A tenor forged in a metal fire
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This article was published 02/04/2022 (359 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s safe to say that the musical genres of opera and heavy metal don’t exactly go together like bread and butter.
Yet Newfoundland-born Canadian tenor David Pomeroy, 48, credits his formative years belting out covers of Judas Priest, Poison, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Guns ‘N’ Roses for honing his opera chops, which have garnered critical and popular acclaim around the world.
“Well, didn’t we all do something strange when we were young?” the singer says with a delicious, East Coast twang from the St. John’s, NL home he shares with his partner, Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra cellist Laura Ivany, who are expecting the birth of their daughter in two weeks’ time.
“When I eventually went to university, my voice teacher told me I could be an opera singer since I had vocal cords of steel, so maybe singing some of that heavy metal music contributed to my development as a tenor,” recalls Pomeroy, who also wailed on electric guitar with his band, channeling his teenage rock hero, Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickinson. He similarly credits Dickinson for influencing his own dramatic sensibility.
“Bruce was classically trained and so he was a very theatrical singer,” the tenor reveals. “When you really listen to him perform, his voice is very dramatic, with a very high operatic tone. I learned a lot from him.”
Winnipeg audiences can try to parse the metal influence tonight when Pomeroy takes the stage during Manitoba Opera’s Gala Concert. The one-night-only recital hosted by tenor James McLennan also showcases popular Winnipeg-based soprano Lara Ciekiewicz, mezzo-sopranos Catherine Daniel and Lizzy Hoyt, as well as baritone James Westman, in a program of beloved opera gems by Puccini, Verdi, Bizet, Mozart and more.
Originally slated soprano Andriana Chuchman, and soprano Monica Huisman, the latter serving as the evening’s host, have had to withdraw from the concert for personal reasons.
MO principal conductor/music adviser Tyrone Paterson will lead the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra throughout the two-hour evening (with 20-minute intermission), performed for both in-person audiences (physical distancing maintained, masks required) and livestream listeners. Audience members are encouraged to dust off their evening frocks and finery for the event, although sweatpants, the unofficial “pandemic tuxedo,” are also welcomed.
“It’s kind of like one hit after another, honestly,” MO general director and CEO Larry Desrochers says of the program billed. “The Beatles come to mind: ‘It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter,’ and so we wanted to put together a concert of favourites after so many cancellations and lockdowns these past two years.”
Described by the New York Times as a “powerful agile tenor… heartfelt” with Germany’s Das Opernmagazin declaring, “this is how a god sings!” Pomeroy is the only opera singer from NL to have established an international career performing on five continents. He marked his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2009 in the title role of Les Contes d’Hoffman, with other Met performances including the title role in Faust, and Roméo in Roméo et Juliette under the batons of Placido Domingo and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
No stranger to local audiences, the singer delivered a thundering performance during the WSO’s presentation of Verdi’s Requiem in 2019, following a turn on the MO stage as B.F. Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in 2017 as well as the Duke of Mantua in MO’s Rigoletto (2012) and Don Jose in Carmen (2010).
Tonight, Pomeroy will treat listeners to his rendition of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, from Turandot, sung by the world’s most illustrious tenors, including Pavarotti, with the showstopper leaving listeners gasping.
Among other influences on Pomeroy, a graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s prestigious Ensemble Studio, are his mentor, Canadian-Italian tenor Ermanno Mauro as well as first singing teacher, cherished grandfather “Poppy” Dr. Ignatius Rumboldt, widely regarded as the musical leader of St. John’s during the 1950s and ’60s.
But ultimately, he says, it’s about finding his own voice.
“I don’t go out and mimic somebody else. I don’t do anyone else’s version but mine. You sing with your own soul, your own heart and your own voice because otherwise, what’s the point?”
The crowd-pleasing program also features Hoyt, who notably nurtures an award-winning, parallel career as a Celtic folksinger playing fiddle, guitar and harp, performing a sneak peek of Nacqui all’affanno…Non piu mesta, from La Cenerentola also known as Cinderella.
The MO premiere of Rossini’s fairytale-inspired opera had originally been planned for this weekend with Desrochers forced to pivot yet again, making the wise call to postpone the production to November owing to the pandemic, with Hoyt in the title role.
Other highlights include the sublime trio Soave sla il vento from Mozart’s opera buffa, Cosi fan tutte, being sung by Ciekiewicz, Daniel and Westman, who will each have their own moments to shine as soloists, including Daniel’s O mio Fernando, from Donizetti’s La Favorita, Westman’s Votre toast, Je peux vous le rendre, from Bizet’s Carmen, and Di Provenza Il mar, from Verdi’s La Traviata.
Ciekiewicz, who dazzled MO audiences as Elle in Poulenc’s La voix humaine last November promises to enthral listeners with Dvořák’s Song to the Moon from Rusalka, certain to leave no eye dry.
The program ends with a bang with Verdi’s rousing quartet Un di, se ben rammentomi … Bella figlia dell’amore from Rigoletto, one of Desrochers’ personal favourites.
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