Baritone Jeffrey Tichenor was born in Kentucky. He studied opera performance at Murray State University, and after moving to New York City he continued his studies with Richard Barrett at Brooklyn Conservatory. Roles in his repertory include Masetto in Don Giovanni and Gugliemo in Cosi Fan Tutte both by Mozart, Harlequin in Ariadne auf Naxos by Strauss, and Albert in Werther by Jules Massenet. Tichenor performed Dr. McVeigh in Do Not Go Gentle by Robert Manno, premiered at the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice this past weekend.
I spoke with Jeffrey after his performance.
Simona David: Jeff, was this your first year at the festival?
Jeffrey Tichenor: The first year as a performer, but I attended the festival in the past.
SD: How were you cast for this role? By the way, you made a great Dr. McVeigh!
JT: I took a voice lesson with the Festival’s Artistic Director Louis Otey in 2014. I must have impressed him enough to have him cast me in this role. I am very appreciative of his support and look forward to more lessons with him and hopefully more performance opportunities.
SD: What did this role mean to you?
JT: It wasn’t until we started group rehearsals that I realized what a pivotal role Dr. McVeigh plays. He and Dr. Gilbertson are the ones trying to convince Dr. Feltenstein that his diagnosis is incorrect. The scene between the three doctors was quite intense.
SD: How many hours did you rehearse?
JT: I’m not really certain how many hours, but there were several group rehearsals in addition to a private coaching with pianist Doug Martin, and also practice on my own.
SD: How was it working with composer Robert Manno and conductor David Wroe?
JT: They were both extremely supportive. Not to mention very friendly. I had not met either of them until the rehearsals started. Immediately there was a genuine personal rapport. Composer Robert Manno was great to answer any questions the cast had regarding the score, and Maestro David Wroe was clear and concise in his conducting technique. It’s a very difficult score, which they both realized. They made suggestions to help the cast through the scenes and do their best.
SD: How about the other members of the cast? You seemed like a great team together. Did you bond right away or did it take many hours of rehearsal to getting to know each other and each other’s parts?
JT: The cast was absolutely top notch and professional, and we seemed to bond right away and lend support from the beginning. No one complained about an extra added rehearsal. There was a great sense of camaraderie to come together and really make the opera happen and shine. I personally sat in awe of many of the singers’ level of skill and professionalism. They all were truly great!
SD: Was it fun, was it difficult to work on this production?
JT: Fun yes, but of course sometimes very difficult. The opera has some very complex music, rhythms and words. There was not a lot of rehearsal time. So you really had to be on top of your game to put it all together. Not to mention, most of the scenes involved many performers. Performing an aria is one thing. You are usually on stage by yourself. But performing in ensemble, in group scenes, you are responsible to do your best for the others that are relying on you to get it right.
SD: Were you familiar with Dylan Thomas’ poetry prior to working on this production, or was it new to you? What did you take out from Thomas’ story?
JT: I am not familiar with Dylan Thomas’ poetry. That’s probably my own fault and this experience should inspire me to become more familiar with his work. I think what I took most is that many artists have many hidden issues. Alcohol, drug abuse, etc. But they are very sensitive people, and spend many hours either alone trying to work or before the public in a very raw and revealed state. It’s a difficult balance to maintain.
SD: What is your overall impression of the festival?
JT: I feel that the festival is very professionally executed, and that a lot is expected of the performers and volunteers, but if we all come together and do our best, it will be a great success. I have been attending the festival for two years now and each year gets better and better. I cannot express how fortunate I feel to have settled into a community with a world class festival less than 30 minutes from my house.
SD: Do you plan to come back next year?
JT: I certainly hope to! I’m already looking at the 2016 season to see where I might fit. And, I’m also thinking of suggestions for concerts that might happen during the day. “Hey Louis, I’d love to perform Brahms’s Liebeslieder Waltzes with a great quartet or octet or perhaps Bach’s cantata for baritone Ich habe genug!