Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.
Sound Bites: John Brancy
Photographed by Dario Acosta in New York
Grooming by Affan Malik
© Dario Acosta 2014
John Brancy is making his debut at Oper Frankfurt this month, singing Sonora in Christof Loy's staging of La Fanciulla del West. It's been a busy season for the baritone from Mullica Hill, New Jersey, who first attracted attention with his clean, bright, unaffected singing when he was an undergraduate at Juilliard. Brancy began 2014 in Gotham Chamber Opera's January production of Charpentier's Descente d'Orphée aux Enfers, then spent February in British Columbia, as Harlequin in Pacific Opera Victoria's Ariadne auf Naxos. Much of March was devoted to recitals, first in a Carnegie Hall "Discovery Day" all-Schubert program with Graham Johnson, then on a three-venue tour with pianist Mario Antonio Marra that took the team from Santa Barbara, California, to Manhattan's National Opera Center. The recital tour was presented by Marilyn Horne and the Music Academy of the West, where Brancy and Marra were the 2013 winners of the Marilyn Horne Song Competition.
Brancy's Horne Competition recital program contained selections by Hoagy Carmichael and Jerome Kern, as well as Schumann's Dichterliebe and the world premiere of Force, by American composer Chris Kapica. Brancy's penchant for eclecticism began developing early in his Juilliard career, when he worked with Steven Blier, cofounder of the New York Festival of Song, in recital at Caramoor and in NYFOS programs. "Working with Steven was definitely a magical moment," says Brancy. "He allowed me to get used to that feeling of being alone onstage with the pianist and singing an entire hour of music. I'd never done that before. The greatest reward when you're doing song work is that it's about the program that you put together and the story that you're telling. It's not so much about this piece, that piece, this one's famous, this one's not so famous. It's more about the overarching story and the journey that you're taking the audience on with you."
Brancy's calendar holds upcoming dates with Ottawa's Opera Lyra, Glyndebourne on Tour and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; his list of dream roles is headed by Billy Bigelow in Carousel, Pelléas and Mendelssohn's Elijah. "And Parsifal. I know I'll probably never sing it, but why not dream big?" While at Juilliard, Brancy helped others to dream big when he co-founded Operation Superpower, a company that has developed an opera designed to "inspire kids to discover their own superpowers." Working in conjunction with Young Audiences, Brancy, fellow baritone Tobias Greenhalgh, pianist Peter Dugan and composer Armand Ranjbaran presented thirty performances of Discovering Your Superpower in schools in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in 2013. "Whether or not we are able to keep exploring this project as we all move on to whatever is next for each of us in this business, it has been an incredible experience. Being an advocate for the arts — and for education — will always be a part of who I am as a singer."
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
Send feedback to OPERA NEWS.