Returning to New York Festival of Song this month in two tour performances of Arias and Barcarolles and other Bernstein Songs, and in December’s performances of A Goyishe Christmas to You!, Joshua Jeremiah is a “rich-voiced” baritone (The New York Times) and our Artist of the Month!
You have performed in NYFOS’s annual holiday show A Goyishe Christmas to You! almost every year since Steve created it in 2010. Are there any other roles or pieces that you’ve returned to over and over in your career? How has your approach to performing those works changed over time?
I think I’ve only missed one year of our Goyishe concert, which definitely puts it in the running for my most performed role… if you could consider it that. I haven’t had the opportunity to repeat many of the roles I’ve performed. I did several productions of a play, The Last Romance by Joe DiPietro written for the lovely and talented Marion Ross and her longtime partner Paul Michael, and probably totaled 200+ performances… but they rack up quick in 8 show weeks. The tricky part about that, is keeping it fresh after so many curtains. But I think it is a testament to the writing and performances in that piece, it never seemed to drift away emotionally. It would still hit me hard, even at the end of the run.
Speaking operatically, I think Silvio might be the role I’ve sung most… a whopping 4 productions. I think I have more premieres than I do repeat roles. The only thing that changes if I’ve done a work before, is that I don’t have to buy a score (hopefully), highlight it, or find recordings. Other than that, I don’t really change much. I try to go into every new production as open as possible.
When you are working on a new (or new to you) piece, how do you begin? What is the first thing you do when you get a new score?
I immediately skim the entire piece, looking at range, getting a sense of the plot, searching for big emotional beats, while highlighting my part along the way. I usually lean either pink or yellow. Then I translate, although I do a surprising amount of English opera, so sometimes I get to skip this step. I make a text notebook, and do most of my memorization from that.
Like many opera singers, your work takes you all over the country. Where is your home base at the moment, and how did choose it? How do you help yourself feel at home quickly when you are away on a gig?
I live in Astoria, Queens with my wife, Dana, and puppy, Hamlet. We’ve been here for a decade, moving here after college. Dana moved here for theater, and I moved here for opera, so it just seemed to make sense.
As long as I have internet, I never feel that far away from home. Dana and I send video messages to each other throughout the day, so even though I’m away, I always feel like I have my family. Oddly, I find that I shop at Trader Joe’s a lot on the road, and I think there is something about that “road diet” that is comforting.
You recently performed in the world premiere of a sensual new opera When Adonis Calls, which was reviewed on the Barihunk blog. Do you notice an increase in the attention paid to the physiques of male performers in the opera world in recent years? Is this something that factors into your preparation for certain roles or productions?
It is a lovely show. Beautiful music, funny and sweet, a little dirty… definitely NSFW. As to the question of physique, I think the trend to hunkify singers absolutely exists. But I was ‘advised’ in a YAP audition to lose 40 lbs “if I wanted to have a career” so I can’t really speak to if it is getting worse or not, but I do think that opportunities to perform are diminishing, and the pool of talent is swelling. A lot of people listen with their eyes, and there are advantages to looking better than everyone else. That said, I never did lose those 40 lbs… But I do go to the gym a lot more if the character is supposed to be fit. I’ve been shirtless a few times, and completely nude for Adonis. I think as long as the audience is expecting dadbod, then I’m good to go.
What projects are you most excited about at the moment and why?
I’m singing the role of Lt Horstmayer in Silent Night this November at Minnesota Opera. It’s a role debut and a house debut, so that always gets me a little more hyped, plus I love the show.
If you could sing with any performer from the past, whom would you pick? What would you sing?
Franco Corelli, and any Verdi duet he wants… although Otello excerpts would be a lot of fun.
What was the last music you listened to before answering these questions?
I’m working on a project with The Angel’s Share, where I am The Monster from Frankenstein, and I was working on that. Music by Gregg Kallor. Good stuff.
When you aren’t making music, what is your favorite way to spend your time?
I love to just stay in with my wife. Make food, watch some TV, walk the dog. I’m pretty introverted most of the time, and prefer relaxation. Maybe some board games with friends? If I’m on the road, I like going to breweries, hiking, or relaxing and playing video games on my laptop.
What is your favorite song? (Qualify your answer to this possibly impossible question as needed.)
I love this question. So short, so direct, and so impossible to answer. In response to such a question, the answer should be similarly short, direct, and impossible. The Greatest by They Might Be Giants