and accepted) to be on the roster of the burgeoning Artist Management company Atwater Reed Artists. 

In May I will be heading down to Maryland yet again to sing Don Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro with MDLO, and an outrageously fantastic cast! Later in the year I will be singing Des Grieux in Manon with the Taconic Opera. 

Below is a little video (1 or 3) for you to enjoy... it's somewhat of a tutorial.. 

*In one of the videos I mention an incorrect date. Le Nozze was premiered on 1786 not the 1760's (Mozart was precocious, but being born in 1756 would have made him barely ten going on my mistake)