Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ten Questions With... Tenor Marcus Haddock Believes in the Geneva Conventions and Rocks Out to Whitesnake

I'm in awe of opera singers. Being tone deaf and born with a lousy voice, unable to act or follow simple directions, I'm amazed by what they do on stage. And then they do it over and over again, night after night, city after city, with a new cast, new audience and new orchestra.

I'm also surprised how they can be contradictions of sorts and I remember a singer we had a few seasons back -- quite excellent and world renowned -- who confided in me they hated opera, and then proceeded to give me his best Homer Simpson snoring-on-the-couch impression. It was quite good. While I don't exactly share his sentiments, it was suprising to hear this.

Enter tenor Marcus Haddock. Marcus makes his Company debut as Cavaradossi in Tosca next season. Marcus isn't your stereotypical opera singer although he loves to sing. He also loves to ride his motorcycle. And he listens to Whitesnake (yes, that's them above -- back in the day when rock was big and hair was even bigger). I like to think Marcus belts out Whitesnake under his helmet while driving up behind people in the fast lane but only Marcus knows this for sure.

Marcus is also incredibly intelligent and offers some great insight into the opera Tosca, the foolishness of torture, and his character Cavaradossi in what we affectionally call "Ten Questions With..."

-- Edward

San Diego Opera (SDO): First, welcome to San Diego Opera! We are very excited that you are making your company debut with us in Tosca. Before we begin, is there anything new in your life that you would like to share with us?

Marcus Haddock (M.H.): Let me say thank you for the opportunity to participate in this interview. I am looking forward to working in San Diego.

What’s new in my life? Unfortunately, things are a bit boring right now. I am working on a new piece, if that could qualify for “new in my life”. I’m singing Les Troyens in Tanglewood this summer, so that is occupying a lot of what free time I have. Other than that, I am currently trying to survive my schedule for the next two years.

SDO: You have sung Cavaradossi around the world – at Washington National Opera, Paris Opera, etc.. so I am wondering if you can tell us a little bit about this role?

M.H.: The role of Cavaradossi is the most “Italian” of all the Italian operatic roles; that is, in terms of diction and musical style it is identified most surely by the Italians as “theirs”. It belongs to them. I did not understand this until I sang the role in Florence. I wasn’t just singing an opera that everyone knows, I was singing something that everyone expected to be “Italian”. As an American, my singing can never be truly “Italian” for the Italians, but after a lot of hard work, I think I got as close as anyone ever could.

SDO: Is there a special part of this opera that really speaks to you?

M.H.: I’m not sure what you mean by “speaks to me”. I would say, however, that the torture scene always makes me think of the absolute stupidity of torturing someone for information. Of course, the opera is filled with great musical moments that inspire me to sing. And the greatest masterpiece of operatic literature is the moment of “Vissi d’arte”. Nothing surpasses that moment.

SDO: Our production of Tosca sees you joining up with Sylvie Valayre, Greer Grimsley and Reinhard Dorn among others… Have you worked with anyone in the cast before, or is this an entirely new group of people for you?

M.H.: Yes. I have worked with Sylvie on two occasions. One in Don Carlo in Warsaw, and most recently in Tosca in Paris. I have know Greer for a number of years, but I have never worked with him. I have known of Reinhard for many years while I was in Germany. I may have worked with him in Cologne.

SDO: I’ve heard your early musical influences were gospel and Christian pop. How, if at all, did this influence you to start a career as an opera singer?

M.H.: Since I sang my first solo in church when I was about 8 or 9 years old, I wanted to sing. I knew nothing about Opera growing up. My father was a Southern Baptist Minister, and, so, my only thought back then was perhaps to become church musician, minister of music, or something. However, I really didn’t like much of the gospel music, and the Christian pop wasn’t something that thrilled me. My ear, from early on, recognized a more legitimate sound, and I favored that sound among the different evangelistic singers that came to our church for revivals. Nevertheless, the music influenced me to want to sing. Of course, now, the Christian pop has less to do with “Christian” and a lot more to do with “pop”. I cannot bear to listen to it.

SDO: Tell us about your introduction to Opera? When did you first hear it? What made you realize this was the path you wanted to pursue?

M.H.: I entered Baylor University as a pre-med student. I thought I wanted to be a doctor. Boy was I wrong. Before going to Baylor, my father and I went to the campus to meet with some professors from the school of music, as I was thinking about studying music, and from the Arts and Science department. We also met with Dr. Porter, the choir director. I was interested in being in a choir, regardless of my primary study, and I wanted to sing. So, I went to Baylor, studied pre-med, and sang in the one of the choirs. I also started taking some voice lessons from a student of Carol Blaickner-Mayo. The students name was Sharon Vickery. In exchange for voice lessons, I did yard work for her. You have to understand that Opera was nothing to me. The word was not a part of my vocabulary. It wasn’t long before Sharon started saying some things to me about seriously considering vocal study. And for the Christmas break of my freshman year, she gave me a recording of La Boheme to take home with me during the break. I listened to the recording and said to myself, “I want to do that”. I went back to Baylor after the break, talked to Sharon about it, she arranged an “audition” for Ms. Mayo, and that was it. I changed my major to music and began studying voice with Ms. Mayo. I never dreamed that it would turn out like it has.

SDO: Being a professional Opera singer you spend a lot of time traveling, meeting different people, exploring new locales. What do you like best about this aspect of your job?

M.H.: Traveling, meeting different people, and exploring new locales.

SDO: What do you like the least?

M.H.: Traveling, meeting different people, and exploring new locales….

SDO: We (begrudgingly) must admit there is more to life than Opera. So, do you have any hobbies?

M.H.: I have always enjoyed sailing, but I haven’t had time to go for several years. Currently, I enjoy riding my motorcycle (Yamaha FJR 1300) any chance I get. I gave up golf, so I don’t have to worry about a handicap and changing clubs every other year.

SDO: What is in your cd player/iPod right now that is not Opera related?

M.H.: Whitesnake, Bach cello suites, Beethoven string quartets, some old Al Jarreau, and I also have some sacred music that I enjoy.


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