There’s a new tenor star glowing in the Northern Hemisphere these days. His name is Michael Wade Lee, a 40 year old singing sensation whose comet is about to flash across Connecticut’s skies. Fresh from triumphs in several major opera houses in the British Isles, Lee will be in our state appearing with the Conn. Lyric Opera from Nov. 4-19 in the title role of Offenbach’s “TALES OF HOFFMANN”, (his first!), which is one of the plums of the tenor repertory. The production premieres at New Britain’s Trinity-on-Main Nov. 4 and continues on to Middletown high School Nov. 6, the Garde in New London Nov.13, and the Palace in Waterbury Nov. 19. Lee sang with this company exactly a year ago as Tamino in “Magic Flute”, to excellent reviews. But, alot has happened to this virile, jovial tenor in the last 12 months. Besides officially being a recording artist now, his voice has grown and darkened, which is enabling him to tackle heavier assignments like his recent Manrico in “Il Trovatore”, another pinnacle in the tenor canon.
So. who is this Michael Wade Lee? He and his lovely Greek wife Nancy arrived in New London on Oct. 20 to begin a two week rehearsal schedule. On Oct. 21, he was gracious enough to chat with local music critic and reporter Larry Kellum about his life, the world of opera, and the complex character of Hoffmann in this great French opus. Here are some highlights from that enjoyable, informal and informative interview:…………………………
LK—– What is your favorite role?
MWL —- “Whatever I am singing at that moment”
LK—- Any dream roles someday?
MWL— “None in particular. Whatever I do, I only wish to do it as well as I possibly can.”
LK— Any roles you have no desire to sing?
MWL— “Perhaps Verdi’s Otello. I wouldn’t want to hear myself in that role.”
LK— Are there any tenors of the past you idolize or favor?
MWL— “Giuseppe Giacomini, Nicolai Gedda and Bjoerling. I also have a tremendous admiration for Domingo’s musicianship. He is everything — a singer, conductor, impresario. all of it.”
LK— Are there any sopranos from the past you fantasize about singing with if they were still around today?
MWL— “Renatas Scotto and Tebaldi, and Mirella Freni. Callas would have probably intimidated me.”
LK— When did your career REALLY take off?
MWL– “In 2007, when I sang “Carmen” with Denyce Graves in Greece.”
LK– When did you first notice that your voice was built for opera, and not just choir or pop music?
MWL— “When I was 18 at the Univ. of Texas in San Antonio. My teacher Deborah Dalton discovered it and helped me train and develop it.”
LK– You recently slimmed down a bit since those Taminos last year. Do you feel weight loss has any impact on one’s voice?
MWL— “Not if you take care of yourself and have a good technique. If anything, it gives you more freedom of movement onstage.”
LK– How do you feel about mixing repertory, ie going back and forth from heavy Verdi to lighter bel canto roles?
MWL– “I think its good for the voice. Only in America is there a tendency to label and type-cast singers. Its not like that in Europe so much.”
LK– What is your normal routine on the day of a performance?
MWL– “I talk in a normal voice, jog a bit, and eat moderately — rice, salmon, some Greek foods — nothing heavy. Again, with a good technique, performance days aren’t much different than any other.”
LK— How do you deal with all that travel — climates, jet lag, lonely, cold hotel rooms, etc?
MWL– I am lucky that I have my wife to travel with, and its alot easier to deal with when you are fortunate enough to stay in homes and apartments of friends, relatives or colleagues.”
LK — Say a few words about what lured you to undertake Hoffmann.
MWL– ‘The music is so gorgeous, so lyrical, and the tessitura is on the higher side, and the character is so real, so human, with all his problems — alcoholism, the three aspects of “love” (love pursued, love gained, and love lost), and his tue passion for poetry and storytelling. What’s not to like?”
For more information and bio on this wonderful tenor, please visit michaelwadelee.com or www.thevirtuosi.org.
by Larry Kellum, 2011