Thursday, February 13, 2014

Interview with Sidney Outlaw; Appearing in People's Opera Gala

Sidney Outlaw
We have been following Sidney Outlaw since his young artist days and have always been impressed with his singing, his intelligence and his passion for life. He'll be performing at the "70 Years of the People's Opera" on February 21 at New York City Center. The event is a benefit for the New York City Musicians' Emergency Relief Fund, which was created by Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians. Tickets are available HERE.

The concert will feature fellow singers Lauren Flanigan, Joélle Harvey, Jennifer Rivera, Ryan MacPherson, Mark Delavan with the New York City Opera Orchestra, conducted by music director George Manahan. The concert will feature selections from "The Ballad of Baby Doe," "Candide," "Carmen," "L'etoile," "Giulio Cesare," "Malcolm X," "Martha" and "Die tote Stadt."

We spoke with Sidney Outlaw about being part of this historic concert.

1.    What does City Opera mean to you personally and what did it mean to the greater opera community.

The New York City Opera gave me a platform to launch my career. In fact, it was the first company that hired me to work outside of the realm of the types of gigs other young artists secure. Performing in a NYCO production was a huge deal for me, and I immensely enjoyed my time working with great people, such as Cori Ellison, Cory Lippiello and Brad Moore and many others in the NYCO administration. In addition, they were supportive of me, my career and helped nurture my talent.

I think performing in the NYCO helped the greater opera community see that talent comes in many variations. I'm just a guy from Brevard, North Carolina who has a great vocal gift. The beauty is that I've been able to share that gift with some of the greatest opera houses in country - NYCO being one of them.

Sidney Outlaw and Marsha Thompson from the 'X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X'
2. Talk about playing Malcolm in “Malcolm X” at New York City Opera?

It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. While I am not an orator or an activist, it was a humbling and exciting experience for me to portray such a great civil rights leader.

The production gave me the opportunity take my God-given gifts and weave them with one of the pieces of fabric that make up the patchwork of our country's history. 

I would be honored to perform the entire opera in the future.

3. Have you performed before with any of your other colleagues from the gala?

I have not yet had the occasion to perform with any of my colleagues, but I more than welcome the opportunity to do so.

Jennifer Rivera & Michael Rice
4. Jennifer Rivera is married to barihunk Michael Rice. You and Michael have both been featured on the Barihunks site. Do you think appearance matters more in opera today and should it for certain roles and for attracting audiences?

I absolutely believe appearance matters in every facet of the entertainment business - not just the opera and classical genres. However, I believe that every one is different. Those differences are important because it gives each artist an opportunity to cultivate their own brand.

Like most other entertainers, I am striving to be healthy and look appropriate for each setting. But I am also aiming to create a brand that is unique to me. I do not wish to look like Eric Owens or Larry Brownlee or Mark Delevan or Russell Braun. My wish is create a brand that is authentic and true to me.

It is also important to me that I stay true to the art form and true to the music - no matter what I sing. If I cannot do that, then any concerns or thoughts about appearance or the brand become irrelevant.

5. If City Opera had stayed around, what would have been your dream roles to perform with them?

That's a tough question. My dream role would have been to sing “il Barbiere di Siviglia” there with Lawrence Brownlee as Count Almaviva. Now, THAT would have been fun!

6. What do you think will fill the vacuum left by City Opera?

It is really disconcerting to me that New York City - one of the largest cultural centers in the world - cannot support two great opera houses. It saddens me because it means that much of the art that was showcased by the NYCO will be inaccessible. It means that there are fewer opportunities for my colleagues and I to do what we love.

The vacuum left by the City Opera is a void that cannot be filled by anything but NYCO. Hopefully the stars will align and the Company will be brought back to life so the community and opera world can enjoy it once again.

7. Can you give us some insight to what you'll be singing?

I will be singing two selections. Pierrot's "Tanzlied from Die tote Stadt," which is one of my favorite arias. I will also sing Malcolm’s aria from Anthony Davis’s opera, “X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X.” Singing Malcolm's aria is special to me because it is the first gig I ever sang at NYCO.

That performance was produced for the VOX Series at the Schomburg Library in Harlem. It was an amazing experience and one that provided me with a chance to gain a wealth of knowledge. I learned so much during that process. 

8. Anything else that you'd like to share?

I have some amazing roles coming up this season. I'll be performing the role of Moses in "Moses" with the American Symphony Orchestra.

I'll also make my debut with the Atlanta Opera in the role of Figaro in "The Barber of Seville."

I'm also excited to work with the Metropolitan Opera for "The Death of Klinghoffer."

You can follow Sidney Outlaw at:
Twitter: @sidneyoutlaw

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