You may know Alan Higgs from his role in The Marriage of Figaro as Antonio, or his dual role in La bohème as Alcindoro and Benoit. This season, he will sing the iconic role of the Pirate King in Gilbert & Sullivan's classic operetta, The Pirates of Penzance. As part of the Studio Tour, Higgs will perform in front of hundreds of students in schools across Atlanta and the greater metropolitan area. We caught up with Alan to learn more about his background, how he gets into his pirate character, and to hear his advice for young, aspiring performers.
The Atlanta Opera: Did you grow up in an opera household?
|Higgs as Benoit in La bohème (Photo: Jeff Roffman)|
The Studio Tour has a few differences from mainstage work. First off they are much shorter productions. They usually run 45 minutes to an hour depending on the production and age of the students. There is far less pressure in a production for students then in mainstage work in my opinion.
From my experiences, I have found that students are usually fascinated by anything you do as long as you stay engaged and focus on the storytelling. They aren't as concerned as much about whether your high note was perfect or if you mess up. It's live theater mistakes are bound to happen once in awhile! Studio tours are usually also geared more towards the younger generation and either picked because the plot is relevant to kids or is updated in a way that they can relate to. For example, at Florida State University where I did my Masters Degree, we did an updated version of L'elisir d'amore called "Glee"lixir of Love. This was during a time that the show Glee was very popular and they students were able to relate more to the show because of the references to Glee that we used in our Studio Tour. it was a blast and was very well received. For most of these kids it is one of the first times they are seeing an opera production and I have found that they are just very appreciative of the new musical experience.
I really think that the Studio tours are crucial to the preservation of our art form. Reaching out to our youth and sparking a new interest in them whether it is performing or just the enjoyment of watching the productions will help secure a future for our art form.
|Higgs as Antonio (rear) in The Marriage of Figaro (Photo: Roffman)|
The Pirate King is indeed a very "over the top" role. While this type of role can be very challenging it can also end up being one of the most fun. One of the best parts about singing opera for me is getting to be someone totally different than myself. Getting into the character is a huge process both physically and mentally. Development of a backstory for the character, specific physicalities, character relations, and costumes and make up are all a big part of the preparation.
The audience can expect to laugh and enjoy a timeless Gilbert and Sullivan work that has been entertaining audiences around the globe for years and will continue to do so for years to come. The Atlanta Opera has put together an All-Star cast of young professional singers residing here in our city that are eager to showcase their talents in this brilliant piece! Of course they can also expect a few ARGHH's in there as well. ;)
|Higgs as Alcindoro in La boheme (Photo: Roffman)|
My advice for kids wanting to get into opera and theater is to go for it! Join a choir, take voice and acting lessons, take up a musical instrument, audition for the school and community productions, basically do everything you can to immerse yourself in the art form and see if this is something you really enjoy doing. One thing I have learned is that natural talent will only get you so far. You really have to be driven, work hard and be passionate about music to succeed in this industry, and know that if one door closes another right around the corner could be opening for you - so don't ever give up!
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