Marcus is one of the founders of Promenade Opera Project and also will be sining Benjamin/ Publio for the Blue cast of Justice or Mercy (a modern immersive adaptation of Mozart's La CLemenza di Tito).
POP: Where are you from? How did you first get interested in opera or musical theatre?
Marcus: I am originally from New Fairfield, CT and I will be pursuing my Master of Music in Vocal Performance from The Boston Conservatory at Berklee in the Fall.
I first got interested in opera/ music theatre by the 5th grade but I don’t remember a time when I didn’t like the drama and feeling of being on stage. I started doing musicals in high school. When I was a junior, my choral teacher said that I could do singing and
theatre for a living if I wanted to and that thought blew my mind. I immediately started
taking voice lessons. When I went to college at Bucknell University and studied with the
late Catherine “Kay” Payn, she was a huge champion in the opera world for American
opera with its unique music settings and vulnerable journeys illuminated in the story.
Magda’s aria from The Consul “To this we’ve come…” was more than enough to
enrapture me from that point on.
POP: What are your dream roles?
Marcus: My dream roles include Phillippe II from Verdi’s Don Carlo, Pelléas from Pelléas et Mélisande, and Nick Shadow from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.
They’re all very different roles but they have strong emotional intentions that I would love to explore.
POP: What's a role you would never sing that you would like to sing?
Marcus: I would love to sing Judith from Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. I think both of the two roles are equally emotionally engaging and challenging so being able to sing from the victim’s standpoint would be so powerful. Also, Jessye Norman has sung the role and I would love to sing anything that she has!
POP: How should we as interpretive artists deal with works that are highly politicized and potentially sexist?
Marcus: I think that we should feel free to tackle these issues head-on; I think it’s practically our duty as artists to challenge not only ourselves in the development of our craft and ideas but to challenge the world around us and to question that which has come before us. Already by changing the genders of the female pants-roles to actual females raises an interpretative challenge to the relationships that were originally created in La Clemenza di Tito. Changing the setting of the opera to modern-day “House of Cards"- esque situation diminishes the original intentions of the opera but let’s us tackle the same power struggles and hyper-masculine relationships through our own eyes. What’s also great about the way we are tackling these issues in the opera is that Titus (Tito) and Benjamin (Publio) don’t think twice about the women who play large roles in the political sphere and the services they have paid to their country over time. By eliminating the gendered power struggle we can focus on the human aspects of the struggles.
POP: What do you think is the best way to make opera relevant to the next generation?
Marcus: The best way to make opera relevant to the next generation is to show that it is not this completely inaccessible art form. Every opera has a way to demonstrate the very human feelings that we all feel or ways to make the fantastic so enthralling. I think it’s best to introduce opera in an unconventional setting or in a modern adaptation and show them the way to more structured or traditional opera in a large theatre to see that the same effects and feelings can translate in that environment. I think that both performance practices are valid and important to the continuation of this art-form.
POP: Who is your character and how do you see them?
Marcus: I am playing Benjamin (Publio) who is the chief of staff in this government. He strives to maintain order while Titus’ structure starts to unravel. He is unwaveringly loyal to Titus because he is the first president throughout Benjamin’s career that has not been a corrupt or slimy politician that was driven by a thirst for power; Titus is compassionate and looks out for the betterment of the people and the country. Benjamin appreciates this change in leadership and hates to see the results of Titus’ leadership, however fragile, be challenged by such a heinous act.
POP: What do you love about this interpretation of Tito? What’s challenging?
Marcus: What I love is about this interpretation of Tito is that it’s no longer just Mozart’s last opera, an opera seria that is rarely performed, and something that could so easily be a boring story. By making a production so relevant to this electric political climate that currently exists and having a mobile staging that allows both the performers and the audience to exist in “real-life” is more exciting and engaging than I think I would normally experience in a traditional staging.
POP: What’s your favorite moment in the opera?
Marcus: My favorite moment in the opera is Victoria’s confession to planning Titus’
assassination. It’s that kind of vulnerability that I love in opera where a person’s
humanity is on full display. And the aria is gorgeous and wrenching in both music and
text, that’s great too.
POP: What do you think will be special about doing this as a promenade adaptation?
Marcus: There’s no one way to stage these “real-life” events. While obviously we still have to worry about the audience seeing faces and hearing the music, it exists on the same place as the audience. There’s no barrier to breach so anything that we (the performers) do, the audience can immediately engage with it.
POP: Most importantly... which will you vote for: Justice or Mercy?
Marcus: I like the prospect of messing with tradition too much not to say Justice. It’s such a strong deviation from the original ending that the entire rest of the opera will be colored by this choice. Benjamin would like Mercy so that he can believe Titus is not like other power- hungry leaders but the law is still the law, after all.