GF native Michael Marcotte breaks into NYC opera world
Lots of young actors and singers probably dream of working with the famous, acclaimed directors, composers, musicians and songwriters whose work they admire and are lucky enough to perform.
For Grand Forks native Michael Marcotte, his New York City career in opera and musical theater has led to a friendship with Stephen Schwartz, who wrote music and lyrics for "Godspell," "Pippen" and "Wicked," among other shows.
"I had done 'Pippen' in 1995 at Central (High School in Grand Forks)," Marcotte said, "and to finally sing it with the man at the piano in a duet, to have that moment with him, was amazing."
Marcotte, who played the Irish Tenor in the Schwartz opera "Séance on a Wet Afternoon," accompanied Schwartz and operatic soprano Lauren Flanigan to a house in the Hamptons for a private performance for a benefactor of the arts and his friends. That's when he and Schwartz sang together, Marcotte said.
The benefactor was David Koch, co-owner and executive vice-president of Koch Industries and one of the richest men in the U.S., and also half of the conservative Koch Brothers, who fund some Tea Party organizations and other right-wing causes.
Marcotte, who graduated from Central High School and Concordia College in Moorhead, performed the Irish Tenor part (sung from off stage) for "Séance on a Wet Afternoon" when it had its New York City opera debut in April. Schwartz wrote the opera based on the 1964 Kim Stanley/Richard Attenborough film about a self-styled London psychic who schemes to gain celebrity. The piece was commissioned by Opera Santa Barbara and Marcotte has been involved since the beginning and sang in the 2009 world premier in Santa Barbara.
Marcotte got the part in "Séance," at least in part, on the recommendation of a friend from his Concordia College days, Charity Wicks, a New York City pianist and musical director who grew up at Oklee, Minn., and who -- as luck would have it -- was a rehearsal accompanist for Schwartz.
Because the audience doesn't see him when he's singing his lilting song about a far-away laddie, Marcotte says he's not sure he's getting the best exposure to opera audiences.
"It was kind of weird, but I'll take it," he said. "Some things have already come from it. I have established myself as an opera and theater presence."
"Vinkensport" is one of Marcotte's next projects. Marcotte has been cast "Vinkensport, The Finch Opera" by David T. Little, a selection for New York City Opera VOX, an annual workshop of previously un-produced works performed by a full orchestra and roster of soloists.
The opera is about an obscure Belgian folk competition that pits chaffinches (and their owners) against each other in a battle to see who has the most melodious bird. Marcotte's role is as a coked-up piece of Eurotrash who cheats by injecting his finch with testosterone.
"Although a seemingly simple and gentle competition, access to the competitor's inner monologues and flashbacks to their preparations reveal deception, deep-seated rivalries, painful loneliness, and blossoming romance," says a description of the work.
Marcotte wants his career to ride the new wave between theater and opera and to find audiences that want great music and stories told in a compelling way that reflects the way we live now. Audiences are no longer willing to sit back and say, "Oh, that sounds pretty," he said.
"People require better story telling and better acting, instead of the old park and bark, where the old opera stars stood there and sounded amazing," Marcotte said. "People want more, they want the acting, the emotion and the feeling, the beautiful intricate music."
Marcotte recently spent time visiting the Grand Forks area and said he was pleased to see music and arts additions being built at Red River and Central high schools. It shows that people here realize the value of the arts in education and still support the arts when so many schools around the country are cutting their programs.
"It's so cool to see," he said.
For more about Marcotte, go to michaelmarcotteonline.com.
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