Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Opera!  True Atlanta Story
The Atlanta Opera takes you behind the scenes as only we can. Brandon Odom tells you what it’s like to be a member of The Atlanta Opera Chorus…

Brandon Odom, member of Atlanta Opera Chorus can next be seen in The Italian Girl in Algiers - April 27 & 30, May 3 & 5

Tell us a little bit about yourself.... where are you from, how did you get into singing opera? 

I came to Georgia from Mobile, AL in 2002 with the hopes of taking my musical training to the next level.  I loved musical theater and wanted more opportunities to perform, so I thought it made sense to move to the “big city”.  I enrolled at Clayton State University and began studying voice with Maya Hoover.  She introduced me to the world of opera and art song, and I had the bonus of free tickets to every Spivey Hall recital as a music major.  Our campus hosted Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Rolando Villazón, to name a few, and I was there for it. 
My last semester at school, there was a chorus opening in Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, which was the last show of the Atlanta Opera’s season that year.  I auditioned for Walter Huff, and was offered the position. 
L’Italiana in Algeri will be my fifteenth opera with the company.      

What do you do to prepare for a production? 

          We began musical rehearsals in March.  Like many members of the chorus, I work a full-time job.  The week before opening night is always the most tiring, as we rehearse every night until the final dress rehearsal. When the production opens, usually on Saturday night, I do my best to sleep in as late as possible.  Some may call this lazy, but after a solid week of 13-hour days, it is important your body and voice have a chance to rest.  I’ll sleep in and try not to talk too much throughout the day (yeah, right!) I usually look over my music once more and refresh my memory, then it’s off to warm up at the theater! 

 What about The Italian Girl in Algiers appeals the most to you?

Rossini’s operas, in general, appeal to me.   I fell in love with Gioachino Rossini when I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Atlanta Opera’s 2008 production of La Cenerentola, a “Cinderella” story.   I loved the rapid-fire coloratura and the flurry of simultaneous vocal lines layered one on top of the other, as well as the silly, yet precise staging.   L’italiana in Algeri is in the same realm, and equally as engaging.

Do you have a favorite aria or scene from Italian Girl?

The entire concept of the show, as a “pop-up book,” is unlike anything I’ve done with the company and I think the audience will love it!  There are several moments, in particular, that I enjoy tremendously.   A moment that stands out is in Act Two, when Isabella sings “Pensa alla patria”, a hopeful and victorious aria.  It is quintessential Rossini, and is performed beautifully by Sandra Piques Eddy.  Even though there is relatively little movement during that scene, there is an underlying, palpable energy that builds to a glorious end!  

How is Italian Girl different from other operas?

I suppose the obvious difference would be the absence of a women’s chorus, as is the case in many of Rossini’s comedies. In general, I feel like we interact differently with each other than when the women are present.  There is a unique bond in this smaller group.  It’s apples and oranges, though.  The women and the men of this chorus have come to be my extended family and I’m grateful for them.  When you spend a large amount of your year with a group, you develop solid relationships. 
          One thing that season ticket holders will notice is that this is the only opera of the season where the heroine does not die in the end.  We already lost Carmen and Violetta earlier this season, so a comedy will be a nice departure, and add some variety to the season.  Some of my friends had never seen an opera before this season and they were convinced that death was an integral part of opera.  This will definitely change their mind!

What advice would you give to someone looking to become an opera singer?

I believe that everyone has their own path, and must discover what is best for them.  The best advice I could give, based on what I’ve experienced thus far, is to not be in a hurry.  You have to let your voice grow at its own pace and, if you rush it, then it could do permanent damage.   Find a teacher you trust, practice, and be patient.  I am fortunate that being a part of The Atlanta Opera Chorus has allowed me to grow as a singer and performer, and will continue to do so as long as they will have me. 

If someone created an opera about you and your life what would the title of the opera be?

If I were to be the subject of an opera, I would it want it to be a comedy, very much like Italian Girl.  How about, “Boy from ‘Bama Becomes a Baritone?”  I love alliteration.  

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