Opera Man

His theatrical parents own Ballard’s Novelty and Party store in Concord, so he grew up surrounded by costumes and larger-than-life characters. Naturally he found his way onto the stage, mostly for local musical theatre companies. But his most recent performance is a bit like a high-wire act, balancing his time between working as a computer consultant and singing baritone for the Dicapo Opera Theater in New York City, occasionally returning home for shows with Granite State Opera. Even his parents were a bit befuddled by his initial decision, but now they are firmly behind him as he follows his dream of making a living with the power of his voice.

When did you get the opera bug?
Not until I started participating in it myself. I think I’d seen one opera in its entirety and I walked away feeling kind of bored, but once you start doing something you realize how compelling it actually is. Opera tends to get a bad rap as elitist. In reality it’s just Europe’s original form of musical theatre and just as potentially lowbrow as anything on Broadway.

How competitive is the opera stage, say, compared to Broadway?
At any given time there are at least 20 to 30 full-blown Broadway productions, plus off-Broadway shows that are Equity companies and pay people close to a living wage. Compare that to opera in which, in a good year, there are maybe two or three who are paying people what can be construed as a living wage. Most people have to jet set around the country and the world to get gigs and just use New York as a base.

What’s your favorite role so far?
So far I’d have to say it’s Figaro in “The Marriage of Figaro,” but if I ever have a chance to play Don Giovanni, it’s going to have to be that. Of course, playing the Pirate King [as in the New Jersey Opera’s “Pirates of Penzance,” see photo above] is fun as well.

Is opera mostly serious business?
The opera people I work with are every bit as nutty as the musical theatre people I’ve worked with. You have to be. There are so few jobs out there you have to be light-hearted about things.

Can you think of a particularly funny moment on stage?
In the final act of a Puccini opera here at Dicapo – they staged it with a kind of “Deadwood” scene with a lot of fighting on stage and tight choreography – an innocent man is about to get hanged when his lover runs in with a shotgun. It’s supposed to fire a big blast to quiet the crowd. Everyone goes quiet but the gun does not go off. Naturally, the music just plows ahead. Like in any art form the people are a little crazy. There’s a lot of mooning the cast from offstage on the last night of a performance.