Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Meet Our OUR EARTH Singers: John Coons, Orca/Parr

Seattle Opera's exciting new community engagement project, Our Earth, begins this Sunday with a 2 pm performance at Town Hall of Heron and the Salmon Girl, the first of three new operas by composer Eric Banks and librettist Irene Keliher, telling a story of animals and people in Pacific Northwest environments. Heron and the Salmon Girl stars Seattle Opera's Youth Chorus as the water of Puget Sound, as well as four young opera singers making their debuts with us as soloists. We'll meet them over the next few days on our blog, starting today with tenor John Coons, who plays Orca, an impish young whale, and Parr, a young man who has left his sister in the small fishing village where they grew up, moved to the big city, and fallen ill...

You’re new to Seattle Opera – welcome! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in rural Maine, went to college in the Portland (Maine!) area, and then taught in Boston with the Metropolitan Opera's Urban Voices program before moving out here to Seattle in the fall of 2011.

What do you like most about being a Seattleite?
I was drawn to Seattle for the same reasons that I still love it- the perfect mix of city and nature, good people, and good music! I'm thrilled to be working with the Seattle Opera for the first time.

What’s a favorite experience you’ve had as a performer?
One of my favorite gigs as a performer was when I sang with Ben Folds and the Pittsburgh Symphony. Being able to combine my two great musical loves (classical and pop/rock) with one of my idols was an unforgettable experience.

Costumes, designed by Pete Rush, which John Coons will wear as Parr and Orca

As Parr, you have a brief but crucial scene at the end of this opera. Who is Parr? What has he done, and what has happened to him?
Parr, to me, is just a young guy who has lost his way, and fallen out of touch with his roots. Many people (myself included) strike out on their own into the world, often lured by the appeal of the “big city.” Some of them forget where they came from and the people who helped them along the way, many times with tragic consequences. Parr is one of those people, but luckily, his sister fights her way to his side, to be there for him in his moment of need.

What is your favorite part of the opera to sing?
While I love my final duet as Parr, I just have too much fun in the beginning as impatient, playful Orca. There's something liberating about playing such a big personality on stage that revels in having fun.

Have you ever seen a whale in the wild? Did you have to study up on whales to play one in the opera?
I went on a few whale watches in New England when I was young, and I absolutely loved them. I have yet to see an orca in the wild (even though I keep my eyes peeled every time I'm in the San Juans). I will admit, I've got a weakness for watching youtube videos of whales at play... that counts as research, right?

Close-up of Orca's costume

Our Earth is produced by Seattle Opera in partnership with Seattle Youth Symphony and The Nature Conservancy. If you’d like to win tickets to Sunday’s performance, which also features former Seattle Opera Young Artist Adina Aaron singing Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, we’ll be giving away five pairs Friday afternoon.

Enter the drawing by heading over to Twitter and tweeting:

I want to win 2 tix to Heron & the Salmon Girl from @SeattleOpera & @Conserve_WA! http://bit.ly/Y5Hi5Q #OurEarthOpera

You can tweet once each day for additional chances to win; the drawing will happen Friday 2/8 at 3 pm.

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