Readers, if you’re like the folks on our Opera Canada team, you have a running list of questions that you’d love to ask your favourite Canadian operatic artists. So, we’re asking. In our series of interviews, called Shop Talk, we’re checking in with Canada’s singers, directors, conductors, and more, to ask them some of our most pressing curiosities. Next up: Shop Talk with Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins:
What’s an onstage memory that you’ll have forever?
“In 2009, I sang one of my favourite roles, Papageno, with Opera Lyra Ottawa at the National Arts Centre. I’ll never forget the dramatic incident that took place in the audience during one of the performances, at the end of Papageno’s third aria, in which he almost commits suicide. An audience member was so convinced I would take my life, in desperation they left their seat on the orchestra level and ran to the front row of the top balcony, several metres above the stage. This daring individual proceeded to climb over the front of the balcony in an attempt to rescue me, even though I was already in the midst of my love duet with Papagena. From the stage, I heard a distracting commotion in the audience, but the show went on. After the show, I learned that thankfully someone in the lower balcony had grabbed hold of the dangling ‘rescuer’s’ legs and pulled them to safety. I was very grateful the individual wasn’t hurt.”
What would you consider a great opera for someone’s first time seeing one?
“Puccini all the way. I would highly recommend La Bohème, Tosca or Madama Butterfly for first-timers.”
If you could do any other job in opera – singer, conductor, director, stage manager, designer, etc. – which would it be?
“Although I live for the electricity of performing, if I couldn’t be a singer, I would still want to experience the magical energy of live performance from backstage. Given my obsessive attention to order and detail, and my ability to keep calm under pressure, I think I would really enjoy being a stage manager. Actually, I already have some experience: my first assignment as a freshman in McGill University’s opera program was to stage manage a production of Giulio Cesare!”
Who’s on your opera roles bucket list?
“Eugene Onegin and Pelléas. With a side of Hamlet.”
What’s something tricky about singing in English that non-singers might not think of?
“Singing in English is completely different than speaking in English! Much of my technical work has been to undo all of the bad speaking habits I’ve developed, which for me traps the sound in my throat and doesn’t release it into the opera house.”