One day, in my senior year of high school, my choir teacher, Dr. John Moody, assigned me a piece to learn for the school’s concerto competition-the piece was Una furtiva lagrima. At that point in my life I loved singing, but as far as operatic singing went, that was something I have not experimented with. At that point youtube, iTunes, etc., did not exist, so I did my research the old fashioned way by going to the library. I checked out a CD of good old Pavarotti and I listened. I learned the piece.
At that time in my life I was a big fan of Bocelli. I had his Sogno album and I sang along to it-that was as “classical” as singing got for me other than trying to imitate the three tenors. I first stumbled upon the three tenors in 1992 while watching tv. I was about seven at that time and when I heard those voices I thought it was the coolest thing. To my parents’ surprise, I watched the whole thing. I was glued to the tv, but more importantly, I was hooked on their voices. Of course, I had no idea that was operatic singing, but I loved it andLa donna è mobilebecame my favorite tune. From that day on the big guy with the beard became my favorite “toy” as I tried to imitate him day in and day out.
Back to my story. So, some days later Dr. Moody asked me to stay after school to rehearse Una furtivalagrima in preparation for my audition. I sang the piece with my “everyday” voice (At that point in my life I was not taking lessons). He thanked me and began to call the next person. I stopped him and I said with a heavy accent, “would you like me to sing it like Pavarotti?” He looked at me like “yeah, right!” but he agreed and so I sang it again “a la Pavarotti.” He liked it and said, “I think you should sing it like that.” I audition and won the school’s concerto competition. At the end of the year I performed the piece with the school’s orchestra. Believe me, it does not get any better for a kid to sing his first solo, his first aria with an orchestra. What an amazing experience that was, what an inspiration.Shortly after Dr. Moody encouraged me to take lessons and that is how I met Dr. Valerie MacPhail at Converse College. A year later I sang in the chorus for “Amahl and the Night Visitors” and shortly after Don Curzio in Le Nozze di Figaro. Lessons became my favorite part of the week and slowly but surely, singing became an integral part of my life. I sang for countless productions at Converse College and The Spartanburg Repertory Company. With each performance my love for opera increase and slowly a dream took shape - to sing opera for life! Both teachers inspired a dream which I intended to follow.Today the dream is a reality and I am blessed to be able to do what I love. What a great feeling it is to be on stage connecting with the audience. What a humbling experience it is every time I set foot on stage - exposing my strengths as well as my fears and insecurities in order to portray characters big and small, characters that live in all of us, but sometimes are afraid to come out. Not only I have found music, but I found myself through music all thanks to an after school activity. I recently had the chance of going back to my high school to sing for the choir, still conducted by Dr. Moody, still in the same room. What an experience that was. It felt as if I have never left and at the same time, it felt as if I have come full circle. After singing they all had a chance to ask me questions. I shared with them this same story and I hope that it inspired some of them the same way Dr. Moody and Dr. MacPhail inspired me to do something bigger than life. It ain’t easy, but it is well worth it.
Last Saturday, before our Pasquale rehearsal, I was having a cup of coffee by the pool when I noticed something at the bottom. At first I thought it was a small toy, but when the tail moved and it walked I realized it was a salamander. I carefully got it out, put it in some water and took it up the mountain, near to where we have rehearsals at Sugarbush. In honor of the opera I named him Ernestino ;)
Don Pasquale rehearsals are going great and today we have our sitzprobe, how exciting! It's so much fun working with this cast. Emily Duncan-Brown is singing Norina, Brian Wehrle is singing Don Pasquale, and David Castillo is singing Malatesta. Scott Parry is directing and Bruce Stasyna is conducting. The cast might be small, but we are mighty! This is such a fun opera, but also challenging. I feel like I'm singing one big long high note all the time! What a great challenge. I gotta say that rehearsing at the Sugarbush resort it's a big plus. There is nothing like singing surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers and wonderful, clean air!
Bruce Stasyna (conductor), Brian, Emily and David
Today the gang and I headed over to the farmers market in Waitsfield, VT-what a treat! Brian, David and I helped ourselves to some oven-brick-pizza, it was amazing. I got myself some Vermont maple syrup, a great dessert wine and a handmade wine stand (and also a few other nice handmade things for my wife and family...shh!)
We also had a surprise for Bill Brauer. Bill is an amazing local artist who painted the poster for Green Mountain Opera Festival's production of La Boheme. If you are in the area or even as far as Boston, you gotta come a see the opera. There is an all star cast, including Mary Dunleavy as Mimi, Richard Troxell as Rodolfo, Jordan Shanahan as Marcello, and Eric Kroncke as Colline. They will be joined by the program's emerging artists, including Natalie Polito as Musetta, Philip Kalmanovitch as Schaunard, Geoffrey Penar as Benoit and Alcindoro, and Joshua Bouillon as Parpignol. Of course, you gotta come see Don Pasquale, too. Come one day to Don Pasquale and the next to La Boheme, the perfect balance of comedy and drama.
Broadway concert at the Round Barn Farm Inn
Our "Broadway" concert at the Round Barn Farm Inn was a great success. We had a great turnout and the audience loved it! We had a lot of fun singing some great tunes. Let's not forget the cows from across the road, they had a great time too!
Emily Duncan-Brown, Jennifer Szeto and Geoffrey Penar