Ten Questions with John Arnold

Ten Questions with…

John Arnold, bass-baritone
Count de Horn
in A Masked Ball

1. My favorite thing about being a singer is:
I was and still am really drawn to the complexity of being an operatic singing actor. I am fascinated by the music and the primal aspect of being up there on stage making that kind of sound with my voice, without amplification. But I am also in love with the dramatic element in opera and hate that so often the opportunity to make real music drama is discounted. I relish the challenge of marrying the music to the drama and finding ways to make characters interesting. This is all of course just a long-winded way of saying I love getting to play make believe all day.
2. The greatest challenge in being a singer is:
I see more and more how difficult the nomadic life of the professional musician is on my family and friends. Not seeing folks for months at a time is tough.
3. A live music performance I’ve attended that I will never forget is:
I will never forget seeing Bon Iver in Chicago last year. It was one of the greatest and most satisfying musical experiences of my life. Also, seeing and hearing Ferruccio Furlanetto perform Boris Godunov at the Lyric was about as inspiring as you can hope for.
4. A few of my favorite films are:
Oh man, I love movies so much. A few favorites, and in no particular order, are: Hot Fuzz, The Royal Tenenbaums, Casablanca, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Ben-Hur, Unforgiven, The Seventh Seal, The Empire Strikes Back, Raising Arizona. This list could go on indefinitely.
5. Three things I can’t live without are:
If forced, I’m sure I could learn to live without most anything, but I show extreme partiality toward good books, Atlanta Braves baseball, and microbrews.
6. My number one hobby is:
I am an avid reader. I read the first five books of the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin over the last three months. Good stuff.
7. If you could perform with any singer, retired or deceased, who would it be?
There are many, but I think it’d be a riot to sing with Sir Thomas Allen.
8. If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
I would probably have chosen something else with just as low a success rate as professional singing, like acting.
9. What role do you wish you could sing that you could never sing because it’s the wrong voice type / gender?
Canio in Pagliacci. I think he’s one of the most amazing characters in the repertoire.
10. Describe your favorite moment on stage.
I’m horrible at picking favorites, but the finale of Don Giovanni figures prominently amongst some my favorite moments on stage, both as Leporello and Giovanni. I’ve performed both roles and getting to really give everything you’ve got with that incredible music underneath and around you is both astounding and extremely gratifying. That’s about as perfect a musical moment as has ever been created.
Bonus: One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer).
“What is some good advice you’ve received for a career as a singer?”
The three pieces of advice that have made the biggest impact on me personally in carving out a career as a singer are: 1) Always be the most prepared. 2) Try your best to cut out all the negativity in your life that you have control over. 3) Eat everyday. Literally, just stay alive and keep singing and let age and experience do the rest.

See John in Madison Opera’s production of Verdi’s A Masked Ball (Un Ballo in Maschera) October 26 and 28 at Overture Hall. Tickets start at just $18!

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