Mo Joe’s Interview with Mark Walters

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mark-walters-selfieWhere do you call home?
Jacksonville, NC, originally from Iowa

Is this your first time to Louisville, KY?
Yes

What have been your most recent engagements?
Traviata – Florentine Opera with Maestro Mechavich
El Nino – Spoleto Festival USA
Don Giovanni – Savannah Voice Festival

What is coming up for you?
Don Giovanni – Seattle Opera
Fidelio – Opera Omaha
Tosca – Sarasota Opera

This is your first Pizarro. What are your impressions of this character?
He’s a man trying retain his power and will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

How do you prepare a role? How long does it take you?
The first thing I do whenever I get a contract is to immediately order the score and research the original performance and singers, and find the original source material – the story or play that the opera libretto is based on.

I try to work with a native language singer on the pronunciation and translation. I try to work with a coach who is also a conductor and can point tricky areas and what to expect from the conductor.  I’ve also been privileged to coach almost every role that I have preformed in the last 8 years with the great American baritone Sherrill Milnes.

When I can conduct myself from memory through the score, I know the initial memorization has been done. I also try to stage myself before I ever get to rehearsal. It’s another level of memorization and it will allow me to be more flexible and creative when I actually get to rehearsal. It usually takes me 3-6 months to prepare a role.    Some roles like Rigoletto and Scarpia I have studied for years before actually performing them.  My shortest preparation was one week for Curly in Oklahoma and one month for Count di Luna in Il Trovatore, both were prepared while in rehearsal for other productions.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Hmm….  this is my 24th year in the business and I’ve been thinking about how to extend it for another 10-15 years.  Which means doing my best to be as prepared as possible and offer a fully rounded out character at the first rehearsal of every production, continuing to move into more difficult and heavier literature, continuing to develop and maintain relationships with opera companies, symphonies, conductors and directors. And staying the best physical shape that I can, to help endure the travel and rehearsal, and to fight off young baritones coming up the ladder.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The most rewarding aspect of my career is when I feel like I have used my craft to the best of my ability to bring a character to life on stage. If I feel like I have accomplished this, then sitting at the airport after the final performance waiting to catch a plane to the next production and reviewing the next score is a hugely satisfying experience.

What is your favorite food?
I eat everything and love to try foods that I’ve never had before.

What was the title of the last book your read?
Reminiscences of a Stock Operator – Edwin Lefevre