If you go
WHAT: An Evening With Nathan Gunn
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Sottile Theatre, 44 George St.
COST: $35, $55, $75
MORE INFO: Season tickets are $142-$292 and can be purchased by calling 727-1216. Buy individual tickets through TicketMaster, (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com, or at the CCA office at 131 King St., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. www.charlestonconcerts.org.
In its second presentation of the 2013-14 season, the Charleston Concert Association presents baritone Nathan Gunn, who will sing a 7 p.m. program of mostly English and American songs at the Sottile Theatre on Wednesday.
Gunn is enjoying a successful international career in major opera houses around the world.
Occasionally, he finds the time to perform recitals, accompanied on piano by his wife, Julie Jordan Gunn.
In anticipation of his Lowcountry appearance, The Post and Courier asked him a few questions about his singing career.
Q: You seem to relish opportunities to work on new music and have appeared in various opera premieres, such as Peter Eotvos’ “Love and Other Demons,” Daron Hagen’s “Amelia” and Jonathan Dove’s “Man on the Moon.” What’s it like to learn a role that no one has ever done before, and for which you have little musical reference?
A: I love creating new roles. Not only is it fulfilling artistically, but also it reminds me that all the famous composers of old, i.e. Mozart, Verdi, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Beethoven, etc. were human beings as well. Working with a living composer makes everything I do better.
Q: What’s it like to perform with your wife, Julie, accompanying you on piano? What happens during rehearsals when you disagree on an interpretation?
A: Naturally, she wins! Actually, we’ve been working together since college and respect each others opinion a great deal.
I rely on Julie’s ears for everything and having worked together for this long has given us patience and understanding.
There is no “right” way that is the goal of a song. We change daily. That’s what makes it interesting. She is so musical and understands voices so well that she knows when to push and knows when to give in.
Q: Lately, you’ve ventured from opera to musical theater, appearing in productions of “Show Boat” and “Carousel.” Is it difficult (vocally, psychologically) to go back and forth across the bridge between musicals and operas?
A: It’s not difficult at all. The musical theater pieces I sing are basically American operetta. They were written for people to sing without microphones, and quite expertly, I might add.
The classic American musical protagonist is often written for my voice. I love singing the roles and I love singing in my native language.
Q: Share a particularly meaningful performance experience. Was there something you’ve done that ever changed the course of your career, or caused you to see the world differently?
A: That’s a tough question because, well, this is a living art form so the art changes as the performer changes. One that comes to mind off the top of my head was my last performance of the role of Billy Budd by Benjamin Britten at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. I found something in the character that I’d been searching for for many years. It was a vulnerability in the aria before he dies.
I don’t know why I missed it. I suppose it comes with maturity and experience. Having found it, I realized that it was time to give that role to the younger generation. That was a first for me, realizing it was time to let it go.
Q: What was the worst mishap that’s happened to you on stage?
A: The one that scared me the most was a mishap while being flown in from far above the stage. I free fell for about 20 feet, my heart was pounding, I was in a harness and then I had to sing.
I was almost hit by a sandbag once as well. It reminded me that the stage is a very dangerous place.
Q: You are an avid recitalist. Your Charleston program is perhaps entirely comprised of music from the 20th century by English and American composers. What is it about the last century that appeals to you so much? The diversity? The abundance of works in English?
A: All of the above! I love the poetry, the innovation, the beauty and the beauty of the language. English has some of the greatest poetry.
We have a million more words than any other language, which allows for, in my opinion, an even keener realization of the human experience.
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