Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Zachary Gordin's hot pix from Dead Man Walking

Zachary Gordin preparing for Dead Man Walking

On April 23, Zachary Gordin reprised his successful performance of convicted killer Joseph De Rocher at the Shreveport Opera, which he performed the previous year at the Dayton Opera. We caught him to ask him about performing the role and got him to agree to share some amazingly hot pictures of him getting tattoed for the performance. He's not only got a killer body and amazing voice, but he proves himself to be smart, insightful and thoughful, as well.

Upcoming performances for Zachary Gordin include Orff's Carmina Burana on May 28th with Chora Nova in Berkeley and a recital of Schumann's Dichterliebe at St. Joseph's Basillica in Alameda, California.

Other upcoming performances of Dead Man Walking include Michael Mayes at the Washington Opera, David Adam Moore at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Daniel Okulitch at the Vancouver Opera.

1. What does it mean for this to be performed in the state where the alleged crime actually happened? 
ZG: Louisiana, and specifically Caddo Parish (where Shreveport is) has been notorious for the death penalty, and executions. While there hasn’t been an execution carried out in Louisiana since 2010 (and before that, 2002), there is definitely a strong history for capital punishment there. What’s exciting as an opera singer, is that it’s almost impossible for us to be part of telling a story with local, living roots. There were people on both sides of this production being mounted in Shreveport: lots of excitement to support it, as well as the flip side… I heard a few remarks from local residents that there were people boycotting the production because they took personal issue with Sister Helen, and her political stance. It hadn’t crossed my mind, being from the San Francisco Bay Area, that there would be some strong opposition. You never encounter these personal, sometimes heated, stories when you’re doing operas composed by Verdi, or Mozart, wether or not the story/characters have a historical basis. That really increases the weight and stakes of the production, and ultimately adds to the work’s depth and power. 
Zachary Gordin in Dead Man Walking (Photos by Clint McCommon)

2. What does this role mean to you and how has it changed for you with subsequent performances? 
ZG: It started out as a daunting journey, January of 2015, when I got the eleventh-hour call from Dayton Opera to learn and perform it. Before that I never considered it, partly because of the darkness of the character, and partly because it’s incredibly intense for the voice. There’s a lot of shouting/screaming, having to do push-ups and go right into an aria, and so on… I read the story, looked over the score, and I was hooked! I knew it would be a good fit, and wanted the challenge of a character who had done some truly monstrous things. I had a month before staging rehearsals began in Dayton to learn the opera, and had the great opportunity to work with Jake Heggie to prepare it. A lot of energy in the first production I did was spent on getting it “right” - making sure I was faithful to the score (the music isn’t easy! Huge thanks to Maestro Jerome Shannon for getting me through it), and being as honest as I could about telling Joe’s story (with the help of Gary Briggle, our stage Director). Even that whirlwind first time left me with the sense that I was participating in something that was so much bigger than me. That was deeply meaningful, and made the weight of taking on that character a little lighter. 

The second time around, with the Shreveport Opera production, I knew the music inside-out and didn’t have to think pitches/counting as much. The amount of freedom THAT gives a singer is incredible. I knew “my Joe” already, and was prepared for what that head space would feel like. Everyone else in that cast was in the opera for the first time, so it felt great to be able to encourage and support my cast mates having been through it all and come out the other side changed for the better. It’s always a deeply emotional, and spiritually penetrating experience to work on this opera - no matter what role you’re in. Showing up for each other, and being present in the stories of these characters really bonds a cast. I’ve made some very dear friends through this process. 
Gillian Lynn Cotter and Zachary Gordin in Dead Man Walking
(Photos by Clint McCommon)

3. What is the core message of this opera for you. 
ZG: Love! There are so many aspects of love, and what love can make manifest in people: the young love of the two victims, the love of their parents who are experiencing such a tragic loss, the love of Joe’s mother for a son who did some horrific things and will die, the love Joe was seeking and not getting which drove him to the drugs/alcohol that influenced him in his heinous act, the love of Sister Helen for Joe and his soul, and God’s love for us all… There are big themes of forgiveness, redemption, and the value of human life.  
Zachary Gordin in Dead Man Walking
(Photos by Clint McCommon)

4. Did you have a chance to meet the real Sister Prejean? How do you play off of that character when performing?
ZG: Yes, several times. She’s one of those special people who raises the temperature of whatever room she walks into. To talk with her, and hear her stories first-hand is such a gift. A real, living, and down-to-earth example of someone who is living their purpose. Knowing how her first few meetings went with Patrick Sonnier gives a lot of info to use in the body language, inflection, and feel of the scenes we do in the opera. Again, in opera we almost NEVER get to talk to the source material. It takes the mystery away, but it also raises the stakes of your responsibility as an artist. I always want to be faithful to the story.
Zachary Gordin in Dead Man Walking
(Photos by Clint McCommon)

5. What aspects of your own personality come out in your portrayal of Joseph de Rocher?
ZG: The similarities in the story of Joe’s childhood and my own are a good starting point. It was a rough start for both of us, and I can see how with a series of different choices my path could look very similar to his. There’s a lot of sympathy for him in that realization. Joe had to cultivate a tough exterior in life, and in prison. For me, it was growing up in the ghetto of Oakland that toughened me up. Joe loved music, tried to stay groomed and presentable, what people thought of him must have mattered… I can relate. The white supremacist element of this character is probably the one thing I struggled with and gave up on. I couldn’t really let that in - so I left it in the hands of my makeup team to add that element. Keep in mind, Joseph De Rocher is based on a combination of people, so there’s wiggle room for interpretation. Every Joe I play will be slightly different based on the production. While I’ve never raped or murdered anyone offstage, we’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t… As an actor, or storyteller, we have to dig into the pain and discomfort of the situations we’re presented with, and be totally transparent about it. It’s a difficult edge to ride the wave of emotion while having to function vocally/physically. Taking it over the edge in rehearsals helps identify how far I can go as an actor without making the singing suffer.    
Zachary Gordin getting tattoed for Dead Man Walking

6. Do you like sporting tattoos? Do you find them sexy on others?
ZG: I don’t have any of my own, but these experiences with Joe have made me curious… It was fun being covered in “ink” (apart from their meaning) and getting reactions to it, but then being able to remove it with a team of two people and a pile of alcohol swabs (that was cold!). I think tattoos are hot on the right people… I wouldn’t say it’s a fetish, but they definitely catch my eye and draw me in. If I do go ahead and get some, I’ll be sure to have BARIHUNKS post the pics! ;-)


  1. I'm all for some beef/cheesecake, but shouldn't he be thinking about how to portray a murderer who manages to find some peace rather getting out his meat and veg for the internet?

  2. Would he be doing this if he was paying Hitler...Hitler in a jockstrap?

  3. It may be worth considering that the family that DeRocher is based on still lives very close to where this production is taking place. To turn him into a sex symbol with a 20K tattoo job in a jock strap seems a bit insensitive.

  4. The narcissism in these pics is beyond ridiculous. What does this have to do with the character? How utterly laughable.