Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.
Sound Bites: Tom Corbeil
Photographed in Boston by Jörg Meyer
Grooming by Lynne Avallone
© Jörg Meyer 2012
Tom Corbeil has been hitting low E-flats all over North America this season — but he hasn't been singing any opera. Explanation? Since September 2011, the thirty-four-year-old bass-baritone — who has won great notices over the past several years in Mozart, Haydn, Rossini and Puccini roles — has been on tour as Lurch, the taciturn butler in Broadway's The Addams Family. This month alone, Corbeil is scheduled to strut Lurch's stuff in Madison, Wisconsin; St. Paul, Minnesota; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and his hometown of San Diego, California.
Although Corbeil says he has no intention of moving away from opera permanently — there are confirmed dates on his 2012–13 calendar for Rossini's Basilio at Michigan Opera Theatre and Rodolfo in Florida Grand Opera's La Sonnambula — he is enjoying his current stint as a touring actor. "I'm not singing for the entire show, so it's not as stressful as if I were doing eight Collines or eight Leporellos a week — it's more akin, from a purely vocal standpoint, to doing eight performances a week of the Marquis d'Obigny in La Traviata. That comes with its own stress, because you have a very short amount of time to make a very strong impression — or to make a very strong failure!"
This particular Broadway detour is not the first time Corbeil's career path has taken an unexpected turn. After completing an undergraduate degree in statistics at the University of California at Davis and a master's degree in Old Testament studies at Regent College in Vancouver, Corbeil worked for three years for the U.S. Navy as a data analyst in San Diego and joined the chorus at San Diego Opera, which started him on his current journey. "When we did Don Carlo with Ferruccio Furlanetto [in 2004], that sealed the deal for me. You can't be onstage with Furlanetto and not be inspired." He quit his day job, and within the next few seasons, Corbeil polished his craft as a young artist at Opera North and Palm Beach Opera, spent a summer in the Merola program and completed two seasons at Santa Fe Opera.
Corbeil, who says he would "love — love — to sing all the bass and baritone roles in Don Giovanni," can see himself eventually moving into bass roles full-time. "That low E-flat for Lurch — in three rounds of auditions, I sang it for them seven or eight times, and I think I hit it twice. Maybe. But through the rehearsal process, the note just became more comfortable. Which is why I think Sarastro is maybe more of a reasonable choice for me now. Osmin I'll leave for another twenty years!"
F. PAUL DRISCOLL