Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.
Sound Bites: Aubrey Allicock
Photographed by Dario Acosta in New York
Grooming by Affan Malik
© Dario Acosta 2013
ubrey Allicock returns to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis this month as Young Emile in the world premiere of Champion, a work that combines jazz with opera to tell the story of a World Welterweight Champion boxer who is tortured by personal demons. Champion marks the culmination of the young bass-baritone's five-season winning streak with the company, which began with two terms as a Gerdine Young Artist, in 2009 and 2010. "My first part was the Customs Official in La Bohème, and my one line was 'Hey there, open the door.'" Allicock's assignments grew more important in each succeeding OTSL season — Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin (2010), followed by the hijacker Mamoud in The Death of Klinghoffer (2011) and the mercurial Mad Hatter in the U.S. premiere of Unsuk Chin's Alice in Wonderland (2012). "I am happy to do whatever Opera Theatre hands me, because I love them so much. The Mad Hatter was a stretch, but it was a lot of fun for me."
Allicock calls the Champion score, by jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, "gorgeous. It is truly a jazz and opera fusion. There's a lot of improvisation-style moments in there. The composer and the librettist [playwright Michael Cristofer] give you the words, and you're free to make up whatever you want in certain areas, which is true to the jazz influence. The aria that I have is more musical-theater style, really. It's beautiful."
Allicock's bass-baritone has a distinctively glossy, warm color, with increasingly impressive freedom and fullness at the top of its range. He started singing as a child, in church on the south side of Tucson, Arizona. "I didn't have my first classical voice lesson until I was in college, at Grand Canyon University. I was in a top-tier choir there called the President's Singers, and I was required to take voice lessons. I had sung only gospel and musical-theater songs, so it took a few lessons to get the technique in the body, but once the sound kind of opened up, I said, 'Well, what the hell is that? [Laughs] That's amazing!' And it started from there." Allicock moved on to Indiana University, where he received his master's degree, and is now studying at Juilliard in the ADOS diploma program. The exciting dates on his schedule in the next few seasons include a Met debut in 2014.
Champion, the first brand-new piece that Allicock has done, will be his fourth production directed by OTSL artistic director James Robinson. "It's through working with James Robinson that I've found the freedom to really express my heart, to put my own stamp on a role. If your heart is truly open to the audience, they will know it."
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
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