Thursday, February 7, 2013

Meet Our OUR EARTH Singers: Thomas Thompson, Turtle/Tayil

Baritone Thomas Thompson plays two roles in Heron and the Salmon Girl: Turtle, out in the open waters of the Sound, and Tayil, a fisherman whose livelihood is threatened when he can't find any salmon. Thomas, who joins Seattle Opera for the first time with Our Earth, told us a little about his two characters and about his own interesting background.

You’re new to Seattle Opera – welcome! Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I had a pretty nomadic childhood: I was born in South Africa and before moving to Washington State, my family lived in the U.K. and California. We moved here when I was about 11.

What do you like most about being a Seattleite?
I like being a Seattleite because Seattle feels like very much of a cultural crossroads. We have so many different and exciting influences here - our many immigrant communities speak to that, but so does our openness and tolerance for so many different ways of life. In some ways it feels like Seattle combines the diversity of a big city with the close-knit neighborhoods and constant presence of nature you find in smaller cities.

Could you share a favorite experience you’ve had as a performer?
That's a hard one... right now I would say my favorite performing experience was my first time serving as the Bass soloist in Bach's B-minor Mass. I have been very fond of the work for a long time, and getting to perform it with full orchestra/chorus was a dream come true for me.

Turtle costume by Pete Rush

In Heron and the Salmon Girl you play a fisherman, Tayil, and a turtle. Are these two characters very different? What do they have in common?
In essence they are quite similar. They are both somewhat grumpy characters and they are both very serious: neither one jokes about or goofs off. They are also both weary, Turtle from a long lifetime of experience, Tayil from a shorter lifetime at the punishing work of being a fisherman. It seems to me that the big difference is that Tayil still has some fight in him, and part of his story arc is realizing that his anger, which he initially directs toward the natural world and the ecosystem which both supplies him with work and causes him great hardship, is misplaced.

What is your favorite part of the opera to sing?
The scene in which Tayil discovers one of the other characters trespassing on his boat. He gets to act a little bit villainous for a moment and shout and stomp about. Good times!

Where is Tayil from? Why do you think his line means, in the trio, when he sings “This Sound is the only home for me”?
He says he was "born across another ocean", which to me says something like my own background, maybe Europe though instead of Africa. His hard-bitten, generally short-spoken manner has a little bit of Ingmar Bergman to it, so perhaps he is Norse!

“This Sound is the only home for me” to me is the flip side of “...the salmon cannot hide from me.” Because he is a predator in the ecosystem of the Sound, and a competent one, he has become inextricably a part of it.


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! #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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