Our next Adler Profile features tenor & first-year Adler Fellow A.J. Glueckert
who hails from Portland, Oregon. A.J. is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and is a former young artist at both Utah Festival Opera and Minnesota Opera. He was a 2012 participant in the Merola Opera Program and is also a former Apprentice Artist at Santa Fe Opera. His past performances include the role of Crown Prince in the world-premiere of Kevin Puts' Silent Night
at Minnesota Opera and Opera Philadelphia; Mr. Owens in Argento's Postcard from Morocco
for the Merola Opera Program; and the Drum Major in Berg's Wozzeck
with Opera Parallèle. He will make his San Francisco Opera debut this summer in the world-premiere production of Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene
(check out his feature profile on San Francisco Classical Voice here
). An avid sports fan, A.J. looks forward to rooting on the Portland Trailblazers and other Pacific Northwest teams throughout the season.
What was your earliest exposure to classical music? When did you begin performing and at what point did you decide to pursue it as a career?
Musical literacy and exposure to live theater is very important to my parents, and as they tell the story I was about 4 years old and we were seeing Peter Pan
at Northwest Children's Theater (NWCT) in Portland, Oregon and at intermission I got up from my seat and began walking toward the stage. When my mother finally corralled me she asked me where I was going to which I responded "Mom. I have to be up there". Shortly after that I was enrolled in classes and short plays. Another quick and amusing anecdote from my days at NWCT: I was cast that same year as Prince Charming in a play lab (NWCT has short, 30-45 min shows written by their artistic director Carolyn Newsom which are sort of musical condensed versions of popular fairy tales) and I arrived to the first day of rehearsal without my script. Carolyn informed me that I had to bring my script to class, I informed her that not only was I memorized, but that I couldn't't read anyway, so it didn't't matter. I have since learned to behave better around my directors.
Do you have any musical influences beyond classical music? Who inspires you artistically?
I grew up singing music from the 40's and 50's (doo wop, barbershop etc.) From there I found my way into musical theater where I was able to use my dance training, until I really found a home in opera. I'm generally inspired by visual art. I had a brilliant Art History teacher in high school and from her I learned how to study an era, the social climate etc. through the art. The popular art of the time as well as what was being produced but not necessarily successfully. I find the works of Modigliani, Soutine and De Chirico to be particularly inspiring at the moment (all well represented at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia where I sang the Kronprinz in Silent Night
(Above: A.J. Glueckert performs in the 2012 Merola Grand Finale. Photo: Kristen Loken.)
You're a Pacific Northwest boy at heart and are no stranger to San Francisco since you completed your formal musical training at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music - is San Francisco considered your home base? What do you love most about this city? Do you consider yourself the local expert amongst your other Adler colleagues?
Of course I consider myself the expert! The weather is a heck of a lot better than it is back home. I think the Bay Area will be where I end up putting down roots at some point, but I'm ready to float with the career for a while. I can't imagine not having this be my home now that you mention it, it's delightful to be near enough to my family in Portland that I can get a plane after rehearsal in time for dinner with my family. I love the people I've met here, people from school, people in and around the opera and also friends from the Pacific Northwest that have come down to work (mostly in the tech industry). I think the good sized city while still being on the west coast is the best way to go.
What are some of your favorite locales in the city?
Napa and Sonoma generally, but Frogs Leap Winery specifically, although don't tell anyone, they have a rather small case production and I wouldn't't want to miss out! I also love the Russian Hill area. It's so beautiful I can't help but find reasons to go over there. I try and get to farmer's markets as often as possible, particularly when they are as beautiful as they are in San Francisco.
You created the role of the Crown Prince in the world-premiere of Kevin Put's Pulitzer Prize winning opera 'Silent Night' and you will make your SFO Debut playing a number of pivotal roles in the world-premiere of Mark Adamo's 'The Gospel of Mary Magdalene' (including covering Bill Burden in the role of Peter) -- what are some of the most rewarding aspects of creating a role for the first time and how do you go about approaching the material?
Actually, the most rewarding thing for me has been working with the great artists. In Minnesota I had the opportunity to work with Maestro Michael Christie and Bill Burden both. Being a young tenor, I was really inspired by the work and process of Bill Burden. The way he approaches the material for the first time with the text and language first and how that informs the way he uses his voice and his physicality are particularly impressive. Its surprisingly difficult to blaze a path in a new role, but to have had a long and storied career of doing just that as Bill has, that's the guy I want to watch in rehearsal.
Word on the street is that you nearly pursued a career as a lawyer when you chose a music career over law school -- what was that decision like and do you think you'd ever want to pursue that law degree down the line?
The opportunity to work with a company like the San Francisco Opera made it an easy decision. To return to my voice teacher Cesar Ulloa and have a couple years to really work on my singing helped sweeten the deal. I felt a little exasperated after missing a few opportunities last year but the most important thing for me was to do something that I can make a difference in and something that I could be successful in. I feel like that thing is opera.
(Adler Fellows Philippe Sly, A.J. Glueckert, and Hadleigh Adams at the Merola Opera Gala. Photo: Drew Altizer.)
Besides you SFO Debut this summer season what are you most looking forward to in the coming year of your Adler Fellowship?
I hate to sound like a broken record, but the fantastic artists, conductors and music staff at the San Francisco Opera. Before the season starts we as Adlers work very closely with the Director of the Opera Center Sheri Greenawald and the Director of Musical Studies Mark Morash. I'm looking forward to working with them again once things settle down a bit. I worked extensively on Mary Magdalene
with Head of Music Staff John Churchwell and I can't wait to study more roles with him. He has a way of describing the colors he wants in my singing, and he never lets me settle for less than a strong choice. Oh, and singing the Steersman in Dutchman
next year. Thats a dream come true!
When you're not singing what are some of the activities you can be found doing?
Perusing farmer's markets, playing racquet sports and partaking in the various eating and drinking establishments in and around the Bay Area.