OPERA NEWS

by F. PAUL DRISCOLL

Joshua Hopkins returns to Santa Fe Opera this month for a repeat of his cheeky, streetwise Papageno in Tim Albery’s 2006 production of The Magic Fluteand for his first Sid in a new staging of Albert Herring. As eager as he is to revisit Mozart’s bird-catcher — a role made to order for his firm, trim baritone and snappy, sure-footed comic style — Hopkins is especially hungry to explore the challenges of Britten’s droll slice of life in an English village. Hopkins became a Britten enthusiast in 2007, when he studied the title role in Billy Budd in London, in preparation for covering it at Houston Grand Opera; he later was Junius in Central City’s 2008 Rape of Lucretia.     “From a singer’s standpoint, Britten is certainly challenging, but he’s also incredibly helpful. Once you get to know the text and your own notes — no small thing — then you’re free to explore the way Britten’s music reflects the subtext of what his characters are singing. The psychology of the characters is laid out in the landscape of the music and in the way Britten sets the text. Billy’s soliloquy, ‘Look! through the port comes the moonshine,’ is such an easy piece to connect to emotionally, because Britten gives his singer so much to work with.”

Hopkins hails from Pembroke, Ontario, a small town some ninety minutes west of Ottawa with a highly active amateur music scene. At sixteen, he sang in his first oratorio, Haydn’s Creation. “I’m the first to admit that I was way too young to be delving into that at sixteen, but it got me and my parents to recognize that studying classical voice was the best choice for me.” After studies at McGill University in Montreal, where he received his master’s degree in 2003, Hopkins was accepted into the Houston Grand Opera studio; a particular highlight of his studio years was singing the Pilot in HGO’s 2004 revival of Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince, an experience he calls “a fantastic milestone.”

Hopkins marked another milestone this past season, when he made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Ping inTurandot. On January 28, the night that Hopkins marked his sixteenth Met performance, tenor Charles Anthony made his farewell appearance with the company after a record-breaking fifty-six seasons as a Met artist. “Singing on that stage was a thrill, but to be part of a show with an artist who has been there so long — and who has done so much on that stage, and remained such a dear man — was humbling. Definitely.”