Baritone Mike Fan: featured 2017 Halifax Opera Festival artist

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Morales/Dancaïre in Bizet’s Carmen

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“I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to visit Nova Scotia for the first time to be meeting other talented singers, staff, and faculty. Carmen is such an iconic opera and I am really excited about the directors’ intriguing vision for the opera!”

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

I was born in Edmonton and grew up in Texas and Indiana before settling in Ontario. I became interested in opera after I became obsessed with Dido’s Lament, which I first heard in a music history class when I was 13. My parents didn’t really get my love for opera and classical music at first! I did a biomed degree before realizing that music was where I really needed to be. They are very proud of me now, but my parents were very skeptical and confused at first!

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

I started studying voice quite late – at age 21! Fortunately, I had a lot of musical training through the RCM system as a child, and things came together very quickly. Currently, I am having a ball studying with the inspiring Marianne Bindig privately and at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University.

What came first for you, theatre or music?

Music definitely came first – but not as a singer! I began piano lessons at age 6 and I still accompany professionally. In terms of acting, I was bitten by the acting bug when I was cast as Benvolio in a middle school production of “Romeo and Juliet”. I asked for Mercutio instead! I still love acting and have played such interesting and diverse characters as Malvolio, Tom Baxter (en français!), and Theseus.

What are your dream roles?

My dream role is Tatiana in Eugene Onegin! I am a HUUUGE sucker for Slavic repertoire. In particular, I identify so strongly with the dreamy bookworm she starts out as at the beginning of the opera. Ironically, I am the polar opposite of Onegin, who is my voice type. Maybe Lensky is possible if my voice grows into the tenor rep in the future – he’d also be closer to who I am. In my own rep as a lyric baritone, the pinnacle would probably be Figaro in the Rossini’s “Barbiere”! 🙂

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

I am convinced that in another lifetime I was or will be a coloratura or lyric soprano. I would LOVE to sing roles such as Gilda, Thaïs, and Zerbinetta – roles with a lot of vocal fireworks as well as vulnerability and complexity. The grass is always greener on the other side, as they say!

Who are your favourite performing artists?

I listen to A LOT of opera. Some of my favourite singers include Natalie Dessay, Maria Callas, Cecilia Bartoli, Plácido Domingo, Jonas Kaufmann, Gerard Souzay…I also love of a lot of other classical musicians such as Mistuko Uchida, Anne Akiko Meyers, and Yo-Yo Ma. I also listen to a lot of other artists such as Johnny Hollow, Rosa Passos, and Kristin Chenoweth!

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

I’m not embarrassed of anything! However, people would probably be surprised to find the large range of music that I love – from Renaissance lute music and verismo to bossa nova and indie rock to movie soundtracks. 🙂

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?:

There is such a plethora of recently composed contemporary opera and operas being written today that we need to embrace! I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to perform works composed by young composer friends of mine. A challenge I face consistently is singing or acting in largely heteronormative works as a gay artist. I think acknowledging the historical and cultural context of these works of the past is important. These works are wonderful and have great things to say, though they also should be appreciated in light of the world views and social limitations that their creators had at the time of composition. That said, I have seen some really fascinating “updates” of operas – a stunning Hoffmann set in 1950s Italy that I sang in recently, for instance. However, this can sometimes be controversial and the reception can be mixed! However, it certainly creates new conversations and interest for opera, which is perhaps exactly what is needed. 🙂

What are you most looking forward to about this summer?

I am also singing in the ten-day program at Opera NUOVA in May! I am really excited not only to hone my singing craft there but also to revisit my hometown of Edmonton, which I haven’t seen since I was 2 years old! I am also looking forward to seeing Halifax for the first time and to be spending my 25th birthday in Nova Scotia! Maybe not looking forward to turning a quarter of a century though… 😛

Thanks, Mike!

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

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