Noteworthy performances in Ottawa, Hyogo and Turin are the next steps in a ongoing journey through the works of this legendary composer.
Greetings. I hope you are enjoying the spring weather. With things warming up this month, I will be performing on April 27, 2015 as the bass-baritone soloist in Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa – with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and Ottawa Choral Society.
It will be a special occasion of “firsts and lasts.” For as the evening marks my debut at the Centre, it will also be the grand finale of the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra’s 50th anniversary season. I am honored to be part of this cultural milestone on Canadian soil.
Verdi’s enduring role in my career (the untold story)
The Requiem performance in Ottawa will mark my 30th year of singing Verdi’s masterpiece, with previous noteworthy performances in Cleveland, Chicago and Paris.
While I relish each and every part or role set before me, I have a special twinkle in my eye when it comes to performing Verdi’s compositions. Verdi’s influence was poignant, even before I sang my first note on the opera stage.
During high school, I was hired as a super – a non-singing part – in Aida. This early exposure to Verdi helped stir my interest in opera and the Italian language. As I proceeded with my studies for the Catholic priesthood I gained a greater appreciation for Italian through Latin, which was required study in the seminary. My increased fascination with both languages led me to independent studies in Latin etymology (word origins) that helped me bring Verdi’s operatic Italian words to life, as well as hymnology, providing further insight into the hymns Verdi used, such as the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), in his Requiem.
When I later embarked upon an operatic career, my passion and proficiency for performing Verdi’s works grew. I won a District MET competition with one of the five required arias being “Di Provenza,” Germont’s aria from Verdi’s La Traviata. With arias from Verdi’s Don Carloand I Vespri Siciliani, I won the Bel Canto Foundation of Chicago’s Grand Prize, which included a trip to Busseto, Italy, where I studied with noted Verdi tenor, the late Carlo Bergonzi. A few months later I returned to Busseto to compete in the International Verdi Competition, where I subsequently won 1st Prize.
The rest, as they say, is history, but what a history it has been in interpreting the works of this legendary composer. Verdi assured my smooth transition from bass to bass-baritone by performing:
• The aria “Come dal ciel precipita” from Verdi’s Macbeth on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera as a MET Finalist Winner.
• The bass role of Sparafucile in Verdi’s Rigoletto in the PBS series “Live from Lincoln Center,” hosted by Beverly Sills.
• Verdi’s Requiem with elite members of the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Robert Shaw (the chorus director for the 1951 recording of the Requiem, conducted by Arturo Toscanini – whom Verdi admired as being a conductor interested in interpreting his music as he wrote it).
• A one-time role debut as Ramphis in Cleveland Opera’s production of Aida. It would be another seven years before I debuted the role of Amonasro (Aida) with the Minnesota Opera – now a signature role.
• The title role in Verdi’s Attila and Silva in his Ernani, which were hugely successful performances with Washington Concert Opera.
• Zaccaria (the prophet) in Verdi’s Nabucco, which was a great success with both Cincinnati Opera and Oper Frankfurt.
• Amonasro in Aida at London’s Covent Garden (2003), La Scala (July 2009) – my Verdi debut with that internationally renowned opera house (adding to the seven other roles I have already done there), and the Vienna State Opera (2011).
With the Requiem in Ottawa during the warmth of spring, led by the incredibly musical Jordan de Souza, the next step will take me through the intense heat of summer at the Hyogo Performing Arts Center in Japan, playing the protective father in the personage of Giorgio Germont in La Traviata (Jun. 14 – Jul. 27, 2015). Then I will march into the splendor of fall with Amonasro at the Teatro Regio in Turin (Sep. 10 – Oct. 25, 2015). This final Verdi stop will give me close to 70 performances as Amonasro in Aida, and it will be my 9th role with the Teatro Regio.
The July performances of La Traviata will again have me collaborating with the extremely talented conductor with whom I worked twice at Turin’s Teatro Regio, Maestro Yutaka Sado. He referred to me, concerning the prospect of my working with him at the Performing Arts Center in Hyogo, Japan, “…as the most impressive singer in the productions he worked [on] recently in Turin – Peter Grimes and Carmen.”
The October run of Aida will be conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, Musical America’s “Conductor of the Year” for 2015. We previously collaborated in the highly acclaimed run of Salome at the Teatro Regio in 2008, after which he emphatically said, “We must do other projects together,” and true to his word he conducted my debut of the title role in The Flying Dutchman at the Regio in 2012. I expect our collaboration in Aida will be of the same calibre.
It is with these kind of collaborations that unforgettable stage performances are created. Just as we remember those magical MGM musicals of the 1940s with their classic on-screen pairings of Astaire and Kelly, Garland and Rooney, Astaire and Rogers, Eddy and McDonald, and Lanza and Grayson, it is that same kind of electricity between great talents performing in operas and oratorios that excites audiences and brings them back time and time again.
In Ottawa, Hyogo and Turin, we will soon see what happens when great performers bring forth their wealth of experience and talent, and work for the chemistry of the moment to take those elements to another level. It is truly in these occasions when collaborators can create magical moments on stage that no single operatic star can achieve by him or herself. I hope you can join me and my fellow performers in these great cities and experience the magic of these Verdi masterworks.
Mark S. Doss
P.S. The Ottawa Requiem performance is dedicated to the memory of tenor Carlo Bergonzi, and to Br. Hugh Henderson, C.PP.S, an amazing mentor and friend.