Ten Questions with Emily Birsan

Ten Questions with
Emily Birsan, soprano
Juliet in Romeo and Juliet

1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, and I moved around Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Iowa, before I settled in Neenah, Wisconsin for most of my schooling.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
I’d be in the arts in some way.  Or a therapist!

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
The Magic Flute.

4.  My favorite opera is…
La Traviata.

5.  My favorite pre-show / post-show meal is…
Protein and veggies!

6.  People would be surprised to know that
I am a major goofball.  My grandpa used to call me a “firecracker.” ๐Ÿ™‚ 

7.  A few of my favorite books are
Books about self-awareness – Tich nhat Hanh.

8.  What do you like to binge-watch?
My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Transparent.

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?
Joni Mitchell, Maya Angelou, Pablo Picasso, and President Obama.

10.  Everyone should see Romeo and Juliet because….
One’s first true love is indescribable, but join us in trying to portray it.

Don’t miss the chance to see Emily in Romeo and Juliet, as Shakespeare’s classic work comes to ravishing operatic life.  Performances are November 4 and 6 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Ten Questions with John Irvin

Ten Questions with
John Irvin, tenor
Romeo in Romeo and Juliet

1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Atlanta, Georgia.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
I would be an ear / nose / throat doctor.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
Candide.

4.  My favorite opera is…
Salome.

5.  My favorite pre-show / post-show meal is…
Pre-show:  Museli for breakfast and something light for lunch.
Post-show:  Cheeseburger.


6.  People would be surprised to know that
I haven’t seen a play in Chicago after living there for four years. 

7.  A few of my favorite books are
Right now… the Italian translation of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and John Fowles’ The Magus.

8.  What do you like to binge-watch?
Stranger Things.

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?
My grandfather, Killer Mike, Janelle Monae, and Karl Marx.

10.  Everyone should see Romeo and Juliet because….
It’s both funny and tragic, with beautiful music.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  What’s your favorite city outside of the United States?
A:  Salzburg… so far.

Don’t miss the chance to see John in Romeo and Juliet, as Shakespeare’s classic work comes to ravishing operatic life.  Performances are November 4 and 6 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Ten Questions with Sidney Outlaw

Ten Questions with
Sidney Outlaw, baritone
Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet

1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born and raised in Brevard, North Carolina.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
I’ve never thought about not making it as a singer.  It’s what I was born to do.  I will always be singing in some capacity.  But if I didn’t sing full time, I would definitely go into music education, arts administration, or artist management.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
Aida at Bob Jones University, November 11, 1998.  (Mrs. Shumate’s Concert Chorus class).

4.  My favorite opera is…
Le Nozze di Figaro.

5.  My favorite pre-show / post-show meal is…
Pre-show:  Pure Pharma protein shake.
Post-show:  Some sort of red meat and veggie.


6.  People would be surprised to know that
I practice Olympic weightlifting. 

7.  A few of my favorite books are
The Audacity of Hope (President Obama); Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (Dr. Joy DeGruy); The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander); Sula (Toni Morrison); I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou); Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe); For Your Consideration…. (Kathy Griffin).

8.  What do you like to binge-watch?
Criminal Minds, NCIS, NCIS-LA, Madame Secretary.

9.  What five people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?
President Obama, Jennifer Lewis, Roland Martin, Leontyne Price, Viola Davis.

10.  Everyone should see Romeo and Juliet because….
It is a timeless story and the singing in this particular production is fantastic, which will make you think of the good old days at the Met.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  Would you like to make your debut as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at the San Francisco Opera and/or the Metropolitan Opera (and here is the contract already drawn up with all the signatures on it)?
A:  YES, PLEASE and THANK YOU!!!

Don’t miss the chance to see Sidney in Romeo and Juliet, as Shakespeare’s classic work comes to ravishing operatic life.  Performances are November 4 and 6 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Ten Questions with Stephanie Lauricella

Ten Questions with
Stephanie Lauricella, mezzo
Stephano in Romeo and Juliet

1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born in Port Jefferson, New York and raised in Wading River, New York.  I’m a Long Island girl. ๐Ÿ™‚

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a veterinarian until I realized that I hated the sight of blood and needles.  But still to this day I LOVE animals.  So I would like to think that I would find some sort of work involving them, either at a shelter or rescue facility.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
The Merry Widow at Ithaca College!

4.  My favorite opera is…
Gosh, this is a difficult one for me.  When I first started singing, my favorite opera was La Cenerentola by Rossini (which I still love very much!).  But nowadays, I am constantly learning and discovering new music which is equally as exciting.  I would probably say that my favorite opera is whatever I am studying in the moment that you ask me. ๐Ÿ™‚

5.  My favorite pre-show / post-show meal is…
I am pretty boring when it comes to my pre-show meal.  I always heat a home-cooked meal that is usually filling but not too heavy.  I also bring a snack of some sort of have during intermission.  Then after the show, it’s a free-for-all!  Anything that you put in front of me, I will probably eat!

6.  People would be surprised to know that
I still have one baby tooth! 

7.  A few of my favorite books are
The 100 Year-OldMan Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

8.  What do you like to binge-watch?
I recently binge-watched Luther and am currently watching all of Narcos.  And of course Orange is the New Black is always on my list of shows to binge-watch.

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?
I think I would like to invite all four of my grandparents, three of whom I never knew.  I grew up only knowing my maternal grandmother and she was a huge part of my childhood.  I would love to see her again and tell her about all of the things that have happened since she passed.  As for my other grandparents, I would love to meet them and pick their brains about all of our family history.

10.  Everyone should see Romeo and Juliet because….
It is a classic story that has been set to some of the most beautiful music.  For me, it is always interesting when a story like this can be told by so many different art forms.  Of course there is the original play by Shakespeare.  And most of us have probably seen the handsome Leonardo DiCaprio version (swoon).  But for me, the ballet by Prokofiev and the opera by Gounod take the story to a whole different level.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  What’s your favorite holiday?
A:  I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!!  I love decorating the house and baking cookies.  I love buying gifts for everyone and watching them open them up on Christmas morning.  And lately, I love experiencing the holiday in countries other than my own.  Two years ago, I spent Christmas in Berlin and had such a lovely time at the markets with friends and family.  This Christmas, I will be in Paris with my husband.  Very romantic, no?

Don’t miss the chance to see Stephanie in Romeo and Juliet, as Shakespeare’s classic work comes to ravishing operatic life.  Performances are November 4 and 6 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Ten Questions with Philip Skinner

Ten Questions with
Philip Skinner, bass-baritone
Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet

1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Born in Jackson, Tennessee.  Growing up, lived in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida (mostly Florida), as well as Tennessee.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
I hate to say this, but possibly banking.  Yikes.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
Colline in La Bohรจme, junior year at Northwestern.

4.  My favorite opera is…
Oh, come on…  Okay, maybe Dead Man Walking.

5.  My favorite pre-show / post-show meal is…
Before, maybe some chicken and salad (boring).  After the show, anything that includes cake.

6.  People would be surprised to know that
I ran through a sliding glass door in 8th grade. 

7.  A few of my favorite books are
To Kill a Mockingbird, The Power of Now, The Road Less Traveled, Still Life with Woodpecker, most of John Grisham’s books.

8.  What do you like to binge-watch?
Sports.

9.  What four people (living or deceased) would you like to invite for a dinner party?
Babe Ruth, Jackie Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, and Eckhart Tolle.

10.  Everyone should see Romeo and Juliet because….
Forever relevant; forever young.  If you listen and pay attention, you’ll be moved to your core.


Don’t miss the chance to see Philip in Romeo and Juliet, as Shakespeare’s classic work comes to ravishing operatic life.  Performances are November 4 and 6 in Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.