- Where were you born and raised?
I was born on the far South Side of Chicago and raised in a suburb in Southwestern Chicagoland, not too far from Midway Airport.
- Where did you go to school?
I went to college at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin as a double major in Biology (concentration in Paleontology) and Musical Theatre. I graduated in 2015, and after a year off, I went to the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University to pursue my Master’s in Music. I just graduated in 2018!
- Who is your favorite opera singer?
That’s so difficult! I would have to say Susanna Phillips. Her passion to succeed through adversity and dramatic prowess on the stage has set her apart as the best example for what all young singers should want to achieve. The way she brings classical music into her community is both exciting and inspiring.
- My favorite opera is…
Another tough one. I would say my favorite opera goes back and forth between Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Bernstein’s Candide.
- What is your dream role?
Figaro in The Barber of Seville. I could sing only that role for the rest of my life. Oh, and Marcello in La Bohème.
- What are you most excited about for this upcoming Madison Opera season?
I’m most excited to dive back into Cav/Pag for the second time, in particular Pagliacci. Leoncavallo is one of my favorite composers, and after doing this double bill a year ago, I’ve begun to explore more of his music and understand him stylistically. I’m excited to see how my perception of the piece changes, how the relationships change, how the story slightly varies, and to finally do this piece with a full orchestra.
- What is your favorite memory of performing on stage?
That’s a three-way tie:
1) I was a supernumerary in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2016 production of Nabucco with Tatiana Serjan. She did something on that stage I will never forget. Near the end of her first aria, she sang a cadenza up into her stratosphere, and I realized that the sound was no longer coming from her, but bouncing off the back wall of the theater. It shook me to the core and I went into a trance until I was awoken by the loudest applause I have heard in my life.
2) I was in high school playing my first speaking role, Marley in A Christmas Carol. I was chained to a harness held by two of my classmates, which shook as I lunged at Scrooge. Now, I was a football and hockey player hadn’t quite learned my own strength yet, so every night I would accidentally pull my two classmates on stage. That is until the Sunday performance, when they pulled hard to stop me – so hard that I fell off the stage and chipped my front tooth (it was already fake, because… you know, I played hockey). I had to crawl back on stage and fight through this weird experience.
3) My senior year of college, we performed Man of La Mancha, where I sang the Duke/Dr. Carrasco. At one point he transforms himself into the Knight of Mirrors in an attempt to defeat Don Quixote and convince him he is not a knight. This involved me putting on a whole suit of armor – and more importantly, taking off a whole suit of armor. During my last quick change into the finale on closing night, I struggled to get out of my costume. With the help of the costume crew, I made it back on stage in time, but realized my pants were not done and I was missing my suspenders. So I did my best to hold my pants up with my legs alone for the next ten minutes until curtain call. My bow became a pretty exciting show for the rest of my cast.
- When did you know you wanted to pursue Opera as a career?
When I saw it as viable. I really struggled with self-esteem and self-criticism musically during college. People kept telling me that I had the voice to succeed, but I wouldn’t believe them, because I thought I was being pitied. It wasn’t until I found success through many auditions in my gap year that I found self-worth in my voice. Since then I have been confident that this career was the correct choice.
- I like to binge-watch…
I just binge-watched Westworld and my life is forever changed. I never watch TV, but if I do, it’s usually the Science Channel.
- People would be surprised to know…
…I lost my front tooth from hockey, I am color-blind, I am an internationally presented paleontologist, and I just started my own star party out west.
- Bonus: One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer).
Q. Do you want to go the museum?
A. My answer is always yes.
Find out more about Stephen and our other 2018/19 Studio Artists, and don’t miss hearing him perform this season!