Cick here to read the article in PDF format:
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.)
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