This week’s Artist of the Week is Canadian/British bass-baritone, Giles Tomkins. Giles is currently performing the role of Parson/Badger in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen with the Canadian Opera Company (running until Feb 16). Take special note of their Relaxed Performance happening for one night only on Feb 13 (info and tickets here).
Commended for both his comic and dramatic skills, Giles has performed many roles including Timur in Turandot and Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Edmonton Opera, Pistola in Falstaff with Scottish Opera, Superintendent Budd in Albert Herring with Vancouver Opera and Pacific Opera Victoria, Leporello/Commendatore in Don Giovanni and Sergeant of Police in Pirates of Penzance with Vancouver Opera, and Don Basilio in Barber of Seville with Manitoba Opera, Pacific Opera Victoria, and Opera5. Later this season, Giles will be returning to Manitoba Opera to perform Zuniga in Carmen and performing Fafner in Edmonton Opera’s Das Rheingold.
Giles sat down with us to talk about which singers past and present inspire him, his love for the Blue Jays and New England IPA’s, and he even shared one of his best Dad jokes. Read on to find out more.
Drink of choice?
Always love to unwind with a beer. I generally lean towards a New England IPA, but I also love stouts and porters too! This past summer I began working part time at a brewery near my home called Red Tape Brewery! Come by their taproom sometime, and I’ll pour you one of their many excellent beers! 🙂
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Favourite city that you’ve worked in?
This is a tough one because I’ve been fortunate enough to sing in so many great cities throughout Canada and over in the UK. But I have to say that Victoria, BC, holds a special place in my heart. The harbour, the people, the lovely Royal Theatre….Its almost been a second home to me! Next season will mark my 9th production with Pacific Opera Victoria.
Who is a singer you admire that is currently working?
Ambur Braid – she is the Salome of our generation! I just adore her voice and her incredible commitment to this role. Also she is a wonderfully supportive colleague and person.
Who is a singer you admired from the past?
Giorgio Tozzi – his recordings of Colline and Timur to name a few remain on my “Study Playlist.” It’s a masterclass in beautiful basso cantante singing. Never pushed, always bright and focused with a gorgeous legato line.
What’s your favourite thing about singing with an orchestra?
When they’re really good and loud, the orchestra can cover up your mistakes! But seriously, my favourite rehearsal in the process of putting on an opera is always the Sitzprobe, or the first time singers get to collaborate with the orchestra and maestro, usually without the staging so everyone can focus solely on the music. It can be challenging to try to get that balance right between the orchestra pit and the stage, but when it comes together, there’s nothing more magical.
Which role do you wish you could sing, but is not in your voice type?
It has to be Fiordiligi, no question! :). “Come Scoglio” is one of the absolute tour de force arias in the whole operatic repertoire. The range, both vocally and dramatically, is extreme and you can completely take charge of the entire scene which, without this sturdy ‘rock’ of an aria, verges on completely derailing into utter chaos and ridiculousness.
Tent or hotel?
Oh definitely a hotel. I like my comforts…if anyone ever asks me to go camping, I’ll say I’ll be at Camp Hilton for the night! But I do love nature and the outdoors, don’t get me wrong! I just need my comfy bed and pillows at the end of the day.
What are you afraid of?
Centipedes – I know they serve some purpose, but I’d be so much happier if I never had to see one again in my life. Probably relates back to that question about sleeping outdoors in nature haha.
What’s your favourite non-classical band?
Besides the Beatles? I actually love Genesis – all eras, including their ‘prog rock’ phase in the 70’s. Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins are two of my favourite rock musicians and I’ve seen them both live and with Genesis countless times, including a trip to LA to see them at the Hollywood Bowl in 2007!
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
When you can’t LIVE in Italy you might as well find some good Italian cuisine locally – my wife and I enjoy Carisma in Toronto – it’s absolutely delicious and one of our favourite restaurants in Toronto. Their beef carpaccio along with fresh burrata – nothing better!
Which TV show did you binge-watch last?
Ted Lasso – it’s perfect. The comedy writing is phenomenal, and it’s sort of a nice warm hug of a show while still dealing with serious issues in a genuine way. Over the course of the show, several characters have to confront their personal trauma or their own toxic behaviour, but because every character is some flavour of “flawed but trying to be better” it winds up as a wholesome sort of comedy. That’s what I love about it. Basically nobody (with one exception) is a genuinely “bad” character, the conflicts mostly come from attempts at personal growth which is something I find very relatable.
Do you have a funny joke for us?
I love my dad jokes – however a dad joke can only BECOME a dad joke when it becomes ‘apparent’ …. What do you call Batman fleeing from a church? Christian Bale.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’m an obsessive Blue Jays fan. I try to get to at least 10 games a season, and most of the time during the summer, the game is on the tv at our house. My parents took me to my first Blue Jays game at the old Exhibition Stadium in 1985 and I’ve been cheering them on ever since. When I was young, I dreamed of being a pitcher in the MLB, but my fastball topped out at around 35-40 mph, so it was not meant to be. 🙂 My 9 year old son also loves baseball, and one of the biggest thrills of being a dad is taking him to the ballpark to experience it all again through his young eyes.
Are you a perfectionist?
I am sadly. The downside of being a bit of a perfectionist is that it can impact your performance. I’ve had to learn through A LOT of practice that it’s ok to make a mistake here or
there in performance and move on! I like to think of it as “Instant forgiveness”. Don’t let a mistake ruin the rest of the night for you! We have to be kind to ourselves as artists. We wear our hearts on our sleeves so often, and are always vulnerable to criticism.
What’s a big investment for an opera artist, but totally worth it?
A thicker skin – is that available on Amazon? 🙂 Definitely invest in a good personal steamer for travel! Continued lessons and coaching are vital as you get older. Not only does your repertoire often change with age, but your physicality will as well. Good sets of ears are essential to keep you singing well and all ‘lined up’ vocally.
LEARN MORE ABOUT GILES TOMKINS
VISIT HIS WEBSITE
Il Barbiere di Siviglia As Don Basilio with Steven Condy as Dr. Bartolo
Manitoba Opera, 2019
©Nanc Price Photography
La Traviata As Dr. Grenvil with Laquita Mitchell as Violetta
Edmonton Opera, 2018
Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen
The Canadian Opera Company
Jan 26 – Feb 16
DIRECTOR: Jamie Manton
ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR: Ruth Knight
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR:Anna Theodosakis
SET AND COSTUME DESIGNER: Tom Scutt
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Lucy Carter
MOVEMENT DIRECTOR: Jenny Ogilvie
STAGE MANAGER: Stephanie Marrs
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER:
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER:
PRICE FAMILY CHORUS MASTER:
FIGHT AND INTIMACY COORDINATOR: Siobhan Richardson
VIXEN (SHARP EARS): Jane Archibald
FOX (GOLD-STRIPE): Ema Nikolovska
FORESTER: Christopher Purves
PARSON/BADGER: Giles Tomkins
FORESTER’S WIFE/OWL: Megan Latham
LÁPAK, A DOG: Carolyn Sproule
With the COC Orchestra and Chorus
When a forest gamekeeper traps a fox and attempts to domesticate her, their encounter leads to a poignant reflection on the natural cycle of life and death, as well as our relationship with the planet. This inspiring opera invites audiences to reflect on the advancing toll of climate change and the importance of cultivating a harmonious interrelationship with the natural world.
Canadian soprano and COC favourite Jane Archibald stars as the clever fox, Sharp Ears, while COC Music Director Johannes Debus leads the COC Orchestra through Czech composer Leoš Janáček’s lush score.
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