Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ten Questions with Sean Panikkar


Sean Panikkar
, tenor
Don José in Carmen




1.  Where were you born / raised? 

I was born and raised in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, but I currently reside right outside of Ann Arbor in Saline, Michigan. 

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?


I was a double major in civil engineering and music as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. My goal from a very early age was to have my own construction company, so my plan was to do an undergraduate degree in civil engineering and then a master's in architecture. All of that went out the window when I started to get recognized for my musical ability. I stayed at Michigan and completed my Master's degree in vocal performance before getting into the Merola Program and the Adler Fellowship at San Francisco Opera. Since that time, I haven’t had the opportunity to second-guess anything. I made my Metropolitan Opera debut and my European debut at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence as soon as I finished in San Francisco.  I have been steadily working since.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was...


La Bohème. I was in the chorus of La Bohème with Michigan Opera Theater in Detroit. I knew next-to-nothing about opera, and the chorus only sings in act 2 and the very beginning of act 3, so I assumed there were only three acts in the show. At the final dress rehearsal, I went into the auditorium to finally discover once and for all how the opera ended. Act 3 finished and went into Act 4.  I was moved to tears when Mimì died and I was hooked on opera.
This is one of the reasons I encourage new operagoers to just experience the show in the moment. So often people think they need to study the show and read the synopsis. You wouldn’t read the ending of a movie before seeing it, so why do it for opera? The shows always have supertitles so you’ll be able to follow along, and you’ll have a better experience if you discover everything live.

4.  My favorite opera is...


...whatever opera I’m working on. That sounds like a cop-out, but it is the truth. I sing a lot of new works, some that are gorgeous and some that aren’t so much. The ability to genuinely get excited and love what I’m doing means that I’m always happy regardless of what I’m working on. When I’m working on challenging modern works, I look at it as a test. My goal is to be as accurate as possible and at the end of the rehearsal or the performance there is something tremendously rewarding about accomplishing that task. With classic operas, I get wrapped up in the beauty of the music and I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude just to be singing that piece. 

5.  My favorite food to cook or eat is...


...sweet potatoes. This is a little inside baseball, but whenever I’m working on a show that requires me to be scantily clad, I live on baked sweet potatoes and cottage cheese. It’s something that’s easy to prepare on the road, and I’m someone who can eat the same thing every day for weeks without getting tired of it. When I’m fully clothed or in between jobs, I have a weakness for desserts, particularly cake. 

6.  People would be surprised to know that...


...my parents and brother used to accuse me of lip synching at choir concerts. I NEVER sang a note at home. Not in the shower, not "Happy Birthday," nothing. I was a tremendously shy child and the thought of singing by myself terrified me. I loved choir and I definitely sang in those concerts, but I only started taking voice lessons in order to compete in choral competitions in high school. I was basically looking to pad my résumé for the engineering schools I was applying to. I ended up becoming an All State singer in Pennsylvania and my voice teacher encouraged me to apply to Michigan’s School of Music after I had already been admitted to the engineering program. When I entered Michigan, my parents had only heard me sing once, as a soloist at my high school graduation, which was a requirement of me for being an All State singer. 

My first week of school, I almost dropped music, but on the first day of choir I could not stop staring at a girl. I introduced myself and found out that she was a pianist (actually a trumpet major who was multi-talented and also in a voice and piano studio). I was too shy to ask her out on a date, but I needed a pianist for voice lessons. Having her in the room for my lessons made me try harder. By the end of sophomore year we started dating, and this summer we will celebrate 13 years of marriage.

7. If I could travel anywhere, real or fantasy, I would travel to...


New Zealand. It’s one of the countries that I have never been to and I was blown away by the beauty of the country after I saw the Lord of the Rings movies.

8.  I like to binge-watch...

everything. Singers are often on the road by themselves for a long time, so binge watching is a thing once shows are open and we are resting our voices in between shows.

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?

CS Lewis, Jon Vickers, Franco Corelli, and Leonardo Da Vinci. How’s that for a mixed bag?

10.  Everyone should see Carmen because....

It is one of the finest operas ever written. There is a reason that a handful of operas have stayed in the repertory for over a hundred years (the warhorses), and it isn’t because they are bad. Carmen has it all, a great story, great music, and tremendous drama. Plus, whether you realize it or not, virtually everybody will recognize some of the music. 

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer)

I often get asked by younger singers about how I stay connected to my family when I’m on the road so much. Being on the road presents a variety of challenges. Whenever possible I try to travel with my family, but schedules don’t always allow that. We are homeschooling our children, so Maria (9) and Mark (6) have been on the road with me several times individually and together.

A few years back, I made a New Year's resolution to write a letter to my daughter and wife every day that I was away from home. It is something I have done without fail, and when my son was born, I added him to my daily writing. I write three letters every night and it’s like journaling and therapy in one. They get physical reminders in the mailbox that Dad is thinking of them and they read their letters at breakfast. Email is wonderful, but there is something special about receiving a handwritten letter in the mail.

Technology has also made this job a lot easier than it was years ago. Things like Skype and FaceTime are invaluable to performers who are away for sometimes months at a time. Staying connected takes time and effort, but my family is the greatest joy of my life. Of all the roles I have, the role of a father is my favorite. 

Don't miss the chance to see Sean in Carmen, Bizet's breathtaking opera.  Performances are November 3 and 5 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Friday, October 27, 2017

10 Questions with Cecilia Violetta López

Cecilia Violetta López, Soprano
Micaela - Carmen

1.  Where were you born? Where were you raised? 

I was born and raised in Rupert, Idaho. My parents are both Mexican. I am a first generation Mexican-American.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?

As of recently, I told myself it would be really cool to be a news correspondent for NPR and/or own and run a winery.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…

Gianni Schicchi! I was Nella. 

4.  My favorite opera is…

La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Boito's Mefistofele, and Rossini's Otello.

5.  My favorite food to cook or eat is…

Chiles Rellenos

6.  People would be surprised to know… 

I am a proud mom, I was a Polynesian dancer, and I started my musical aspirations as a mariachi singer thanks to my mom a LOOOOOOng time ago.

7.  If I could travel anywhere, real or fantasy, I would travel to…

Morocco

8.  I like to binge-watch…

EVERYTHING!!

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?

Mexican Mariachi Singers, Pedro Infante, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Lola Beltran and Jorge Negrete. We would have a jamming session.

10.  Everyone should see Carmen because…. 

MICAËLA IS AWESOME AND THE BEST CHARACTER IN THE OPERA. OBVIOUSLY. ;)

11.  Bonus: One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer).

Q: Is opera a hobby?

A: No!!! Someone once told me opera is a hobby. I've made it my personal mission to teach audiences what opera is and what it is we do. There are too many people in our lives who sacrifice so much (including our own sacrifices) in order for us to be where we are. We opera singers work so much, so, again - no, opera is not a hobby.




Don't miss the chance to see Cecilia in Carmen, Bizet's breathtaking opera. Performances are November 3 & November 5 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

10 Questions with Corey Crider

Corey Crider, Baritone
Escamillo - Carmen

1.  Where were you born? 

LOUISVILLE, KY Where were you raised? MARION, KY

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?

I'd probably pursue acting - I think I'm more naturally prone to acting anyway. I'd love to write and perform sketch comedy and branch into podcasting as well.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…

La Bohème, playing Schaunard.

4.  My favorite opera is…

Rigoletto; come to think of it, RE: #2, I'd probably be a Duke

5.  My favorite food to cook or eat is…

Filet mignon - and my own is hard to beat, especially if my accompanying sauce choron turns out... yeah, if I wasn't a singer, I'd probably be a chef

6.  People would be surprised to know… 

I was a couple signed documents away from joining the US Army and being trained as a linguist when I got a call in July that the voice faculty at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music was interested in hearing me for their Artist Diploma in Opera program. Sang for them, got accepted last minute, never joined the Army. So... maybe #2 is translator for the State Department?

7.  If I could travel anywhere, real or fantasy, I would travel to…

The past!!! Can I change #2 to time traveller?

8.  I like to binge-watch…

So, so many things. My favorite thing to binge watch is something difficult to decipher that my wife and I enjoy together, and can then talk about and attempt to figure out.

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?

Oh boy... Mozart, Socrates, Shakespeare, King Solomon

10.  Everyone should see Carmen because…. 

It was a flop in Bizet's lifetime, and yet has become one of the single most-performed pieces in the operatic repertoire. Several of the tunes are completely entrenched in the ear of the culture. There is much material to explore and unpack regarding libertine and bipolar personalities, and what happens when they collide. Also, about #2 - BULL FIGHTER!!!

11. Bonus: One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer).

Q: What's your biggest pet peeve?

A: People who bang on about their pet peeves.







Don't miss the chance to see Corey in Carmen, Bizet's breathtaking opera. Performances are November 3 & November 5 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10 Questions with Benjamin Liupaogo

Benjamin Liupaogo, Tenor
Remendado - Carmen

1. Where were you born? Where were you raised?

I was born in Castro Valley, California and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?


I would probably go into nursing or a medical field.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…

Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach.

4.  My favorite opera is…

Il Trittico by Puccini or La Bohème by Puccini.

5.  My favorite food to cook or eat is…

I love Polynesian Island Food. e.g. Loco Moco, Spam Musubi, cooked green banana, or taro with coconut milk.

6.  People would be surprised to know… 

…that I like to sit on the sand by the ocean and listen to the waves.

7.  If I could travel anywhere, real or fantasy, I would travel to…

...the South Pacific/Polynesia area to visit not only homeland but all the other nearby islands.

8.  I like to binge-watch…

House of Cards.

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?

Jill Scott, Michelle Obama, Leontyne Price, and Viola Davis.

10.  Everyone should see Carmen because….

…of the music and the fabulous cast.
 

11.  Bonus: One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer).

Q: What is your favorite holiday throughout the year?
A: Christmas because I get to spend it with my family and because I am home in San Francisco.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Don't miss the chance to see Benjamin in Carmen, Bizet's breathtaking opera. Performances are November 3 & November 5 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

10 Questions with Anna Polum

Anna Polum, Soprano
Frasquita - Carmen


1.  Where were you born? Where were you raised?

I was born in Everett, Washington and raised on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?

I would be a speech pathologist.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…

Carmen!

4.  My favorite opera is…

La Boheme

5.  My favorite food to cook or eat is…

I love Thai and Korean food. 

6.  People would be surprised to know… 

The pupil in my left eye is bigger than the pupil in my right eye. 

7.  If I could travel anywhere, real or fantasy, I would travel to…

I would love to travel all over Scandinavia - my family is mostly Norwegian and Swedish heritage, so I think it would be really interesting to go back to where my ancestors are from. 

8.  I like to binge-watch…

The Office and Law and Order. 

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?

Leontyne Price, Daniel Day Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Marion Cotillard.

10.  Everyone should see Carmen because…. 

I think Carmen is one of those operas that is probably most relatable to a cinematic experience. There's constant action, movement, and drama, not only plot and character wise, but in the music as well. 







Don't miss the chance to see Anna in Carmen, Bizet's breathtaking opera. Performances are November 3 & November 5 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Ten Questions with Megan Le Romero

Megan Le Romero, Mezzo-Soprano

Mercédès - Carmen

1.  Where were you born? Where were you raised?
I was born and raised in Erie, PA.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
A voiceover actor.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
Amahl and the Night Visitors

4.  My favorite opera is…
La Cenerentola

5.  My favorite food to cook or eat is…
I love taking the day to make my great grandmother's pasta sauce.

6.  People would be surprised to know… 
I can solve a Rubik's cube!

7.  If I could travel anywhere, real or fantasy, I would travel to…
Space

8.  I like to binge-watch…
The Office, Shameless, Narcos

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?
Abe Lincoln, Ellen DeGeneres, Gael García Bernal, Salvador Dalí

10.  Everyone should see Carmen because…. 
The music is something we all know and love!

11.  Bonus: One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer).
Q: "Who do you admire most in life?"
A: My mom... because she teaches me to be kind to everyone and be true to myself.





Don't miss the chance to see Megan in Carmen, Bizet's breathtaking opera. Performances are November 3 & November 5 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Ten Questions with Thomas Forde

Thomas Forde, Bass
Zuniga - Carmen


1.  Where were you born? Where were you raised?

I was born and raised in Chicago, IL on the Northwest side of Chicago. My grandparents emigrated to this area from Ireland and a majority of my big Irish family still lives in the same neighborhood. 

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?

I would love to be in some sort of broadcasting. I love morning talk radio, so I think I would steer towards something on the radio side of things. I also love the anchorperson track for a career, so I would have explored broadcasting in another life. 

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…

The Tales of Hoffmann in college! 

4.  My favorite opera is…

I go back and forth on this one, but an expertly done "Eugene Onegin" is thrilling and heartbreaking. I love "The Crucible", as well, as the music is set perfectly to the text.

5.  My favorite food to cook or eat is…

I love eating pizza and hotdogs. I am a child when it comes to eating, apparently. I generally cook healthier when not eating those foods. (Cheese curds in Madison!) 

6.  People would be surprised to know… 

As another side of my professional performing work, I work as a professional actor in Chicago, recently appearing in NBC's "Chicago Fire", Showtime's "The Chi", and a commercial for the A+E network. I also do HR management for a company called Hotel Rehabs.

7.  If I could travel anywhere, real or fantasy, I would travel to…

My next travel goals include going to Ireland to explore my lineage. Harry Potter world was a very cool fantasy come to life! 

8.  I like to binge-watch…

30 Rock, The Office, Parks and Rec, Brooklyn 99, Friday Night Lights 

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?

Hillary Clinton, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Joan Cusack (I think this would be quite the dinner). 

10.  Everyone should see Carmen because…. 

You'll know the tunes. There's a lot of action (think sword fights). The plot is easy to follow. It's a classic, but realistic.

11.  Bonus: One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer).

Q: What's your biggest pet peeve? 

A:When people talk loudly in the gym or use cell-phones to talk loudly on cardio equipment. There is nothing that drives me crazier than that!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ten Questions with Erik Earl Larson

Erik Earl Larson, Baritone
Dancaïre - Carmen

1.  Where were you born? Where were you raised?

I was born in Madison, WI and raised in Evansville, WI.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?

I probably would have gone to school for engineering - like my dad. But the older I get, the more I'm interested in law and social justice, so maybe that? 

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…

...the chorus in Madison Opera's The Flying Dutchman in Spring of 2010, my senior year of high school. I ended up doing five shows (I think) with the Madison Opera Chorus, ending my tenure with Dead Man Walking in Spring 2014 - which was also my professional debut as the Motorcycle Cop.

4.  My favorite opera...

...tends to change on a weekly basis, but The Marriage of Figaro is my proverbial ol' faithful. 

5.  My favorite food to cook or eat is…

...chicken fried rice (I'm not a talented cook).

6.  People would be surprised to know…

I have a long-standing tradition of getting pedicures with my sisters. My toes are usually painted a sensible red.

7.  If I could travel anywhere, real or fantasy…

I would most definitely travel to the Water Gardens of Dorne.

8.  I like to binge-watch…

My go-to binge watching show is The Office, but most recently I've been working through Sons of Anarchy.

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?

This depends on a lot of factors...am I cooking? Are we all cooking together? So many things to consider...BUT, if I had to choose...I would say George London, Carol Burnett (for comic relief), Rick Sanchez (for good spirits), and finally - the love of my life, Bridget. 

10.  Everyone should see Carmen because….

It is honestly one of few absolutely timeless masterpieces. With a beautiful drama displayed in so many - very human ways - it's a perfect example how opera can marry several arts into one union.

11.  Bonus: One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer).

BONUS! WUBBA-LUBBA-DUB-DUB!!

"I don't understand the question, and I won't respond to it."





Don't miss the chance to see Erik in Carmen, Bizet's breathtaking opera. Performances are November 3 & November 5 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.