Diversity on stage good for all: Opera Star – Radio Canada International

“Diversity is quite good for all of us. It keeps us open-minded and allows us to be more balanced in our way of thinking.”

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Friday, February 5, 2016
Radio Canada International (RCI) | CBC
Diversity on stage good for all: Opera Star
By Lynn Desjardins, Reporter/Producer, English Service, Radio Canada International

Chicago Sun-Times – Mark S. Doss Returns For Holiday Tradition

Chicago has been something of a second home for bass-baritone Mark S. Doss during his top-level international operatic career, which has taken him to such distinguished stages as Milan’s La Scala and London’s Royal Opera House.

After an apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Opera in 1983, the Cleveland native was chosen as a two-year ensemble member of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, the predecessor of today’s Ryan Opera Center, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s artist development program.

Since then, the 57-year-old African-American singer has performed at least 10 major roles with the company, including Cinque in the world premiere of Anthony Davis’ “Amistad” in 1997-98 and Escamillo in “Carmen” in that same season.

Doss returns to Chicago for performances of the International Music Foundation’s “Do-It-Yourself Messiah” on Sunday and Monday at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. In these presentations of Handel’s ever-popular oratorio, attendees are seated by voice type and serve as the chorus, singing along with conductor Stanley Sperber and an orchestra and four soloists.

During an interview with the Sun-Times, Doss spoke about his career, his relationship with Lyric Opera and his fondness for the “Messiah.”

Q. What aspect of your career has given you the most satisfaction?
A. The spirituality element is really important, because I started out in the Catholic seminary. I wanted to hook into the things that I thought were important about my life, not just the career. Was I really able to make a contribution to society, and how in this art form of opera would I be able to really make a difference in the world? Doing such things as Sarastro in “The Magic Flute” and then going on to Zaccaria in “Nabucco,” [Giuseppe] Verdi’s dramatic sort of upper roles — even Amonasro [in “Aida], that I’ve done so many times, has this sense of spirituality.

Q. What has been the biggest surprise for you about your life as an opera singer?
A. That there are so many of those opportunities [for a spiritual connection] that exist. When I started out, there was a sense that maybe this will just be about the glory, just about the spotlight.

Q. How many times have you sung at Lyric Opera of Chicago?
A. I started out doing some of the smaller roles, and I lose count. It comes out to something like 18 or 19 times. Basically, the larger roles are in the range of 10 to 12.

Q. Is there one production that stands out for you?
A. “Amistad” was very poignant during the time it was done. I went down to New Orleans, and I was singing there just a few months before the production started in Chicago, and I went to the place where most of the artifacts are held [Tulane University’s Amistad Research Center] and a lot of the information is there. It was inspiring, and I got the book [“Amistad: A Novel”] and I started reading through the whole situation. And when the [Steven] Spielberg movie came out just about the same time, within a month probably of when we opened at Lyric, that was extremely inspiring.”

Q. How often you done the “Do-It-Yourself Messiah”?
A. We’re over five times now.

Q. What do you feel is the appeal of this participatory approach?
A. It’s about being part of a group. It’s always a sense that two can be better than one, and if you bring that all together with these different forces, it can be something extremely powerful and have a ripple effect that can ignite people and get them excited about what they are doing in life, not just for a “Messiah.” We’re being led to something that is extremely important. These words are important. People identify with that. People identify with the music of Handel. Or they just identify with being part of something.

Kyle MacMillan is a local freelance writer

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Artists On Stage: Mark S. Doss – Opera Canada

April 28, 2014 (Spring 2014 edition)

Opera Canada
Artists On Stage: Mark S. Doss

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Bass-baritone Mark S. Doss didn’t set out to become an opera singer. He was a talented basketball player at East technical high School in Cleveland, Ohio, and was preparing to enter the priesthood. But he had an interest in opera, one that resulted in one of his earliest appearances when a high-school teacher got him a job as a supernumerary in a Metropolitan Opera Aida on tour at the Music hall in Cleveland, for which he was paid US$8 to appear with an all-star cast conducted by James Levine. While at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana, he switched from the seminary to arts and subsequently entered a Met Auditions district competition, which he won at 21. After only two years of vocal training, he headed to Indiana University for a Master’s, then entered Santa Fe Opera’s apprenticeship program, followed by Lyric Opera of Chicago’s professional-development program. While in Chicago, Doss connected with the late Lotfi Mansouri: “the impact of his bringing me to the Canadian Opera Company for the first time was extremely important. It was my first professional contract coming out of the Lyric program. Lotfi directed me as Lord Rochfort in Anna Bolena featuring Joan Sutherland in Chicago in the fall of 1985, and insisted I give him my CV when we were in rehearsals. On opening night, he said, ‘I would like to cast you in Sparafucile in Rigoletto at the COC in Toronto’.” That 1987 Rigoletto was the first of numerous COC appearances for Doss, the most recent as Thoas in Robert Carsen’s production of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride at the beginning of the 2011/12 season. In fact, Doss’s connections with Canada are many. His wife, the Emmy Award-winning makeup artist Dawn Rivard, is from Windsor, Ont., and they make their home in Toronto and Erie, Pennsylvania. He studied languages at the Berlitz School and the Goethe Institute in Toronto, as well as drama with coaches Miriam Laurence and David Smukler. His philanthropic activities around Toronto include the Arts for Children and Youth program, visits to local schools and benefit concerts. in 2011, he received the Planet Africa’s Entertainment Award in Toronto at Roy Thompson Hall for his many achievements as a positive role model for youth.

A Metropolitan Opera national Council Auditions winner in 1986, Doss’s international career was launched the same year after he took first prize in the international Verdi Competition in Busseto, Italy. “Winning at the beginning of my career was a surreal experience,” he says. Since then, he has performed in that country in a variety of roles, including in Aida and Salome at La Scala and as Wagner’s Dutchman in Bologna. He considers the 2013 Dutchman a highpoint of his career to date. “It is one of the rare times when I can simply say: “Look and judge for yourself concerning the artistry of this singer’.” (Extracts are on Youtube and it’s available on DVD on the RAI Trade label.)

Mark S. Doss as Jochanaan in Strauss’s Salome
As Jochanaan in a 2008 Teatro Regio di Torino staging of Strauss’s Salome

Recent performances include a Naxos recording of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony from a concert in Princeton, New Jersey, this past January, and a return to Italy in March to sing Simone in Zemlinsky’s Eine florentinische Tragödie at Turin’s Teatro Regio. This fall, he will create the baritone role in the world premiere of Shell Shock: A Requiem of War by composer Nicholas Lens and librettist Nick Cave at La Monnaie in Brussels. He is also continuing to work on developing his repertoire. “After singing the dutchman three times now, I feel the Wagner repertoire is ideal for my voice, and I’ve been asked a lot to sing such German roles because I bring an Italinate sound to them. I will continue to add Italian, French, Russian and Czech roles, but it is definitely the helden Baritone/Bass roles that I will concentrate on.”

— Dawn Martens

This article is re-posted with the express permission of Opera Canada

Arts Alive: Symphony of Brotherhood Concert – Interview

Arts Alive: Symphony of Brotherhood Concert – Interview with Mark S. Doss
Classical KUSC FM 91.5 (Los Angeles, California)
by Dennis Bartel (host: Brian Lauritzen)
This interview is re-posted with the express permission of KUSC

Behind The Scenes: ‘Aida’

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Above: KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando goes backstage at San Diego Opera’s “Aida.”

The opera “Aida” (opening tomorrow night at the Civic Theater and running through April 28) gets a vibrant staging thanks in part to Del Mar resident and designer Zandra Rhodes. I’ll take you backstage for the first rehearsal of San Diego Opera’s production.

We are stage left at the San Diego Opera at the Civic Theater,” explains Ned W Krumrey, property master for the San Diego Opera, “We are preparing for what we call an orchestra dress rehearsal, this will be the singers, the supers, in their costumes, the orchestra in the pit, this is the first time all the elements will come together, lighting, sound…”

And costumes. Nearly 300 bold, vivid costumes by Zandra Rhodes.

“I didn’t realize how bold and vivid the costumes and sets would look until they’re exquisitely lit today,” says scenic and costume designer Zandra Rhodes, “I have done it before but the lighting is looking extra special. I see Egypt, having been there in 1985, I did sketches and did drawings and the whole thing, it seemed to come to life, and I believe that the pyramids and all the carvings on the actual buildings were once probably very bright and vivid and so I it seemed ideal for gold lame and if you think Tutankamen’s tomb, everything’s very bright in there and gold and I think that I just felt it’s an expansion on the ideas that I’d seen drawn in the tombs.”

Her vibrant palette inspires singers like Mark S. Doss.

“The colors then sort of accentuate the emotions because when I’m singing I sometimes use a palette that I have in my hands and I have sort of a fake brush and I see on that palette emotions, there’s anger, there’s the expression of surprise and all those things that I put on this canvas that I’m trying to draw the character so in this sense we have all these amazing colors and you can’t help but to try and be drawn into those colors and what they depict. As far as the opera story goes. Very exciting and much of a challenge as well.”

“The challenge in opera,” adds Rhodes, “is that it’s a magical experience, that you can’t have anywhere else, where you’ve got, it doesn’t have to be realistic.”

Like a turquoise puppet elephant bringing home the conquering hero.

“Then the combination of the voices and the magic I never fail to be carried away by it,” states Rhodes.

Which reminds Doss of his experience hearing Aida as an extra onstage in Cleveland.

“For me to see it that close and see the tenor [singing]. Wow! It’s right there I could almost touch it. This was very poignant so people seeing Aida for the first time they’ll get [all that] and then we have this duet with Aida and Amonasro that is so powerful, some people think it’s the best of all Verdi’s writing.”

Bringing out the best is what prompted the San Diego Opera to invite Rhodes to design costumes in 1999. Her background had been as a textile and fashion designer. But her audacious sense of experimentation sometimes met with resistance.

“When I did ‘The Pearl Fishers’ first, we had one of the lead characters, who will remain nameless, who wouldn’t let me experiment and he wouldn’t try thing so he came out and he looked quite ordinary.”

But there’s nothing ordinary about Rhodes work for the current production of “Aida” at the San Diego Opera. Maybe that’s why performances are quickly selling out. It’s a spectacle you can only appreciate from a seat inside the theater.

“Aida” will be simulcast on KPBS FM this Saturday night at 7:00pm.