Offstage

All the questions you’ve been dying to ask….

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up on a farm in the heart of the Red River Valley, near the village (although even that’s a stretch) of St. Elizabeth. For those of you who’s maps don’t include St. Elizabeth, that’s in the province of Manitoba, right in the middle of Canada and about an hour from the North Dakota border.

How did a farmboy from Manitoba end up singing Opera? 

This has to be the question I get the most, and yet sometimes it I still wonder.

I grew up singing, in the church, in choirs (Manitoba has an incredible choral scene) but I had no idea that it was a potential career choice. I was planning to be a farmer. But through the encouragement of a few key people, I auditioned for first an undergraduate, and then the opera school in Toronto, and before I knew it I was standing on a stage with incredible artists miles away from the ‘back 40’.

On the surface farming and opera may seem like very different career paths, but I’ve found they’re much more similar than you would think.

  1. They’re both populated by independent, driven, stubborn and extremely loveable weirdos.
  2. Most of the business is out of your control, all you can do is plant your seeds and pray for rain.
  3. It’s more than just a job… it’s a life.

What do you love to sing? 

When I started my undergrad I really knew nothing about classical music, but since I was a tenor I was thrown to the wolves early and often.

The first piece we worked on was Britten’s Albert Herring (I sang Albert) and I immediately fell in love with his incredible character driven music.

I’ve never lost the love for both Britten and singing in the english language. I don’t think you can ever replicate the power of singing in your native language to an audience that shares that language. The depth of expression is innate, and impossible to match in a second language even with years of study.

So, to actually answer the question… I love singing in English, whether it’s opera or musical theatre, comedy or tragedy, new or old. The language reigns supreme… and if it’s Britten… all the better.

Why Opera?

If I love singing in English, than why choose opera…?

I love the challenge (even though some days it makes me crazy). Opera sometimes feels like an exercise in insanity.

Take this aria that was written 300 years ago for a different singer and a different audience, stand behind this large group of instruments, and make people care… using only the body you were born with.

It’s a hard challenge, but when it’s met… there’s nothing quite like it. There’s nothing in this world that’s as exciting as opera when all the cylinders are firing.

And it doesn’t hurt that I get to work with some of the best people in the world.

What do you do when you’re not singing? 

From time to time I find it necessary to step away and charge the batteries a bit…

I get back to the farm whenever I can, especially if I have some time during harvest. It’s impossible to balance a full time career in opera and as a farmer, so I feel lucky when the stars align and I can go sit on a tractor for awhile.

I also have developed a strange passion in the last for personal finance, which I blog about regularly.  If you’re an artist/freelancer (or just curious about what an artist has to say about finance) looking for some discussion on money in our crazy lifestyle… check it out here.