Saturday, January 31, 2009

Maestro Musings from Kim Allen Kluge

In order to be a really good singer, you have to be an athlete. The way one breathes, the positions of standing, how the air flows in and out of the body. When you sing, you have to sing with your body. ~ Ta’u Pupu’a, former Baltimore Ravens pro football player
(Read the full ASO interview in the next post)

Ta’u Pupu’a, former Baltimore Raven pro football player and current acclaimed lyric tenor, will demonstrate his NFL-trained operatic singing apparatus on the upcoming Valentine’s Day Concerts of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, entitled O’Lovers’ Voice. 

I have had the privilege of working with world-class singers and am awed by them.  I am awed by the power of their voices and their ability to project them into vast spaces---and to do this without amplification!  I am awed by the absolute command over their vocal and breathing apparatus and the arduous physical training that is necessary to achieve such super-human things.  So the training that Ta’u Pupu’a received as a pro football player has prepared him well for the physical rigors and demands of his burgeoning career as an opera singer. 

Pupu’a’s golden tenor voice is perfectly suited to the ASO’s upcoming Valentine’s Day Concerts.   He will be joined by soprano Julie Rowling in two of the most beloved operatic love scenes--the love music from La Boheme and from Madama Butterfly. 

See the stars!
Ah, lovely night!
Thy perfect calm is breathing love
near and far!

Madama Butterfly


The two Puccini operas span different continents and cultures but share the composer’s unsurpassed ability to write ravishingly beautiful vocal and orchestral music that comes directly from the heart.

The first half of the concert is in collaboration with the Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia and will be conducted by John Niles.   Pupu’a and Rowling will be joined by mezzo Leslie Mutchler and tenor Peter Burroughts in a historic regional premiere of Ravel’s The Spanish Hours.   This masterful romantic comedy, paired with the soaring sentiment of the Puccini love scenes will take an alternately humorous and moving look at love and romance.

I hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!  See you at the concert!

Kim Allen Kluge
Music Director-Alexandria Symphony Orchestra


Friday, January 23, 2009

An Interview with Ta'u Pupu'a by Tara Conte, ASO Marketing and Box Office Manager

This weekend, I watched a play end in tragedy.

In fact, I saw a few plays that would have some diehards trying to hold back tears. My hometown Philadelphia Eagles lost the chance to go to the Super Bowl. Again. While certainly not as tragic as the plots of Shakespeare's Othello or Puccini's Madama Butterfly, there is something quite similar between sports and the performing arts. The drama, the emotional connection to the players, the standing ovations, the awe as the voice or football climbs, descends, and lands in the cradle of the music or the receiver's hands.

For former Baltimore Ravens player and current lyric tenor Ta’u Pupu’a, the connection between football and opera is immediate. “They’re really similar,” he tells me in phone interview. “In order to be a really good singer, you have to be an athlete. The way one breathes, the positions of standing, how the air flows in and out of the body. When you sing, you have to sing with your body. Being an athlete I was able to call upon my experience of playing football…Once I got into music, I knew exactly what to do, how to study, how to prepare myself. You prepare the role you’re going to sing before you tackle it.”

However, Pupu'a, whose favorite opera is Tosca, wasn't always a lover of the genre. In fact, he says, "opera didn't come into my life until two and half years ago." Born on the small Polynesian island of Tonga, Pupu'a had a passion for football (Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins) and music (R&B, rock). As the youngest of nine, his preferences were shaped by his brothers and sisters who listened to Kiss and Abba. His first introduction to classical music was in the church where his father was a preacher.

At an early age, Pupu'a moved to Salt Lake City, Utah and later attended Weber State University in Ogden. It was here that he was able to pursue a Bachelor of Music degree while on a football scholarship. The scholarship necessitated that football take center stage and Pupu'a kept his singing a secret from the other players. But when word got out about one of his performances, his fellow teammates attended and showed their support with a standing ovation.

It wasn’t only his voice that was showstopper. Pupu’a impressed Coach Bill Belichick (then with the Cleveland Browns) with his speed and strength. According to Pupu’a “Bill is known to pick underdogs…He’s a wonderful guy who takes care of his draft choices.” After stints with the Browns and the Baltimore Ravens, an injury made Pupu’a reconsider his career. He arrived in New York four years ago searching for a vocal teacher. When one took him in, “all of sudden,” Pupu’a says, “it just came. It was my calling.”

"Born to travel," Pupu'a now tours the country perfecting his craft. His recent roles include the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto for the Gateway Classical Music Society in Riverside, Connecticut; Cassio in Otello for Espresso Opera in New York City; and Maurizio in Adriania Lecouvreur for Opera in the Heights in Houston, Texas.

Now three years after his major role debut, what does Pupu'a think are the trends in opera? Movie theaters. He thinks organizations like the Metropolitan Opera that simulcast their performances at movie theaters across the country are "wonderful." Opening up price and geographic barriers, these presentations are "great because you pay 25 bucks, you have the front row, and you can sit there with your bag of popcorn." Does it get any better than friends, beautiful singers as tall as your house, and Milk Duds? (Want to experience the Met in your backyard? Theaters in Fairfax Town Center and Tysons Corner show live performances with one coming up Feb. 7).

This season will clearly be much brighter for Pupu’a than my Eagles. Falstaff at Julliard (he was accepted on a full scholarship), traveling to Italy for a month-long music festival in Tuscany, and performing at the prestigious Chautauqua Music Festival of Fine and Performing Arts in New York.


Links of Interest

The Met at the Movies
Purchase tickets to "O' Lovers' Voice" featuring Ta'u Pupu'a