Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ARTISTS CORNER: Tenor Jonathan Burton

ARTISTS CORNER:  Tenor Jonathan Burton will make his Sarasota Opera debut as Prince Calaf in this season's opening production of Puccini's Turandot opening February 9th.  We asked Mr. Burton to answer a few questions about his life as a singer and what he is looking forward to in his first season at Sarasota Opera.

Tenor Jonathan Burton
 Q.  What drew you to become a singer?  Was there a specific “Aha!” moment of clarity?

A.  I took a voice lesson at 17 for the school musical. The teacher said I should consider opera. At the time I was a guitarist in a rock band, so it seemed far-fetched.  I suppose it was a recording of La bohème which really set the hook in deep.

Q.  What are you looking forward to most about performing this particular role?

A.  Frankly, everything.  This is my dream role.  Calaf to me is the pinnacle of great Italian tenor roles.  Ever since I saw it at the Met in 1995, and got Corelli's famous recording, it's been the tops for me.  And the fact that my first one is with Maestro DeRenzi and directed by Ms. Sundine is truly a gift!!

Q.  Is there something unique about your process when preparing a role for performance?

A.  Probably not unique among singers. No real tricks, or extra measures.  Mainly, I try to visualize the scenes in my mind.  Make sure I have something to say.  I explore the composers simple and true intention, and work to convey it.

Q.  Beyond the musical work, what other kind of preparation/research work do you incorporate in the learning process?  Historical?  Character study? 

A.  I love to read what great tenors from the past have said about performing the role, get their insights, and also learn what audiences love/loved about it.  At the end of the day, that's why I'm here.  I hope to give fans of opera what they want and need.

Mr. Burton as Don José in Bizet's Carmen
 Q.  How does your preparation process differ between a role you have performed before and a role you are doing for the first time? 

A.  Huge difference!! Learning a new role is a HUGE process.  Translations, acting, characterization, musical searching and defining, exploring multiple options, listening to various interpretations. When I sing a role I have already sung before, there are always new things to consider, but the part already lives inside you.

Q.  What knowledge about the character of Prince Calaf do you want the audience to leave with after the performance? 

A.  That he believed in his mission and would not let anything stop him until he achieved success.  He believed that his great capacity to love could move mountains, and tame the ferocious Turandot.

Q.  The aria “Nessun Dorma” has been sung by some of the vocal greats…  from Corelli to Pavarotti to even Aretha Franklin!  Do you feel any kind of elevated pressure in having to perform such a well known aria? 

A.  Well...now that you put it THAT way!!!  Haha.  No, not really.  Those guys sang every thing else I sang too! This is a very famous aria now, but, to me it is a one aria among many, and an essential part of this opera.  In context it holds no special terror.  In fact I'm honored to be able to present it.  However...in a concert, it can be a touch nerve-wracking!!  The audience starts to murmur as soon as you say the first lines.

Mr. Burton singing the role of Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca
 Q.  Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?

A.  Once, while playing Spoletta in Tosca, the fellow playing Scarpia threw me extra hard on opening night and I left the ground.  When I landed, my feet shuffled trying to catch hold and I slid under his desk from where I had to deliver my next line!!​

The following week, another performer missed his entrance and I turned my back and sang his first two lines till he arrived...quite shaken!!!

Q.  Do you have any pre-performance rituals?  Performance superstitions?  Good luck charms? 
A.  No, I'm afraid I don't. Just...pace around and mumble prayers!!

Q.  How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?

A.  My apple electronics are my dear friends. They hold my music, books, tv shows, and movies. I spend time with my ipad and a big pot of tea.  Also, I make wire-wrap jewelry and rosaries, and write fiction.

Q.  How do you stay connected to family and friends when you are “on the road”?  Do you keep a blog?  Website?Facebook?  Twitter?

A.  I do have Facebook and twitter. And try to update them frequently.  With my family, I rely on text messes and FaceTime, which is video chatting.  My kids love it.

Q.  As we have people that travel from around the United States to attend performances at Sarasota Opera, are there any towns or cities that you have a strong connection with whether from growing up or attending school?

A.  I'm from a small town in Ohio, Portsmouth. It's dear to me. The cities in which I've performed all have their own faces and personalities which are dear to me. For instance, Sarasota will always be the home of my debut of my favorite role, and daily here I meet new fantastic people who I hope to retain as lifelong friends.

Don't miss Mr. Burton as he makes his Sarasota Opera debut in this season's production of Puccini's Turandot opening February 9th!  Get your tickets today at www.sarasotaopera.org or by calling the Sarasota Opera box office at (941) 328-1300.


Mary Unger said...

I love this blog. It helps me to connect with the artist and gives me a better understanding of how they connect with their character.
Thank You. Mary Unger

Mary Unger said...

I love this blog. It helps me to connect with the artist and gives me a better understanding of how they connect with their character.
Thank You!