Some singers spend much of their careers singing traditional operatic "classics" such as Verdi, Mozart and Puccini. Some specialize in new works, and some effortlessly combine the two. Having just disembarked the Pequod following another voyage of critically-acclaimed performances as Starbuck in Jake Heggie’s opera based on Herman Melville’s 1851 classic Moby-Dick, Morgan Smith recently gave us an inside look at how he came to discover opera, and how he came to this point in his career. Last seen as Marcello in Opera Colorado’s 2010 La bohème, Morgan will appear as Roger Chillingworth, Hester Prynne’s long-missing and revenge-obsessed husband in Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter, which, like Moby-Dick is based on another 19th Century giant of classic American Literature, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter.
“My first exposure to opera came in the form of a 7th birthday gift, when my mother took me to the Met to see Hänsel and Gretel. Apparently I was ‘Tra-la-la-ing’ the father's music on the way home and for days afterwards. The next truly seminal opera moment for me came in my junior year of high school, when I had an impromptu invitation to the Met's opening production of The Tales of Hoffman with Placido Domingo, Sam Ramey, and Natalie Dessay. The singers seemed to be having a ball onstage, and that comic book-like production left me surprised and enchanted. I thought to myself, "I wanna get paid to do that too!" According to my mother, I've got the best job ever. She and my father also helped me and my three siblings develop a love of music from a young age. My cello teacher put up with me from age 6-18, despite the other interests that pulled me away from true devotion to the instrument (whitewater slalom, soccer, and later, playing double-bass in jazz ensembles). I'd sometimes come to lessons with my left hand in a splint from goalkeeping injuries on the soccer field, and she'd ask, "Are you going to be a professional soccer player? I guess we'll just work on your bow-hand today." I owe her and many others a debt of gratitude for seeing the potential in me for a career in music, and cracking the whip! Since then, this career has taken me to some exciting places, geographically, as well as musically. A collaboration with Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer on For a Look or a Touch with Music of Remembrance in Seattle turned out to be life-changing in many ways. It led to an invitation to join the premier cast of their new opera, Moby-Dick, which I've had the honor of performing in Dallas, San Diego, and San Francisco. Working with these two brilliant artists has helped foster a deep love of new music, and the creative process that goes into presenting a work to the public for the first time. I feel so lucky to be joining such a stellar cast for The Scarlet Letter in Denver this Spring. One of my first thoughts after reading the novel in high school was, "this story would make a great opera!" Lori Laitman and David Mason have created a very special dramatic work of art, and I can't wait to dive in.”
By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations