INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES REID
Tenor Charles Reid has sung in opera houses and concert stages around the world. He is the host of the “This Opera Life” podcast.
As of last year, you became the director of vocal studies at Andrews University. Was teaching something that you were always interested in pursuing?
I come from a long line of educators and always assumed I might end up transitioning into teaching when the performance career was no longer viable, but finding and accepting the job at this stage in life came as a genuine surprise to me. The career was going along just fine, but I found myself increasingly yearning for a situation that would allow me to be home with my family on a regular basis.
What do you think is the most important thing a teacher can teach his student?
Singing is not about beautiful sounds, rather it is about actually saying/communicating something. In other words, be an artist, not a singer.
Becoming successful in opera means facing rejection over and over in auditions and learning to manage your nerves in a consistent way. What drove your success?
For starters, I was very blessed with important opportunities at many stages in my career. I did the bulk of my auditioning while working at the MET in New York City. There were so many auditions that they became almost as normal as ordering breakfast. One person offered the observation that I would be doing very well to get one offer out of every ten auditions. This took some stress off. Later in the process, Philip Langridge gave me profound advice. He basically said I should only be interested in working for companies and producers who get what I have to offer…and that there was a giant world of opera out there with many people who would get me. He was right…on both points.
Which character that you have performed do you most identify with? And which character do you feel is the complete opposite of who you are?
Performing Don Jose (Carmen) brought out the most in me on many levels. The integrity of his emotional journey became hard to distinguish from real emotions at time. The role that feels most foreign to me is Duca (Rigoletto). Simply put, I’m not a Don Juan, and trying to understand that character, even like it, was a challenge.
Have you ever heard a role for another voice type that you wish you could sing? (male or female)
I won’t make a list of roles I wish fell into the tenor repertoire, but I think the question alludes to something that is very common. During the rehearsal process, performers often draw near to the roles of their colleagues. We see, hear, and experience them over and over. It is not uncommon to have memorized lines from another role, without trying. If only it were so easy for the role you are actually doing.
Opera singers in general are connecting more to their fans these days through social media. How did you get involved with podcasting?
I produce a podcast titled “This Opera Life”. In truth, the transition to teaching has made it very challenging to keep up with the podcast, but I have a healthy backlog of interviews and intend to start publishing again sometime this year. The podcast idea was born shortly after relocating back to the U.S. from Germany. I was working at the MET in NYC and commuting from my home in P.A. So I started downloading podcasts to keep me company. During these long drives I heard interviews with actors, comedians, and others and often found their life stories to be so interesting. It made me want to get to know their work more, and the thought hit me that we needed something like this in opera. There are so many opera singers out there with real careers that the majority of the opera going community has never even heard of. With this show, I wanted them to have a way to get to know us, and perhaps, they’d also want to go see our work. I didn’t plan it, but a side audience has grown up in college students. I regularly receive emails from people thanking me for the show and explaining that “This Opera Life” has taught them more about what a singing career is like, especially in Europe, than any other resource.
What has been the most surreal moment in your career thus far?
I’m not really sure how to answer this. In truth, I think the simple fact that I’ve been fortunate enough to have a singing career, and provide for my family via that career, this is the most surreal of all – and I’m eternally thankful.
Which composer’s music do you feel fits your voice the best?
It has changed several times, and will likely change again in the years to come. At the moment, I’m feeling at home with Bizet, Mendelssohn, Dvorak, and Puccini.
Do you prefer to perform opera or oratorio?
The answer is ‘YES’. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a career active in both fields, and I love them both for different reasons.
For the 10th anniversary of Les Miserables, there was a concert with a ‘dream’ cast. If you could ‘dream cast’ your favorite opera, who would be singing?
I could come up with a list of famous singers, but the truth is, many of my favorite performances that I have seen or been in were with little known casts. I think I’m in favor of a great cast that really works together as an ensemble.
For more information about Charles Reid please visit his website charles-reid.com.