5 Questions with Brandon Jovanovich
Tenor Brandon Jovanovich can currently be seen as knight Walther von Stolzing in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, but he first made his San Francisco Opera debut in 2007 as Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly. Since then, he has thrilled San Francisco audiences as Luigi (Il Tabarro) in Il Trittico in 2009; as Siegmund and Froh in the 2011 Ring cycle; in the title role of Lohengrin (2012); and as Sam Polk (Susannah) in 2014.
1. When did you first start singing, and how did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?
I first started singing in a very informal manner when I was a kid. I don't remember the exact age, but I'm thinking 4-5. My mom would sit at the piano and play Broadway tunes, Born Free, Christmas songs, and I would be the one (I have two other siblings) that would sit by her and howl along. She'd roll the chords, and we'd both croon. I guess that is when I first started to sing at an extremely informal level. I recall all my my music classes throughout my schooling rather well. I sang in the 8th grade choir, then again in 10-12 grades as well. I was given the role of Captain Georg van Trapp in The Sound of Music as a senior in high school and that probably planted the bug in my brain keep at it.
As a freshman in college, I took my first voice lesson as an elective, and when I transferred to Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ) I went as a vocal performance major. I ended college with a BS in Acting and minor in Music. I eventually wound up in New York City and after a few years of struggling, trying my hand at pretty much everything BUT opera, I was able to squeak by the audition for Santa Fe Opera's Apprentice Program. It was there that the finally started to think of opera as a viable way to make a living, and follow my passion to boot.
2. How do you balance life as an international opera star with your family life?
Balancing my life as an international opera singer with my family (three kids and a wife, too!) is one of the hardest things that I do on a daily basis. It is extremely hard to watch my kids grow up on FaceTime and maintain a healthy relationship with my wife...but we do. Its been a hard slog, but Cara (my wifey) reminds me that when I am home I get quality time in. I don't have a 9-5 that keeps me away. I'm there, I'm present and invested, and we are able to get a lot of time in as a family. They travel a lot, and I work at the Lyric Opera of Chicago quite a bit too, so I am able to be at home for a couple of months. I've started to take more time off in the summers as well as around the holidays. Overall though, it is the one thing about this business that really gets to me.
3. You were here for the Ring Cycle in 2011. What do you most enjoy about singing Wagner?
Wagner always seemed like such a mountain to climb. It still is, but boy, once you open your mouth and start to sing some of his tunes it becomes an almost tangible feeling. I am very passionate about music in general (sometimes too much), but Wagner has these ebbs and flows, these long lines and frequent dynamic swells within his music that speak to me. I feel elated standing onstage, hearing the woodwinds, brass, strings and timpani supporting and flowing forth with such vigor and emotion that it is thrilling. All of this, including my colleagues onstage, contribute to this immense musical outpouring that is just phenomenal when you are a part of it.
4. What drew you to the role of Walther in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg?
As far as Meistersinger is concerned, I truly never considered singing it. It is a beast, more so than Lohengrin in my opinion, and definitely a more difficult sing than Siegmund. I had turned down an early request to sing it, but when San Francisco Opera asked, I thought it was time. I had listened to a few recordings, studied some of the harder bits, and thought that with a little finesse, hard work, and pacing that it would be a lot of fun to sing. It is riddled with gorgeous melodies, and hey...I get the girl!
5. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re in San Francisco?
My favorite thing to do in San Francisco is easy...OPERA! Now, beyond the myriad of rehearsals and performances, I do love it here. I am pretty regimented for the most part though. Whilst rehearsing I try to get to the gym, eat healthy, walk a lot, talk to my family and read. When the show is up and running, I get out more. I like to eat out at the different places around the city and explore. I usually rent a car and get out of the city, too. It's lovely around here and there is so much to see and do. I like to go to the beach, Muir Woods, Monterey Bay area, and the wine country. Truly, a fantastic place to create some amazing music!