American tenor Joel Edwards: featured artist of the 2017 Halifax Summer Opera Festival

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Don Jose in Bizet’s Carmen

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“I want to show more dimensions to [Don Jose] than the typical pathetic and insecure guy who carries this lack of confidence until it drives him to complete madness, ultimately making some poor choices.”

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Where are you from? How did you first get interested in opera or musical theatre? 

I’m from Boston (US) and I became interested in singing during my undergrad days as I was training to be an orchestral flute player. I also started a graduate degree in flute performance, but decided to quit after the first year to pursue an operatic career since I was dedicating more time to that with outside gigs and irritating my flute instructor in the process. As a flute player, my favorite composer to play and listen to was Richard Strauss. I honestly believe his music tempted me to begin taking voice lessons, along with the other great composers who wrote some fantastic overtures. Playing these pieces really got me interested in the complete works. After years of playing them, and occasionally in the pit, I became hooked. No one in my family really listened to opera or musical theater. They have become more interested over the years and fully support and encourage what I do.

When did you start studying voice? Where are you studying now?

I took my first voice lesson in the spring before finishing my undergrad degree. I recently completed my MM in opera performance at Longy School of Music of Bard College.

What came first for you, theatre or music?

Definitely music.

What are your dream roles?

Rodolfo, Cavaradossi, Otello, Calaf, Don Jose!!!! The music is so thrilling in all of these operas with some of the best duets!

 What arias, songs or entire roles belonging to other voice types would you like to perform?

When practicing legato or approaching phrases with big skips trying to accomplish an easy and clean sound, I like to use excerpts from great soprano arias like both Liu arias from Turandot, Caro nome, especially when working on high notes, and Depuis le jour for everything! I wish I was a baritone so I could sing Pierrot’s Tanzlied, Vision Fugitive, and the entire roles of Dappertutto and Dr. Miracle in Hoffmann.

Who are your favourite performing artists?

Roberto Alagna, Bryan Hymel, and Lawrence Brownlee are my favorite tenors right now, and Alagna has been forever!

What’s the most embarrassing song on your phone/tablet/streaming playlist?

I don’t think I have one.

How should we as interpretive artists deal with works that are racist and/or sexist? What can be done to make opera relevant to the next generation?:

Opera is an incredible platform to raise topics and shed light on racism, sexism, and all forms of social injustice. In America, there is an apparent problem with law enforcement and men of color, whether anyone wants to accept it or not. While working with Utah Festival Opera last summer, I performed in a phenomenal production of Ragtime, the musical, which couldn’t have been at a more poignant time when the US is still struggling with issues concerning racial inequality and prejudice in 2017! The audience was so receptive and aware of the show’s message, most notably by the sadness and tears that came from the powerful act one finale (‘Til we reach that day). It was the most powerful and moving experience I have ever had on stage. The connection we had with the audience on such heavy subject matter was indescribable. I was so impacted by it that I knew right then, this is why I do this.

What are you most looking forward to about this summer?

I’m most looking forward to performing one of my dream roles with an experienced staff and incredible colleagues. I’m coming with an open mind, and I’m prepared to throw out any misconceptions or preconceived notions of Carmen. There is so much more to the flawed characters of Don Jose and Carmen. I want to show more dimensions to him than the typical pathetic and insecure guy who carries this lack of confidence until it drives him to complete madness, ultimately making some poor choices.

Thanks, Joel!

Are you a participant or staff member this year? Why not submit your own answers to our questionnaire!

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