The past two few weeks while I’ve been guest hosting at the opera I’ve had the most amazing opportunity to speak to two baritones. One who has enjoyed a long, satisfying career and the other right at what feels like the pinnacle with many more adventures ahead of him.
Sir Thomas Allen, who at 67, I interviewed and heard in recital at the Chan Centre, still rivets an audience with a gesture and holds them spell bound. Nathan Gunn is the baritone, who sings it all and very well thank you. He sings traditional opera, Broadway and contemporary compositions and he has five kids!
In the time I spent with both of them one thing was clear to me. Great singing artists have an unquenchable need to learn, to grow, to expand, to discover. They are not ruled by fear of the failing. They aren’t at home polishing the same four bars over and over again. They are grabbing their vocal abilities like a back pack and carrying themselves into new musical and dramatic lands continually. Far from being tired, they both seemed excited by it.
Thomas Allen named the poet of Linden Lea before the composer. He loves poetry and you could tell in his performance the lovers touch on the language. He loves to go to art galleries and see and take in all he can. He told me, that is his greatest advice for young singers. They must see their craft as more than singing, it is to be aware of art in all its’ guises and bring it to your art. You never know what you’ll need to access.
Nathan Gunn confessed to getting easily bored, but also to feeling a responsibility as an artist to the art form. He didn’t want to become a curator of opera as a dusty old museum piece, so he lends his considerable star power to new works in their debuts. He could make a great living singing his stock roles, and I admire and love that he challenges himself and is investing in the future of the art form of Opera.
Both of these singers reminded me of the blessing it is to be a singer. To walk fresh to a piece of music and to have the great opportunity every time we open our mouths to move people by the way we interpret it. I know audiences feel blessed to hear fine singing, but it is great to be reminded of what a blessing it is to get to make that beautiful noise.