In this week’s edition of ‘Fellow Fridays’, we are proud to feature baritone Tobias Greenhalgh. Since attending the Toronto Summer Music Academy in 2013, it is clear to see why Opera News called Tobias a singer that is “clearly headed for success”. In 2015 alone, Tobias performed in the title role of Eugene Onegin, Argante (Rinaldo), Cecco (Gli Uccelatori), Le Directeur/ Gendarme (Les Mammelles de Tiresias), and Ramiro (L’heure Espangole) at the Wiener Kammeroper in Vienna, Austria while also singing the role of Schaunard (La Boheme) with Palm Beach Opera and Argante (Rinaldo) at the New Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Russia. In addition to his outstanding work as a performer, Tobias is also the co-creator of Operation Superpower, a superhero opera for kids that promotes an anti-bullying stance from early school years.
Tobias recently took the time to discuss his experience studying at the Toronto Summer Music Academy and filled us in on what his 2016 and beyond will be looking like…
1. How old were you when you started studying music? What were some of your early influences?
My first interactions with music came about when I started to take piano and cello lessons at the age of 8. It remained as an extracurricular activity for most of my childhood, and I really enjoyed playing in the orchestra for fun. However, what really opened up my mind to the theater and music worlds came to me through frequent family trips to New York City and Toronto to see Broadway musicals. I distinctly remember repeatedly playing the recordings to various musicals everywhere I went: in the car while my parents drove, at home on our stereo, and on my CD Walkman before bed each night. I didn’t really have any ambition to be on stage until I was a teenager, during which time I started to attend classical music concerts at the Eastman School of Music. I was very lucky to have a wonderful theater program at my high school, and in all honesty, some of my earliest idols were many of the talented theater students from my high school who have gone onto have major careers on Broadway. I was also tremendously lucky to have taken voice lessons at a young age from Thomas Paul, a renowned Bass and Eastman School of Music professor. I suppose that the combination of inspiration from the theater world, studying cello, and taking voice lessons led me to realize a few years later on that opera, art song, and oratorio were all a beautiful mix of my earliest musical and theatrical influences.
2. What was your experience like in the Toronto Summer Music Academy?
My experience at the Toronto Summer Music Academy was a positive period of intense study and personal growth. I found that I gained a new appreciation for art song, and developed a reliable routine for studying, preparing, and performing song repertoire. I was not totally confident in my ability to sing song repertoire before the academy, and I found that I was able gain confidence in my weak areas under the constant care of the master teachers that were present. Also, it is very rare to be able to dedicate two full weeks of time to the study of song under the guidance of some of the best artists in the business. To have an opportunity like that is invaluable at any level.
3. What did you find to be the most valuable from your studies at the Toronto Summer Music Academy?
I found that the masterclasses with artists such as Elly Ameling and Julius Drake were of most value to me. To be in an intimate environment watching and listening to such accomplished artists for days at a time, and getting the opportunity to work through each song, phrase by phrase, was enormously helpful. I was able to learn by doing, to see what worked and what didn’t, and to see how a great artist interprets and performs a song at the highest level.
4. Would you recommend the programs offered by the TSM to other musicians?
Absolutely. I would recommend the program to any singer, even if performing art song isn’t their forte. The principle lessons that I learned at TSM could be applied to any style of vocal music: developing a routine, paying attention to every detail in the score, the importance of the relationship between the music and the text, and having an intelligently developed opinion about the material that you are presenting to the public.
5. Since attending the Toronto Summer Music Academy, what have you been up to?
Since attending the Toronto Summer Music Academy, I have been involved in an eclectic mix of musical projects, but most importantly, in the Summer of 2014 I moved to Europe to join the ensemble of the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Austria. During my time in Vienna I have graciously been given the opportunity to sing such roles as Eugene Onegin, Escamillo (Carmen), Argante (Rinaldo), Peter (Handel and Gretel), Ned Keene (Peter Grimes), and Ramiro (L’heure Espagnole), which has broadly expanded my operatic repertoire and given me ample performing experience in a relatively short amount of time. In addition to my opera contract in Vienna, I have strengthened my passion for singing song repertoire by continuing to give recitals in Europe and the US. Recently, I co-created a staged version of Schubert’s “Winterreise” with Czech choreographer Martin Dvorak, which premiered in Vienna this past October, followed by a tour of the Czech Republic. Finally, I have continued to help manage the guidance of a children’s opera that I co-created while I was a student at Juilliard. The name of the piece is “Operation Superpower”, and it is a superhero themed opera for children. The goal of the piece is to help children “discover their superpower”, which we equate to a passion or a talent that a child might have, and it also introduces children to classical music in a fresh, cool, and superheroic-manner. Coincidentally, the Canadian Opera Company has recently performed our show as part of their Glencore Ensemble Studio School Tour in Ontario this past November!What are some of your musical goals for the future?
6. What are some of your musical goals for the future?
Most important for me is that I always remain inspired to learn more about my art, and constantly thrive to be a better singer, performer, and human being. For me, the inspiration comes about when I have a challenging, yet attainable musical project or production in my future. So in short, I hope to always have a constant flux of interesting and varying work, which will hopefully bring me to sing at the best opera houses and concert venues in the world. Also, I hope to always give something of value to the younger generation, whether it be through my children’s opera or mentoring students in some capacity. I think that doing this kind of work is highly rewarding and helps to keep an artist humble by remembering the challenging journey he or she made towards artistic mastery.
7. Is there any music you’re listening to currently that you find really inspiring?
Recently I have been binging on Frank Sinatra’s discography. This is mostly because I recently read James Kaplan’s biography of Sinatra’s life and career, which compelled me to listen to his musical development from the beginning of his career all the way through to his final performances. Frank had a gift for selling a tune and a unique way of developing phrases, which is really impressive considering his musical schooling was singing in the night-clubs of Hoboken and Manhattan. I don’t envy his personal struggles, but I am constantly in admiration of his musical gifts.Where can people learn more about you?
8. Where can people learn more about you?