The Operatic Outdoorsman: Met Chorus Bass Richard Pearson
The artists of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus share the stage with the likes of Jonas Kaufmann, Diana Damrau, and Paulo Szot, singing gorgeous music in a world-class house. A coveted gig, to be sure, and also a demanding one. Recently, I chatted with chorus bass Richard Pearson about his ongoing career at the Met.
Richard Pearson in The Merry Widow, Metropolitan Opera, 2015.
DN: How long have you sung at the Met, and what sort of training did you have?
RP: I started working at the Met 20 years ago. Originally, I was in the extra chorus before becoming full-time. I began my initial training and professional singing career while still in high school. I lived in Orlando Florida area where I sang for various groups at the local attractions. Disney, Universal etc. I also picked up church jobs and engagements with symphonies. While attending to my musical studies, both privately and academically, I became employed by Orlando Opera to sing in the chorus. At the age of 19, I performed my first opera with them and was given a small solo. After 3 years or so I came to New York and started working for City Opera, singing in the chorus, covering, and singing small roles. I did some solo work in regional houses. I did the Met chorus audition twice, and the second time, they hired me.
DN: What’s your typical workday like at the Met?
RP: Each day is different. On a heavy day we can rehearse up to 7 different operas. Starting with a staging, followed by another staging. Then a music room rehearsal, topped off by an evening performance. There are typically 20-21 operas involving the chorus each season.
DN: Besides singing chops, what other skills are helpful in your profession – stage combat, etc?
RP: I would say my ability to become fully involved in the scene.
DN: What’s the most bizarre thing that’s ever happened to you during a Met performance?
RP: When the curtain failed to fly out for the final scene of Meistersinger. The band played on and the chorus had to sing through the massive drapes. It felt like an eternity.
DN: Aren’t there about 10 cameras on the performers during the Met’s live HD broadcasts? And you’re usually staged front and center, right there with the principals. Isn’t that nerve-wracking?
RP: They have never made me nervous. I treat every show the same, HD or not.
DN: Who’s are the most memorable artist you’ve worked with?
RP: Hands down, Pavarotti. To share the stage with him for his final performances at Met. Thrilling!
DN: What do you like to do when you’re not onstage?
RP: To be outside as much as possible. Hiking, fishing, gardening.
DN: Dream big: the bass soloist in a Met opera gets laryngitis, quits in a huff, or otherwise becomes unavailable, and rather than call in another singer from out of town, management decides they want you to step in. Which opera and role would you want this to be, and why?
RP: Philip in Don Carlo. A role I always wanted to do. A truly great Verdi bass character.
DN: Not that I’d wish any singer ill, but I’d love to hear you do that role!