Arabella, Minnesota Opera
Opera Pulse: Pay it Forward, Brian Jagde
No matter how many times a performer might tell you “it’s no big deal” when they’re called to step in for a leading role at the last minute, trust us… it’s no small feat. Only those that have taken all the necessary steps in preparing their mind and body for the role in a professional and determined manner can feel the least bit comfortable. Of course, you can’t learn such abilities without passionate teachers by your side. Professionalism and determination are traits that bighearted tenor, Brian Jagde brings to work everyday. They’re traits that not only help his opera career, but undoubtedly his work to inspire youth; a worthy cause at any level.
OP: Last year you took second prize in Placido Domingo’s Operalia competition. Did the maestro have any encouraging words that have stuck with you?
Brian: Maestro Domingo is such a lovely man and an incredible inspiration to us all. He had such kind words to say to me about my career and he said he was excited about my voice. That was one of the most meaningful things anyone has ever said to me.
OP: Which aria do you think impressed Operalia the most?
Brian: That’s a good question. As a singer, to think we would ever be able to get in the judges head is fool’s play, but I would hope they all had an influence on their decision. I will say that I had a lot of good feedback on both the Wagner piece (Siegmund heiss ich from Die Walküre) and the third act aria from Manon Lescaut (Guardate, pazzo son).
OP: Was it easy for you to get a last minute phone call telling you that you’ll be debuting at Santa Fe Opera?
Brian: It was actually in person! I was sitting at a table with Charles MacKay and Brad Woolbright and they asked me how I’d feel about replacing the lead in Tosca. I said that I was sorry to hear that the other singer was unable to perform and that I was ready if they needed me any time. I felt I had prepared musically, and that, with the help of their staff, I could get up there, even with only a week to do so. I was very confident that we could make it happen.
OP: What was the first thing you thought after the meeting?
Brian: After the meeting I was extremely excited about the opportunity and just thought, “Let’s do this!”
OP: What was the first thing you did after the meeting?
Brian: After the meeting, I called my voice teacher and family to let them know the news, but had to wait for the official announcement from the Santa Fe Opera to be released before I could tell anyone else. That was actually very difficult because whispers started going around quickly.
OP: What was the first thing you did after the performance?
Brian: After the first performance, I was beaming. It was so much fun, and everyone was so supportive. I thanked everyone I could find immediately, because there was no way I could get up there without the company’s help. It really was a group effort.
OP: You’re pretty passionate about arts education. What do you hope to accomplish?
Brian: People often ask me this question, and for me it is about doing whatever I can. At this point in my career, I am still working on getting established, and that means I have little influence over the grand scheme of music education. I hope that with time, we can change the situation as it stands now. Kids are not getting the benefit of a well-rounded education, and I worry that it will effect so many aspects of our lives in the years ahead. Arts education helps children embrace their creative side, which is one of the hallmarks of the great thinkers that have made their mark on our society. Education has become so involved with testing that is forgetting to teach children how to learn. If I could change any aspect of this system in my life, that would be number one on my list.
OP: Explain the part on your website entitled “Pay it forward”.
Brian: I wanted to start putting out there the change we can provide, even now, with baby steps. The page “Pay it forward” is my dedication to all topics on music and arts education, and although the page is in it’s infancy, I think it can really help get the word out there little by little. It’s my way of giving back a little and telling the world ways they can too.
Thanks, Brian! Check out Brian’s “Pay it forward” here.