2017 was an amazing year! ….. well, at least for me.

Ordinarily at the end of the summer, I like to do a Facebook recap of the performances I have done throughout the year.  But this year really didn’t stop and in all honesty, a simple FB status just wouldn’t do justice.  I look back at this year and see all the work I got to do and think, WOW!!  I am actually doing this!!  So I would like to share with you my experiences this year (seriously, I’m not bragging, I promise! But I will use a lot of exclamation points!!).

As many of you saw earlier this year, I was in Sir John in Love with Bronx Opera back in January.  And I just have to say, this was a very special show!  The production was excellent, the music was some of the most beautiful music I have ever sung!  And most importantly, I made some amazing friends.  This particular group of artists were just what one wants in their colleagues: collaborative, supportive, outgoing, and friendly.  We have all remained close and spent many a social hours with each other.  And the best part is that we have all gone to see each other’s performances (ya know, when we’re not “at rehearsal”). This show started the year and has given a real sense of community I have been looking for since I first came to NYC 3 years ago.

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Sir John in Love with Bronx Opera. L-R: The Page Family; Elisabeth Slaten as Meg Page and Emily Naydeck as Anne Page. Michael Celentano as Master Shallow and Brian Jeffers and Master Slender. Me and Emma Bonano, easily one of the greatest friendships I’ve made this year!!

The interesting thing with this year was after each gig, I wondered where and when my next gig would be.  I didn’t really have things lined up, it seemed.  So after Sir John ended, I didn’t know what I was going to do next.  I auditioned for my friends at Apotheosis Opera for their production of Capriccio.  I had never really learned any Strauss, so I had to do some very serious coaching on the excerpts we had to learn for the audition.  Well, big thanks to Mitchell Cirker for getting me prepared, cause my boys over there offered me The Count!  Capriccio, I would say, was my artistic achievement this year.  By far, the biggest role I played, as well as the hardest music I had to learn (and thank you again to Chris Fecteau for the coachings!). Our production was so much fun and my fellow artists were excellent to share the stage with.  This was one of those shows I walked away from and got to say “Wow, I just did my first Strauss role!!”.  For an opera singer, that is an accomplishment all on its own.

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Capriccio with Apotheosis Opera. L-R: me and Bonnie Frauenthal as the Countess, our 3rd show together!! Love having my name on the dressing room door! The Octet, hardest music I ever learned!

Now, just before Capriccio started, I came into a couple things.  First off, my friends Jose and Rachel who, the previous year, got me my first Melchior in Amahl and the Night Visitors with Brooklyn Philharmonia, outdid themselves and offered me my first Brahms Requiem (as the Baritone soloist).  This is a work I have known for ages, thanks to my first voice teacher Dr. Glenn Bennett who let me learn it in rehearsals way back in college.  This was a great benefit for me; it allowed me to learn it early on giving me a bit of a start, so I was so excited to finally perform it!  In addition, I was able to meet Jose and Rachels friend, Julian de la Chica, a composer and all around beautiful human (and go figure, he lives literally 3 blocks away from me!).

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Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem with Brooklyn Philharmonia. L-R: Jose Heredia, Rachel Hippert, and Douglas March.

Around the same time, my roommate was doing a concert version of La Traviata with Adelphi Orchestra in Jersey under the baton of Jason Tramm and he put me up for it when they needed a Barone, knowing I had done the role before.  Jason and I had been connected on Facebook (though I have to admit, I don’t remember how and when), but I had been told I needed to work with him. So, this was perfect!  It was a quick gig, but a fun gig.  I spent a little time with Jason as well as his manager Peter Randsman and their colleague, Andrea delGiudice.

So, after that little slew of gigs, I found myself with nothing on the schedule again.  I was actually okay with that after singing my first Strauss role.  Strauss can take a lot out of you!  But after about a month, I was getting hungry again.  Well, things happen as they should, right?  My friend Alex was doing a production of Le Nozze with Manhattan Opera Studio as Figaro but had a conflict with a dress rehearsal.  So, knowing I had done the role several times, asked me if I would be willing to fill in for him.  SURE!!  Any excuse to sing Figaro is an excellent excuse.  So he and I got together, talked through the staging and the cuts and I just jumped right into the dress rehearsal.  And these fellow performers were excellent colleagues!  They were great about pushing and pulling me wherever I needed to go and they were just so happy to have me there.  It was indeed a fun night.

Around the same time Alex hit me up, Jason reached out to me about doing a fully staged production of La Traviata with him and Andrea, who was stage directing in a collaboration with MidAtlantic Opera Company and New York Opera Collaborative.  This time they wanted me as Marchese.  Well, seeing as I’d done Barone three times, I was acquainted enough with Marchese that it was easy to take on.  So we started rehearsals and performed out in Jersey Shore.  And what a great production this was!  Wonderful singers, an awesome concept and execution, and some time at the beach!  It was also during this time Jason then offered me another role!  This time it was Marullo in Rigoletto with Teatro Lirico d’Europa

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La Traviata with MidAtlantic Opera Company and New York Opera Collaborative. L-R: Susanne Burgess as Violetta, Christopher Nelson as Alfredo, Jason Duika as Barone, Andrew J. Troupe as Gastone, and Clare Leyden as Flora. Ice cream on the beach with Susanne and Emily. The Menage Troiviata.

Now, this Rigoletto!  Man o man, what an experience!!  An entire opera produced in 36 hours! I’m not exaggerating that!  We got together Friday evening for 3 hours to crash stage the whole opera.  Saturday morning, we drove out to Wilkes-Barre PA, did our costume fitting, wandel-sitz, pizza dinner, and performance, and then headed home! Needless to say, when I got home at 1:30am, I was crashed.  But you know what, it was a lot of fun!!  And impressive!  This team, they have productions of various operas, sets and costumes from Europe, based in Florida that they take on tour.  This team of guys load in the whole thing, construct it all, PERFORM IN IT, then strike it and move on to the next venue. I mean, can we say OPERA SUPER GODS???  Very impressive and very fun! Oh, and I had a nice little cameo with my friends at New Camerata Opera in their gala that opened their second season!  Really proud of these guys!

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Rigoletto with Teatro Lirico d’Europa. L-R: Nathan Matticks as Rigoletto, Christopher Nelson as Borsa, Daniel Megli as Ceprano, Robert Pagnani as chorus. Me sporting a baller hat. Black and White Gala with New Camerata Opera. Pictured; Alexandra Lang, Erik Bagger, Stan Lacy, and Barbara Porto.

Now, funny how some gigs can pan out.  I had applied to audition for ARE Opera for their production of Gianni Schicchi.  I was granted an audition but as it turned out, I couldn’t make it since we were in Jersey for Traviata then.  Asking if they could meet me some other time, they offered to let me submit a video instead.  So while in Jersey I got our pianist Nicolo to play for me and record a video.  But damn technology, I couldn’t get the video off my primordial phone so all I had was my website with the recordings.  I went ahead and emailed them the link, understanding that that may not have been enough to be considered.  Well, turns out they liked it enough to offer me Marco!  Alright, I’ll take it!  Meanwhile I happened to work my way into covering Schicchi, which was easy for me as I’ve done the role twice before.  This company is amazing (photos are instagrammed but you can see them under the hyperlink)!  Only in their second production, they were organized, responsive, respectful, and creative!  We had a wonderful group of singers and we had a lot of fun putting this production up (but let’s be honest, its Schicchi.  How can you not have fun!). Also what made them great was they remembered a gig offer I had that I couldn’t do because of a conflict with the Schicchi tech week.  Well, when the conflict ceased to exist, they hit me up and said “you are free to do it!”. And fortunately, that gig was still on the table!  Which brings me to the next one!

La Bohème!  I mean, it’s BohèmeLong Island Opera Company was putting on La Bohème and offered me the cover for Schaunard.  It was great I got to do this.  Basically my philosophy on my career right now is I need to be singing La Bohème, all of them!  So, this is a good start.  Lot of interesting memories from this production.  But probably the best was getting to work with my darling Emily Naydeck, who played my daughter, Anne Page all the way back in Sir John in Love! Talk about a nice “full circle” moment!

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La Bohème with Long Island Opera Company. L-R: Daniel Klein as Marcello, HyongSik Jo as Colline, Todd Wilander as Rodolfo. Me and Emily riding out to Westhampton together!

So, after all of that, some holiday gigs and meeting even more new people, plenty of holiday socializing, Christmas in Phoenix with my family, eating like an Olympian god, I’m ready to start the new year.  Nothing on the books as of now, just a few auditions down and a couple more coming up.  So, we shall see what 2018 has in store.  If it’s anything like how 2017 has gone, it won’t like anything I’m imagining.  And that’s probably not a bad thing. But all I can say is I am so amazingly blessed to be able to do this!

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