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Singer Sunday: an operatic family on a Germanic quest

Opera family: Ross, Jenny and kids

Tenor Ross David Crutchlow is a 6’2” red-headed baritone turned Heldentenor with a booming voice, an infectious laugh, and a huge presence.  Soprano Jenny Millsap is his graceful, demure wife, who is anything but demure when popping off high Fs in her dramatic coloratura roles.

Ross and Jenny have worked in opera, operetta, and musical theater in New York and across the United States.  They have two children – a very active two year old and a perpetually happy eight  month old.

Not every American family would cross the Atlantic to German-speaking Europe to sing there. But then Ross and Jenny aren’t your typical American family.  They are highly enterprising, too, and are using the very popular Kickstarter to fund-raise for their audition trip.

That’s why I’ve invited Ross and Jenny to stop in at Operatoonity today: to tell you more about their dreams and inspire you to support their project. Welcome Ross and Jenny!

How did you meet?

Jenny: We were doing Gilbert & Sullivan in NYC together.  I had been in the company for a couple of years and already knew everyone.  Ross was new.  I wanted to make him feel comfortable, so I made a point of being friendly and talkative with him.  It didn’t hurt that he was easy on the eyes!

Ross: Yeah, she kept following me around, so I figured I’d ask her out.

Jenny: And the fairy tale began!

Is it hard being married to another opera singer?

Jenny: In some ways yes, in some no.  The financial instability is hard.  But that’s true for any freelancer in the United States, really.  It’s an entrepreneurial way of living, which of course is a lot tougher in the arts than probably any other business.  We’ve been lucky enough to be able to work together from time to time, but we’ve also been separated due to gigs.  That’s always hard.

Ross: What’s really great about being married to another singer, though, is the support we give each other.  She knows my voice inside and out and I know hers.  We can say to each other, hey – that phrase sounded a little off, try this.  And it’s better.  We also get what the other one is going through as far as the psychological demands of auditioning and performing.  We can help each other in ways in which non-singers just wouldn’t be able to.

What’s it like having kids while being professional singers?

Soprano Jenny Millsap

Jenny:  Ha!  Well, there’s not much sleep, that’s for sure!  I remember that I used to make a point of getting a lot of sleep before big performances or auditions in my pre-kids days.  Now I just make sure I get a lot of coffee!

Ross: I think I worry a lot more.  Before Jenny and I became parents, I didn’t think about the future so much or the long-term implications of my decisions professionally.  Now I do.  I have to.

Jenny: But the kids are really great.  We used to take Ewan (our two year old) with us to our rehearsals and coachings.  He would crawl around on the floor, watching and listening.  His first time in a green room at a performance was when he was five months old!  He still loves to hear us practice, and sometimes he conducts us!  Nathaniel (our baby) is not as big a fan of opera as Ewan is.  He cries when we sing loudly, so we try to practice when he’s sleeping!

Ross: It’s a lot to juggle, honestly, but both our singing and are kids are vital parts of our lives.  I can’t imagine life without both.

Germany seems like a big step.  What made you decide to head to Europe?

Heldontenor Ross David Crutchlow

Ross: Partly, it’s the repertoire we sing.  I sing primarily Wagner.  Jenny sings mainly Mozart.  We both feel if we want to really do justice to this music, we need to immerse ourselves in the language and culture that made it.  I don’t think we’ll ever feel like we truly understand these two composers as long as we are on this side of the ocean.  We really need to be in Germany.

Jenny: And part of it is very practical – it’s easier for two singing parents to sing and still raise a family over there than here.  It’s a smaller geographical area with a lot more productions –

Ross: And a lot more Wagner!

Jenny: Yeah, no kidding.  About 300 performances to the 30 that are done in the US.  And the German culture is just a lot more artist- and family-friendly.

So, you would stay over there?

Jenny: Initially, yes.  If one or both of us are fortunate enough to get a contract, we’d stay for 5-10 years.  We want a long enough stay to really feel like we soaked up as much as we can musically.

Ross: Long-term, we would like to come back to the US and use what we learn from the Germans about how they program, promote and perform opera to help revitalize interest in the art form here – particularly German opera.

Jenny: Mozart has always been seen as accessible even for people who don’t speak German or Italian.  But Wagner – well, unless you’re an opera aficionado, chances are you’ve never heard or seen a Wagner opera.  We’d like to change that.

Ross: I mean, seriously – The Avengers is popular.  Wagner is not that far away!

Jenny as Kathie in "The Student Prince"

What do you do when you’re not onstage or wrangling your two boys?

Jenny: I cook.  For me, it’s a no pressure artistic pursuit that ends in eating.  What could be a better hobby for a singer?

Ross: I hate to admit it, but video games.  It’s my down time and it keeps me sane.

Where can people go if they want to contribute to your Kickstarter campaign?

Jenny:  Our campaign is “Jenny & Ross: To Sing in Germany”.  Just click!  We’ve got some nice rewards for our backers, and we’re open to suggestions for new rewards, too.

Ross as the Pirate King in "The Pirates of Penzance"

Ross:  If you want to find out more about us as singers, Jenny has a website, and so do I.

Jenny:  We also have Facebook fan pages, if you want the latest updates about our singing:  Here’s mine.  And here’s Ross’s.

Ross: And if you can’t contribute financially, we would still very much appreciate everyone spreading the word!

* * *

So there you have it. With a point and click, you can help this talented family immerse themselves in the artistic field they love and in which they were born to succeed. But you better hurry. Their Kickstarter deadline is June 28.

Good luck, Jenny and Ross! We look forward to an update someday from across the pond.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Best of Operatoonity, fund-raising in opera, profiles, Q&A, Singer Sunday, sopranos, tenors, Uncategorized

bywords for year’s end on Operatoonity? profiles galore!

PhotobucketOperatoonity.com boasted lots of new interviews and profiles in 2011.

Why, you may be asking?

To my mind, interviews comprise the Best of Operatoonity.com 2011, for many reasons. For one, I love meeting and talking to performers and other stakeholders in the opera/classical world. For another reason, artists in the thick of auditioning, performing, and training lead interesting and varied lives, often around the world.

Profiles are my modest way of rewarding those enmeshed in a difficult, challenging profession with a little more face time in cyberspace. I also have made some enduring relationships and truly meaningful friendships reaching out to opera singers/opera bloggers/artists in related industries and entrepreneurs.

I added an editorial calendar in 2011, which I plan to use again in 2012, because it greatly helped me anticipate and prepare future content. Next year, I’ll have a new editorial calendar with high hopes of doing even more profiles and interviews.

So . . . who all was profiled on Operatoonity.com in 2011? Thankfully, loads more artists carved out time to talk with me than during Operatoonity’s first year in cyberspace. Some of the artists or their publicists (sometimes their girlfriends) reached out to me. Some I found (okay–stalked) on Twitter. Get ready for a robust list:

Bass-baritones

Craig Philip Price (February 3)  – get to know bass-bari OperaCraig

Andrew Stuckey (February 21) – meet bari ‘Andrew’ Stuckey

Michael Adair (April 5) – meet @barihunk Michael Adair and Operaplot’s second chair

Sopranos

Michelle Trovato (April 3) – get to know Michelle Trovato, lyric coloratura

Alison Trainer (April 11) – meet Alison Trainer, sparkling coloratura

Samantha Jade Ash (April 13) – meet Samantha Jade Ash, opera lover and opera hopeful

La Toya Lewis (April 15) – meet La Toya Lewis, whose velvety soprano is simply delicious

Amy J. Payne (April 22) – meet Amy J. Payne, British mezzo

Marcy Richardson (April 28) – gaga for Marcy’s #operaplot (a 2011 #operaplot winner)

Tenors

Nathan Granner and The American Tenors (July 4) – celebrating The American Tenors on the Fourth of July

K.E. Querns Langley (July 6) – meet a teaching tenor, K.E. Querns Langley

Eric Barry (July 8) – get to know the Pavarotti of the Panhandle, tenor Eric Barry

Mitchell Sturges (July 11) – meet @mitchthetenor

David Lomelí (July 14) – chattin’ up David Lomelí: Mexican tenor, toast of NYC!

René Barbera (August 30) – up close & personal with tenor René Barbera, 2011 Operalia triple-winner

Opera Bloggers

Opera Obsession (September 1) – opera is this erudite blogger’s obsession

David Karlin (September 3) – Bachtrack founder’s reviews and posts connect the world to live opera

Zerbinetta’s blog “Likely Impossibilities” (September 6) –  Zerbinetta’s blog, a trove of news and reviews for opera lovers

Stephen Llewellyn (September 7) – up close and personal with Stephen Llewellyn, aka Operaman, two-time #Operaplot winner

Tenor Nicholas Phan (September 9) – half Greek, Chinese. Hence his blog’s name: ‘Grecchinois’

Marion Lignana Rosenberg (September 14) – Marion’s blogs celebrate her devotion to opera greats

 Hairman at the Opera (September 20) – Cardiff ‘Hairman’ has a thing for hair and opera!

Intermezzo (September 30) – Intermezzo – an opera blogger whose actions speak louder than words

Opera Companies/Radio Stations & Recordings/Artists in Related Industries

Canadian Opera Company  (April 6, June 28)  – COC’s contest entries all dolled upCOC nabs three Dora Awards

Sheri Greenawald, Director of the San Francisco Opera and Merola Opera – (August 10) – Merola Opera: where future stars get loads of training and TLC

Opera Company of Philadelphia (September 17 ) – Opera Co. of Phila. launches ‘Carmen’ under the stars

Opera Music Broadcast (November 20) – Opera Music Broadcast, a treat for music lovers & resource for opera companies

Artist Jose Llopis (November 22) – love of opera inspires young Spaniard’s poster designs

* * *

My sincere thanks to everyone who devoted their time to a profile/interview on Operatoonity.com this year. If you or someone you know is an artist or you know some entity related to opera would make an interesting profile subject in 2012, please contact me with more information at galemartin08@gmail.com.

 

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Best of Operatoonity, Classic Opera, Interviews, North American Opera, profiles, Q&A

so, who all was interviewed on Operatoonity in its inaugural year?

And the first anniversary/birthday bash continues with a look at some special people profiled on this blog during the last year–more than a dozen individuals with different stakes in the world of opera. 

These interviews tended to be some of the most fun, energizing assignments. Nothing like creating operatunities for yourself to talk to interesting, multi-faceted people who live in and work in the world of opera.

Here are most of the folks who went under the Operatoonity magnifying glass in the past year with links to each of their scintillating interviews:

Operatoonity readers’ top five posts by views were Leandra Ramm (465 views), Margaret Garwood (298 views), Zita Tátrai (238 views), Cliff Bechtel (228 views) and Cecily Carver (200 views).

One thing that became readily apparent from analyzing my stats is that a social media presence definitely impacted the number of  views interview subjects received and can greatly enhance an artist’s visibility. For instance, Zita Tátrai has a robust Facebook following, and Cliff Bechtel has a strong Twitter presence.

Which was my favorite interview? I’ll never tell. In truth, I enjoyed them all and learned something new from each one and delighted they shared some of themselves on this space.

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Filed under Best of Operatoonity, Interviews, Performers