This week we sat down remotely with Montana native Curt Olds, currently in New York City, to talk about his career in opera and musical theater.
Q: You are one of the few singing actors in the U.S. to have successfully carved out a career in both opera and musical theater. What has been your biggest challenge over the years, as you’ve straddled both genres?
A: I had some good fortune early in my career in both opera and musical theatre, but I quickly learned the two disciplines follow different business models in almost every way. Resumes are formatted differently. Artists are contracted differently. As far as casting, opera companies deal directly with the artists and their managers when considering who will be cast. Most musical theatre companies utilize casting directors to assist and those casting directors gather appropriate talent and present it to the producers. Even script/score preparation is approached differently. The two art forms seem to have more in common in recent years, but—at least for me—it has basically equated to pursuing two different professions over the course of my career. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Opera allows for an artist to create a character through vocal sound first and foremost—shading, dynamics, the specific pallet of an artist’s instrument—and musicals allow artists to create characters where the speaking voice and singing voice are indistinguishable, which can even include compromising the vocal line/legato for dramatic or comic effect.
Q: What is your advice for young singers who are interested in pursuing a crossover career?
A: When I am working with classically trained young artists interested in pursuing musical theatre, I encourage them to continue working hard on vocal technique, which will help the dexterity needed to color the vocal sound as necessary, but also provide the endurance to survive eight shows a week if they are doing a long-run musical. I also encourage them to take as many acting classes, dance lessons, and musical theatre coachings as they can squeeze into their schedules. I remind them that they will be competing for roles with people who are completely focused on musical theatre, so they have to be incredibly prepared and flexible to be competitive. Also, if they want to go back and forth, they will need to maintain their command of foreign languages, diction, and vocal agility if they want to stay competitive in the opera world. The back-and-forth can be incredibly stressful and one has to be prepared emotionally for harsher criticism at auditions on both sides.
Q: You were highly praised in Opera News for your portrayal of Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus. What are you looking forward to most as you return to the operetta again this spring, not as Falke, but as his best friend Gabriel von Eisenstein?
A: I have a nice long history with Die Fledermaus and I have played Dr. Falke a few times as well as Frank the Jailor. I have always wanted to revisit Eisenstein, but Falke always seemed a better vocal fit given the other repertoire I was doing at the time. That’s not the case right now in my career. I had always related better with the devilish character of Eisenstein, and I have sung much of the Eisenstein material in concert, so I am thrilled to get my hands on the role and put my spin on it. Operetta has always been my favorite genre because I get to take everything seriously—the singing, the acting, the characterization, the comedy—and it remains to me the most demanding of genres. I believe our operetta repertoire—be it German, French, Spanish, or English—is extremely important and I plan to keep it at the forefront of what I do as much as possible, both as a singer and director. I am really looking forward to this upcoming production of Die Fledermaus and the Fort Worth Opera cast looks amazing!
Read more about Curt Olds on his website at http://www.curtolds.com/