Friday, March 11, 2011

Featured Singer: Daniel Mobbs

I first saw handsome bass Daniel Mobbs last summer at Caramoor, where he sang Oroveso in the Norma that I liked so much.  We became acquaintances online, and recently he agreed to a profile in these humble pages.  Daniel's own web site says:
Daniel Mobbs has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with the Caramoor International Music Festival, and most recently appeared as Oroveso in their summer 2010 production of Bellini's Norma. Other recent performances include Dandini in Rossini's La Cenerentola (Washington Concert Opera, May 2010), Ormonte in Handel's Partenope (New York City Opera, April 2010), and Leporello in Mozart's Don Giovanni (Virginia Opera, February/March 2010), as well as several role debuts — Alidoro in Rossini's La Cenerentola (Minnesota Opera, November 2010), Capulet in Gounod's Romeo and Juliet (Opera Company of Philadelphia, February 2011), and Don Pedro in Meyerbeer's L'Africaine (Opera Orchestra of New York, March 2011).  Upcoming engagements include roles with Knoxville Opera (Giorgio in Bellini's I Puritani, April 2011), Opera Company of Philadelphia (Angelotti in Puccini's Tosca, April/May 2011, and Geronte in Massenet's Manon Lescaut, April 2012), and Portland Opera (Figaro in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, November 2011).
I've adapted the following from his replies to my questions:

What is your background and training? I'm from Louisville, Kentucky, and attended the "Youth Performing Arts School", one of the nation's first. I started in theatre and moved onto become a ballet major. I really wanted to be a dancer and to this day and very envious when I watch any form of dance. I only joined the chorus to get an easy A and bring up my GPA. The choir director heard me laughing in the hallway, big belly laughs, and heard some pipes. So I fell into singing by accident. But was quickly caught up into the joy of making music.

Opera took a while to grow on me. Saw a few productions at Kentucky Opera, but was too young to pay attention--who knows, they may not have been good! But then in 1984 I attended Turandot starring the aging James McCracken and Linda Kelm as Turandot and Edith Davis as Liu. I was hooked. I didn't know at that time which role I would sing, but I knew I wanted to do what they were doing. I went on to sing many many Pings in my higher voiced youth!

I trained with a great teacher, Barbara Honn at CCM. I wasn't a great fit there, so she took me to AVA in 1989, where I stayed and graduated in 1993.

I was lucky enough to be picked up as a weekly artist at City Opera right after AVA at 25 yrs old. It was like my little YA Program, except it was a Lincoln Center! I worked my way up to singing leading roles and have held a long lasting relationship with them ever since. Having just sung in last season's Partenope with my third management team... long timer for sure.

Starting off as lyric baritone I was stuck singing Barbiere everywhere, and even though it never was a perfect vocal fit, I was really known as a great Figaro on stage. In 1999 I sang my first Dandini in Baltimore with Will Crutchfield conducting. The mezzo and tenor were both ill the first 4 days and I was lucky enough to get four days of intense coaching with Will -- the beginning of the best working relationship I've had in over 20 years in this biz.

He and I clicked. He said what he wanted and I understood and was able to comply. Instant success for us both. He heard I was stuck singing Barbers and Marcellos everywhere and getting nowhere. He heard the lower extension in my voice and the fact that my cover starts earlier than most lyric baritones. His suggestion was that I was a real basso cantante with a high extension and coloratura abilities. So we spent the next several years at Caramoor letting me delve into this repertoire to mostly wonderful outcomes.  [ed. note--mostly? There might be another post in this!]

Caramoor has been the biggest part of my career and I will always be attached to it musically. Great support system there from the staff, patrons and audiences. Heaven for a singer. The culmination of this is the upcoming collaboration with Will on Guillaume Tell. We tried GT out together in 2009 in Warsaw and it was wonderful!

How much time every year do you spend away from home? How do you handle having a relationship with extended periods apart?  I stay local for many reasons. Working on the road at the beginning was hard on my soul. I was single and lonely and away from family and friends. Living in NYC I became attached with almost every performing arts group in the area and that allowed me to really stay home.

Singing at home is my idea of a perfect life. I do like to go away and try new places/gigs, but I do love curling up at home with my wonderful husband Vince and our two kitties (Metro and Token) much much more. I've sung in Europe quite a few times, but nothing regular at all. I'm a US singer. That's just how things ended up, and now it's how I like it!

Being with a partner for nine years means we try our best to never be apart more the 3 weeks if we can help it. He often visits while I'm away and he and my wonderful mother can be seen at nearly every opening night together!

Do you work with younger singers? Started teaching young singers last summer when Will Crutchfield invited me to join the music staff at Caramoor. It was so wonderful, and he's open-ended the invitation for whenever I'm not singing elsewhere. I also continue with some of the kids from last summer on a regular basis, so I guess you could say I am a vocal coach. I work mostly on style (when I know it) and really on helping kids breath better, and rid themselves of any small tensions or tics that could one day grow into career-ending vocal trouble. I've been singing for over 20 years and I've really listened to my fellow singers and learned the warning signs of trouble. If caught early it can be a non issue and quite easy to fix.  Teaching is fun, too.

Are there roles you'd love to sing? Are there roles within your fach you don't want to ever sing [again]? Dream roles? Guillaume Tell is happening at my home this summer, Caramoor, and it's a dream come true for both Will and me!  Future rep? Well, John the Baptist has always been on a back burner for my entire career, a role that I work on from time to time to see when's it going to be doable. Soon I hope! I would like to sing more Handel but it's hard for singers to break though in an area where others have specialized for quite some time. But I've dabbled a bit in early music and I have a taste for it. I swore I would never sing Figaro in Barber again, and I did, so I don't swear off roles anymore. I just shy away from some!

My favorite question from "Inside the Actor's Studio": What's your favorite swear word? Swear words are all used too often by me. I have terrible swearing habit, and always when it's really inappropriate like around religious people, elderly people, KIDS! Sorry world. I swear....

Your intrepid reporter has already bought his tickets to see Guillaume Tell at Caramoor in July.  You know you will read about it here shortly afterward!


Erika Beth, the Messy Chef said...

I love reading these featured singer posts. I also think it's exciting that a singer gets to do a "dream" role. Wish it could be that way for everyone. (And I love that he used to be into ballet. Awesome!)

Lucy said...

Fun interview! Plaudits to interviewer and -ee. Much excitement for Guillaume Tell! How neat that he's so engaged in education as well. (Also, hooray for kitties, and I'm glad that you got a picture of the Hair, even if its mysteries remain--for now--unprofaned.)