Thursday, January 30, 2014

ARTISTS CORNER: Bass-baritone Kevin Short

Bass Kevin Short
Bass-baritone Kevin Short has been a frequent artist at Sarasota Opera since making his debut in 1991 as Méphistophélès in Gounod's Faust.  Since his debut, Mr. Short has been seen in many leading roles at Sarasota Opera, particularly the works of Verdi.  In addition, Mr. Short's career has taken him to the stages of Stuttgart Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera House. 

This season, Mr. Short returns to sing the title role in Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, a role he has performed at Indianapolis Opera, the Stadttheater Bern, and most recently in Croatia. Continue reading to learn why Mr. Short enjoys singing the music of Wagner and what he thinks makes Sarasota Opera so special that has kept him coming back since 1991.  

Mr. Short as Nourabad in Sarasota Opera's
2000 production of The Pearl Fishers
Q. Where are you originally from and where do you base yourself out of today?
A. I was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Charles County, Maryland. Today I’m based between Basel, Switzerland and Miami, Florida

Q. Why Opera?  What drew you to become a singer?  
A. I had very good instructors/mentors at  Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD), the Curtis Institute (Philadelphia, PA), and Juilliard’s AOC (American Opera Center) that  were quite influential to me as a young singer. But by the time I was a junior at Morgan State University and had won a few young artist competitions, I was certain I wanted to be a professional opera singer.

Q. What singing did you do as a teenager?
A. It wasn’t until I was a junior in high school that I joined the school choir and I also sang a bit in the choir while attending St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

Q. What are you looking forward to most about performing the role of The Dutchman in this season’s production of The Flying Dutchman?
A. I am most looking forward to literally singing every note of this brilliant score again and exploring undiscovered dramatic possibilities. The role is such a tour de force and the vocal and dramatic demands it places upon me are extremely exciting. I’m also very much looking forward to working with my outstanding colleagues, the musical and directing team, and I’m very interested to hear what the typical outstanding Sarasota Opera chorus will sound like with this masterpiece.

Mr. Short in the title role of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman at Indianapolis Opera
A. What is your process for preparing a role for performance?
Q. I find it very helpful to read the libretto first to get a real sense of the dramatic flow or arc of a piece and how my character factors into the overall equation. What is my relationship  to or how do I feel about each character in the opera whether I interact with them or not? It’s important for me to find out why I say what I say. I then start at the piano playing a section of my part multiple times to begin the memorization process. I move to the next section the next day while always revisiting the section from  the day before. If it’s music that is quite taxing I will often sing it down an octave or better yet, sing it very lightly in the octave. This helps to not start forming bad habits when trying to sing and learn at the same time. Overall there’s a sort of layering process that takes place. I also find it helpful to sing  my music in different tempi and mix things up a bit to not become too fixated with only one way of singing the music. This is espcecially useful if I’ve listened to or am familiar with recordings that could influence my interpretation before I’ve had input from the Maestro and director.

Mr. Short as Pagano in Verdi's
I Lombardi alla prima crociata
at Sarasota Opera
Q. Wagner roles seem particularly demanding.  Are there additional challenges in singing a Wagner role compared to other types of roles you have performed?
A. Yes, I find  for example, early Verdi and Wagner to be equally difficult to sing because of the tessitura of large sections of their music. Later Verdi is less problemic in this manner. Early Verdi also can require vocal gymnastics when handling vocal leaps. Dutchman does not as much as early Verdi, but there is the added demand of  having to contend with the thickness of his orchestration during  some musical and dramatic climaxes. A temptation for the Wagner singer is to try to force a bit too much. I think the singer benefits greatly if vocally they approach Wagner as they would singing a good many Italian operas. I also feel that Dutchman is the mist Italianate of his opera.

Q. What do you want the audience to know about the character of The Dutchman?  
A. That there may be a personality flaw that causes the Dutchman to have been so unsuccessful in finding  a true woman for so many years. He’s also not to be pitied as much as some may want to pity him. It’s his own arrogance in defying nature and God that caused his predicament

Q. What would you say to someone who might be intimidated to try their first Wagner opera?  
A. Dutchman is extremely accessible dramatically ,and musically it is some of the most sublime and glorious music one can imagine. If they’ve ever wondered what Wagner is like, then this is the perfect first Wagner opera, and it’s also not a long night at the opera at under 3 hours  from beginning to end with intermission.

Mr. Short as Signor La Rocca in
Sarasota Opera's production of
A King for a Day
Q. You have been a steady presence at Sarasota Opera for several seasons.  You must enjoy singing here. What do you think makes Sarasota Opera so special that people return season after season?
A. I absolutely love singing here for so many reasons such as the attention to detail from top to bottom. with everyone working at the company.

Because of the generous amount of time given to the rehearsal process, a singer will really develop and can explore the possibilities dramatically as well as vocally. There are also multiple performances that help facilitate this growth, which is extremely rare for most opera companies in the U.S.  Another reason is that Maestro DeRenzi has created an ensemble of singers and orchestra players that understand the Sarasota Opera music making process. Maestro’s musical language and performers that work regularly in Sarasota create an environment and unofficial system that is the closest thing we have in the States to a typical European fixed engagement system. 

Q. You have performed all over the world.  Do you find audiences behave differently in all the different countries you perform in? 
A. Yes, audiences seem to react in the manner and character of the characteristics of their country.

Mr. Short as The King in Opera Birmingham's production of Aida
Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?
A. I don’t want to elaborate, but the whole rehearsal and performance period this past summer performing Dutchman at the Split Festival.

Q. How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?
A. I enjoy riding my bicycle, drawing,and reading historical books.

Q. What music do you listen to when you are driving in the car?
A. A wide variety.  I enjoy listening to opera but also enjoy jazz, classic R&B, and pop music. 

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 use Skype a good deal while on the road. Facebook also comes in handy for keeping in touch with family and friends.  

Don't miss a note Mr. Short's performances as The Dutchman in this season's production of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman running for 7 performances between March 1st through March 23rd. Tickets are on sale now at or by calling (941) 328-1300.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

ARTISTS CORNER: Baritone David Pershall

Baritone David Pershall
Photo by Arthur Cohen
ARTISTS CORNER: Meet baritone David Pershall who will be making his role debut as the jealous and vengeful Count De Luna in this season's production of Verdi's Il trovatore.  With his "smooth, evenly produced lyric baritone" combined with his “persuasive” stage presence Mr. Pershall is quickly making a name for himself on stages around the world. This year he joined the roster at the Metropolitan Opera as well as bowed on the stages of Dallas Opera, Virginia Opera and El Paso Opera.  Upcoming engagements include appearances at Washington National Opera, Minnesota Opera, and several appearances at the Vienna State Opera House next season.  Continue reading to learn more about Mr. Pershall and how he came to opera.  

Q. Where are you originally from and where do you make your home now?
A. I was born in Oklahoma City OK, but grew up in Temple TX. I currently live in New Brunswick, NJ and will move to Vienna, Austria in September as the majority of my work next year will be with the Vienna Staatsoper.

As the birdman, Papageno, in Mozart's
The Magic Flute at Virginia Opera
Q. What drew you to become a singer?  Was there a specific “Aha!” moment of clarity?
A. I have always had a love for music – my mother is a piano instructor so naturally that was my first instrument. Through the years I began to take voice lessons. I have always ADORED opera, and I heard my very first one in high school on a record my first voice teacher loaned me. It was not until college when I was studying at Baylor University that I thought I would try to make a living singing opera.

Q. Did you have other career aspirations in the works before you decided on singing?
A. I have always been fascinated with math and the stars.  There was a time I thought I would become an aerospace engineer or astrophysicist

Mr. Pershall as Enrico in Donizetti's
Lucia di Lammermoor 
Q. Singing the role of the Count de Luna will be a role debut for you, correct?  What made you decide to take it on?
A. Yes, this will be my debut singing the role of Count de Luna. I was thrilled at the thought of taking on the part because Il trovatore is one of my most favorite operas.

Q. What can you tell us about this character?  What do you want the audience to know about him?
A. I think this opera tells a special story. De Luna is known as the BAD guy in this opera- which is true to a point. De Luna’s life sort of unravels as a result of love. This in and of itself inspires sympathy. However, the story of De Luna also teaches restraint, in that his life is torn apart because of the obsessive type of love he feels for Leonora.

Mr. Pershall in concert at the Beethoven
Easter Festival in Warsaw, Poland
Q. What is your process for preparing a role for performance?
A. First and foremost I begin technical preparations to ensure my body is up to the task at hand. Then I study the libretto to dig into the psychology of the character in the way he speaks and the way he relates to others. This is followed with a study of the score, which provides clarification on what the composer thought of the character and gives the ultimate indication on how to turn a phrase dramatically. The final step is putting it altogether. These steps provide the most efficient and effective way to communicate with the audience.

Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal or performance?
A. My pants split in a performance of Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

Q. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?  
A. I pray and ask God to enhance the gifts He has bestowed upon me.

Mr. Pershall as Zurga in Bizet's The Pearl Fishers
at Virginia Opera.  
Q. How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?
A. I enjoy spending time with my wife, reading, going for walks, and checking out the local museums.

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 call my wife daily when she is not with me. I have a website which people can check out at  I also keep a personal Facebook account, I am on Twitter (@DavidPershall), and people can enjoy clips of my performances on my YouTube channel.  Just search DavidPershallOPERA on YouTube (or you can just click here:

Don't miss the chance to see Mr. Pershall's debut as Count de Luna in Sarasota Opera's Winter Festival production of Verdi's Il trovatore opening February 8th and running through March 22nd.  Tickets are available at or by calling (941) 328-1300.

Monday, January 20, 2014

ARTISTS CORNER: Tenor Kirk Dougherty

Tenor Kirk Dougherty
Tenor Kirk Dougherty has a thriving career in concert and opera.  Opera Magazine (UK),, and Opera News describe his voice as a “tenor on the rise”, “an “exceptionally beautiful tenor”, and a “limitless, iridescent instrument”.  This season he makes his Sarasota Opera debut as the troubador Manrico in Verdi's Il trovatore opening February 8th, a role he has sung with a number of renowned musical organizations.  Continue reading to learn more about Mr. Dougherty and the path that lead him to a performance career in opera.   

Q. Where are you originally from and where do you make your home now?
A. I am originally from Sleepy Hollow, NY, which is a suburb of New York in Westchester County.  My wife is originally from Park Slope, Brooklyn.  We now live in the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York.   We like our neighborhood because it is convenient to our work which often revolves around auditioning and studying as much as performing.  Our neighborhood is also in between our two families who still live in Westchester and Brooklyn.

Mr. Dougherty as Ferrando in
Mozart's Cosi fan tutte
Q. What drew you to become a singer?  Was there a specific “Aha!” moment of clarity?
A. I never had any ‘aha!’ moments that led me to singing.  I think it was a combination of many events.   When I was younger I didn’t have a lot of career direction but I did have an interest in many academic subjects and disciplines.

Oddly enough though, I believe that lack of direction helped me a lot with some of my long-term singing goals.  To be a great professional singer seems to require combing many diverse disciplines into a single art.   I am definitely a generalist and I enjoy the intersection (each to a certain degree) of music, drama, athletic performance, psychology, history, linguistics, literature, and technology.

I think it’s important have the capacity to ‘get lost’ or ‘lose one’s self’ in a work of art.  When I started to be able to do that a few years ago, I felt that I was finally on the right track to a career in singing.

Q. Did you have other career aspirations in the works before you decided on singing?  
A. I considered many far-flung careers as a high school student but by the end of college I knew that I wanted to be a musician or maybe a musicologist.   As a graduate student, I had many performance opportunities but I initially focused on learning and teaching singers rather than on opera and performing. After graduate school, I got a job offer to become a college voice instructor.  For a few of years I taught voice lessons and singing to a number of undergraduate students, but I quickly realized that my true desire was to perform.  About five years ago I began to pursue a full-time opera career.

One of my greatest supporters through this transition has been my voice teacher at the Eastman School of Music. He made quite an impression on me and I admire him very much.  He has a tremendous humility about the art and about his teaching.  He instilled in me a way of thinking that improved my singing and my approach to the performing career.
Mr. Dougherty as Manrico in Verdi's Il trovatore
Q. What can you tell us about this character?  Why should the audience care about him?
A. I think that Manrico is a character who exemplifies contradictions. Although his thoughts and motives demonstrate the nobility and the chivalry of a medieval warrior, he also acts impulsively with the recklessness of a gypsy or a wanderer. This fearless, wandering nobility is also perhaps why his music and his songs seem so intriguing to Leonora.  His profession seems to reconcile these opposing qualities: as a ‘trovatore’ or ‘troubador’, he sings songs with simple, direct melodies but with words that portray the chivalrous ideals of love and courage.

I think it is even more interesting that the other three primary characters of the drama have their own similar contradictions in motives and actions.  In this way, I think Il trovatore can seem hard to follow for some opera-goers, because so much happens.  On the other hand, it’s also an unusually balanced opera with respect to the depth and development of each main character.

For an audience familiar with this drama, I hope it will be fun for them to observe and attempt to understand for themselves the inner motives of these characters.  It is both a “two-woman opera” and a “two-man opera”. Usually, operas largely involve the motives and actions of either one couple or a triangle of main characters. I think it’s interesting that, at one time or another, each of the main characters in Il trovatore – Manrico, Leonora, the Count, and Azucena – carry the drama through their own personal conflicts.

Mr. Dougherty as Hoffmann in Offenbach's
The Tales of Hoffmann
Q. You have performed this role before at other companies.  What do you enjoy about it?
A. I’ve performed the role at Tri-Cities Opera.   I think that prior experience was very important for me.  Il trovatore is definitely a difficult opera to perform and Manrico is a complicated and challenging character to create.  My goal for this production is to give a balanced interpretation of the role’s vocal and dramatic demands. I have never worked anywhere with as much rehearsal time and as many performances as we will have at Sarasota Opera (4 weeks of rehearsal and 10 performances).  I am looking forward to the challenges involved in putting together this opera.

Q. Is there something unique about your process when preparing a role for performance?
A. A few years ago I got my professional start at some smaller opera companies with fewer resources that a company like Sarasota Opera.  I was charged with learning a variety of roles in a short amount of time. I needed to develop a way of understanding and learning each new role in a constructive way.  At that time, I started studying with a system of index cards in order to quickly memorize the music and words.

The bulk of preparation happens long before the rehearsal period begins.  I always want to ensure that I arrive at each new production fully prepared and ready to immerse myself in rehearsal.  I developed a personal system of notation where I write down the smallest rudiments of music for my specific role – text, rhythm, and pitch - on approximately 10-20 index cards.  The cards help to get my nose out of the music and begin to understand the opera and my character more completely.

Mr. Dougherty as Nemorino in
Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore
Q. Beyond the musical work, what other kind of preparation/research work do you incorporate in the learning process?  Historical?  Character study?  
A. I have always been interested in history and so I will often try to find the historical context of the story. The original story of Il trovatore involves a medieval kingdom in present day Spain called Aragon.  At various points in European medieval history, Aragon was an important kingdom.  During the period of time Verdi set his opera, there was a war of succession in the early fifteenth century involving the count of Urgell (which is a county in Aragon), Jaime II, who was a claimant to the Kingdom of Aragon.  Manrico was probably leading men in Urgell’s army against the elected king Ferdinand I.  Many other details of the opera are fictional.

There is publication on the history of forgotten political dynasties and nations called “Vanished Kingdoms, the Rise and Fall of States and Nations” by Norman Davies.  In that book there is a chapter about Aragon which explains more about its history and origin through to its rebellion during the 18th century War of Spanish Succession and beyond.   In an unusual coincidence, this book was a gift to me from my father-in-law.  I had no idea that it would be useful reading until I opened it one day last year and found the chapter on Aragon.

Mr. Dougherty as Manrico in Verdi's Il trovatore
Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?
A. The Tales of Hoffmann was full of bizarre experiences.  I sang a duet with a robotic character (Olympia) that wore roller skates.  Making sure that she didn’t roll into the orchestra pit was crucial.

Q. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?  Performance superstitions?  Good luck charms?  If yes, why?
A. I don’t have any particular rituals and I try to avoid superstitions.  Sometimes I do bring a puzzle with me on show day just to keep my mind from thinking too much about the upcoming performance. Usually it’s an old-fashioned jigsaw puzzle.  I buy them from time to time but I rarely ever finish them.

Q. How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?
A. At home, I like to watch old movies and TV shows on Netflix.  I watch a lot of British TV and foreign film.  I guess it reminds me somehow of opera.   I also enjoy listening to the radio – NPR and talk radio. I rediscovered radio when I was driving a lot more and working locally for a variety of places in New York State.  I found talk radio and NPR was the best thing to listen to when driving a long distance.

When it’s possible, I try to enjoy the local and regional environment around me at any given place.   I was working recently in Anchorage, AK and saw some pretty scenic landscapes.  Nevertheless, it is a lot of work to produce an opera.  I try to give my voice and myself some space and time to recover from a production day.  Unlike a lot of actors and musicians, an opera singer is constantly keeping track of their instrument.  As a consequence, I am more conservative about how I spend my free time during a production.

Mr. Dougherty as Edgardo in
Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor
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 think it’s amazing how far technology has come to bringing people close to one another over vast distances. One of the things that definitely kept me from pursuing my singing career earlier in my life was the amount of travel and distance away from your family.  An itinerant life, however, is so much easier now than it was ten years ago.  I talk to my wife via Skype, Facebook, email, text, phone, and Facetime.  I’m also lucky that my wife sings opera as well and has a career of her own so she understands what a production period is like.   We always keep in touch throughout the time we are away and often it gives me some important perspective.

Whenever possible, my wife and I travel with each other.  When we don't have the good fortune of working on the same production, one of us will travel with the other to wherever they are singing.  Last summer I was very fortunate that she could go with me to Spain for some concerts and a production of Verdi’s Otello.   We know each other’s work very well and having my wife there with me helped me have great rehearsal and production days.

Don't miss Mr. Dougherty's performances as Manrico in Verdi's hot blooded Il trovatore opening February 8th and running for 10 performances through March 22nd.  Subscriptions and Single Tickets are on sale at or by calling (941) 328-1300.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sarasota Opera's 55th Season: The First Week

The 2013-2014 Sarasota Opera Winter Festival Season has officially begun!  Our Apprentice and Studio artists as well as our production staff have arrived.  Rehearsals are underway, costume fittings have commenced, and the sets for our four dynamic productions are all delivered.  We thought you would enjoy seeing some photos of all the activity around the opera house during the first few days of the season.

 Executive Director Richard Russell and Artistic Administrator Greg Trupiano officially welcome the 2014 Winter Apprentice and Studio Artists to Sarasota Opera.  

Welcome the 2014 Winter Festival Season Apprentice and Studio Artists

Maestro Roger Bingaman, Chorus master and head of the Apprentice Artist Program, 
discusses the seasons upcoming concerts and outreach performances.  

Rob Holland, Assistant Artistic Administrator, does his best to avoid the camera.

In addition to the start of music rehearsals, the costume shop and backstage crews are busy building and assembling the sets and costumes for this season's productions.  

Casey Costello, one of our Drapers, works on cutting material to begin building a costume. 

Studio Artists Catheryne Shuman, soprano, and Marvin Kehler, tenor, 
being fitted in their costumes for this season.  

The Dutchman's ship for Wagner's The Flying Dutchman

A set piece from Rossini's The Barber of Seville

Daland's house from Wagner's The Flying Dutchman

The Wonderful Bradenton Opera Guild and Sarasota Opera Guild hosted a welcome dinner 
for our artists, artistic staff, and production team.  

Members of the Bradenton and Sarasota Opera Guilds

All the enthusiastic recipients of the Guilds generosity.

The smiles on their faces must mean that they are ready for an exciting season of wonderful music making

We hope you have enjoyed this insider's glimpse into the start of Sarasota Opera's 55th season of bringing grand opera to Florida's gulf coast.  We will continue to bring you more pictures from around the opera house as the season continues.  Subscriptions and single tickets are available online at or by calling the Sarasota Opera Box Office at (941) 328-1300.  Don't let yourself miss a note of this exciting season!  

Friday, January 10, 2014

ARTISTS CORNER: Mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams

Mezzo soprano
Chrystal E. Williams
ARTISTS CORNER:  Mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams will appear as Rosina in this season's production of The Barber of Seville.  Ms. Williams already has an impressive resume of roles which include Dulcinée in Massenet’s Don Quichotte, Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Linda in Lost in the Stars, her debut role with the Glimmerglass Festival, Giannetta in L’Elisir d’Amore, Cuniza in Oberto, Nicklausse and La Muse in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, and La Maestra delle Novizie in Suor Angelica among others. Upcoming engagements include soloist in Rossini’s Stabat Mater with the New Jersey Master Chorale as well as with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra singing Elgar’s Sea Pictures. Read what she has to say about her upcoming debut with Sarasota Opera.   

Q. Where are you originally from and where do you make your home now?
A. I am from Portsmouth, Va and am currently living in the Philadelphia area.

Ms. Williams as Ducinee in
Massenet's Don Quichotte
Q. What drew you to become a singer?  Was there a specific “Aha!” moment of clarity?
A. Hmmm...there was no real aha moment so to speak. I always sang, but never thought "I am going to be a singer one day!" I have always wanted to help others, but it wasn't until I started at The Governor's School for the Arts (GSA) that I settled on how. I originally wanted to teach English/Language to grade school children because I felt and still feel that teachers have great influence on our world citizens. Children often spend more time with teachers than parents, so if during these formative years we can not only encourage their educational growth, but self esteem, self-confidence, thirst for knowledge and freedom to question and explore, then we could help alleviate many of the problems that afflict our citizens later in life. In short, we could help form mentally strong, educated and adept children and thus even stronger world citizens better able to make decisions affecting all of mankind.

My next choice was a psychologist/middle school guidance counselor-similar reasons, but with middleschoolers. Then came a biologist my sophomore year of high school. I figured I could help mankind by finding some biological cure for many of the unknown ailments! Mind you, I have still been singing all the while. GSA had taken a trip to New York City and I remember being glued to the floor listening to Leontyne Price sing on one of the monitors in Tower Records. I asked the head of the program how I could help people and still sing. He said I could help them THROUGH the music. This is what I've been trying to do ever since.

One way I have found so far is in 2004 I founded the Chrystal E. Williams Scholarship to help students wishing to pursue a career in the performing arts. This scholarship is funded in part by my annual concert, "An Evening with Chrystal E".

Ms. Williams as Zerlina in
Mozart's Don Giovanni

Q. You have sung the role of Rosina before.  What do you enjoy about performing this role?
A. What do I enjoy about performing the role of Rosina...I love the music. I love the playfulness, the mischievousness, the mystery. I love the wit involved and the spicy flare that is such a part of Rosina.

Q. What can you tell us about this character?  What do you want the audience to know about her?
A. I want the audience to know that Rosina is much like them. She is constantly discovering and exploring things about herself. She has dreams, desires, goals, and she is determined to see them come to fruition. She will not be out foxed!

Q. How do you prepare a role for performance?
A. I usually start with the libretto, read the text. (I like to find loop holes in the plot and try and figure them out. I'm that person at movies who sits there wondering about certain plot blind spots...) I then look historically and read any books/pertinent information. I take the score to the piano and sightread as much as possible, listen to the overture-always a foreshadowing of what is to come, and then eventually I listen to the rest.
Ms. Williams in Lost in the Stars
at Glimmerglass Opera

Q. Are there any famous "Rosina's" from the past whose performances you admire?
A. There are so many famous Rosina's!

Q. Beyond the musical work, what other kind of preparation/research work do you incorporate in the learning process?   
A. Beyond the musical work, I speak through the text alone, more as a monologue

Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?
A. Well, actually, during a performance of The Barber of Seville, Dr. Bartolo's wig came off during one of the ensemble numbers ("La testa vi gira"). Everyone lost it yet still somehow managed to keep singing. It fit so perfectly that the 'mishap' was kept. Ha!

Ms. Williams at the
2012 Giargiari Bel Canto Competition
Q. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?  Performance superstitions?  Good luck charms? 
A. Pre-performance I usually like to clean/straighten up, pack my show bag, snacks, etc. This helps me quiet my mind and be sure I have everything. I eat a good, solid meal a few hours before. Sometime during staging I may have compiled a 'last minute review/reminder' list. I carry this list, my Bible, water, and Gatorade along with my bag. I always call home and my family says a quick prayer for me. Backstage I sometimes do a few squats to get my body ready, say my prayer in the wings, few breaths, then it's to the stage! I try not to have rituals or create tradition so that if ever the situation arises where those rituals/traditions cannot be kept, I am not distracted. :)

Q. How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?
A. I absolutely LOVE dancing, tango music, cooking, and reading. I also enjoy a good workout or explorative walks in the new neighborhood

Q. How do you stay connected to family and friends when you are “on the road”? 
A. I speak to my family literally everyday, and if abroad, we email. I catch up with my friends via phone/text/email as well.

Described as possessing "dazzling vocal sound", you do not want to miss mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams as Rosina in Sarasota Opera's 2014 Winter production of Rossini's comedy The Barber of Seville running February 15th through March 21st. Tickets are available at or by calling (941) 328-1300.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

ARTISTS CORNER: Bass Jeffrey Beruan

Bass Jeffrey Beruan
Bass-baritone Jeffrey Beruan is excited to be returning to Sarasota Opera after successful performances as Acciano in I Lombardi alla prima crociata, The Bonze in Madama Butterfly, Lodovico in Otello, and Morpheus in the world premiere of Little Nemo in Slumberland.  Upcoming engagements in the 2013-2014 Season include a role debut as George Benton, the Prison Warden in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking for Madison Opera, a role and company debut singing Pluton in Charpentier’s La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers for Gotham Chamber Opera, and a role debut as Sarastro in The Magic Flute for Lyric Opera of Kansas City.  Read about what Mr. Beruan is looking forward to this coming season at Sarasota Opera.

Q. Where are you originally from and where do you make your home now?
A. I am originally from Shawnee, Kansas and I now live in Chicago, Illinois.

Jeffrey Beruan as The Bonze in
Madama Butterfly at Sarasota Opera
Q. What drew you to become a singer?  Was there a specific “Aha!” moment of clarity?
A. My “Aha” moment would have to have been during my first summer program.  I was in Logan, Utah singing with Utah Festival Opera.   I could not believe how amazing all the singers were, how much fun I was having, and that they were going to PAY me to sing!

Q. Did you have other career aspirations in the works before you decided on singing?  
A. I went to college with the intention of getting a music education degree because I wanted to teach choir and/or band in a high school somewhere, but that’s about it.

Q. You are singing two different roles this season; Ferrando in Il trovatore and Papal Legate in Jérusalem.  What can you tell us about these characters?  Why should the audience care about them?
A. Ferrando is the gap between Conte de Luna, Sr. and Conte de Luna, Jr.  He was there from the beginning and genuinely wants to catch the gypsy that killed the count’s brother.  He is well respected, an amazing story teller and a true leader.  The Count can always rely on him.

Papal Legate is a Legate to Pope Urbain II.  He has come to bring the news that the count has been appointed leader of the Crusades.  He is a representative to the Catholic Church.  He is well respected, and makes him available to the count for he holy advice that he needs.

Jeffrey Beruan as Acciano in Verdi's
I Lombardi alla prima crocciata
Q. What are you looking forward to most about performing these particular roles?
A. The bulk of Ferrando’s role is in the first 10 minutes of the opera. However, he gets to tell the spooky and horrifying story of what happened to the count’s brother.  There are a bunch of different colors to the scene that I am looking forward to bringing out!

Papal Legate is a little different.  I get a few wonderful singing moments that I look forward to pumping out, but I’m more looking forward to getting to know Jérusalem as a whole, since I may never have the opportunity to be in the opera again.  I was in I Lombardi alla prima crociata as well in 2011 so I’ve already had fun seeing the similarities and differences between the two operas.

Q. Is there something about your process when preparing a role for performance?
A. I have to know what every word means before I sing a note.  I may not know what every word means from the very beginning, but I at least need to be able to reference my score or libretto so that I’m not just singing syllables.

Q. Beyond the musical work, what other kind of preparation/research work do you incorporate in the learning process?  Historical?  Character study?  
A. I try to go through and find any factual historical references and look up what I can to see how it relates to the opera.  Also, since I generally play characters who are older than I actually am, I will look at how some of the great singers moved while doing this role to help inform my movements.

Mr. Beruan as Zuniga in
Carmen at Portland Opera
Q. Does your preparation process differ between a role you have performed before and a role you are doing for the first time?  
A. It depends on how long it was since I did the role, but yes, I can just get right back into the music and the drama.  There’s a lot more leg work when you’re doing a role for the first time.

Q. Before you were a principal artist, you spent two seasons as a Sarasota Opera studio artist.  Do you feel that experience helped to prepare you for your upcoming role as a Principal Artist?  If yes, how so?   
A. Actually, I spent two seasons at a Studio Artist, and yes, it was very helpful!  First of all, I already have a pretty good idea of the expectations that are on me from day one.  I can prepare and coach the roles in a way that, I believe, fits with Sarasota Opera standards.  I also feel that I will have a support system around me, who want me to do well.

Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a performance?         
A. I can’t think of any for a rehearsal, so I’ll give you two from separate performances:

1.  The paramedics came in during a scene I was involved in, in a small theater, and took a woman out who had had a heart attack.

2.  The other was also in an intimate theater setting.  I was involved in a stage combat fight and was thrown to the ground near the edge of the stage.  It must have been convincing, because a gentleman from the front row rushed out of his seat to help me!

Q. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?  
A. I try not to eat too much prior or during a performance.  I don’t want to be hungry, but I also don’t want feel heavy or gummy. I also like to get to my place off stage early and pace.

Q. How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?
A. I enjoy watching tv/movies, exercising, cooking.  Generally, I just try to relax and shut my brain off for a little while!

Q. How do you stay connected to family and friends when you are “on the road”?  
A. The cell phone is my most consistent way of staying connected. But, I will also use Facetime or Skype.

Mr. Beruan as Polyphemus in Handel's Acis and Galatea at Madison Opera
See and hear Mr. Beruan this season in both our Verdi offerings this season; First as Ferrando in Verdi's Il trovatore opening February 8th then as the Papal Legate in Verdi's Jérusalem opening March 8th.  Tickets are available now online at or by calling (941) 328-1300.