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Rising Stars Pershall lg 1015
Pershall’s new season at Vienna’s Staatsoper includes Manon Lescaut, starring Anna Netrebko.
© Dario Acosta

DAVID PERSHALL’s well-knit, warm and expressive lyric baritone works well in a wide range of repertory; he seems born to play Thomas’s Hamlet, with its blend of emotional turbulence and musical suavity. In 2014, his talents earned him a fest contract at Vienna’s Staatsoper.

Pershall, who grew up in Temple, Texas, considers that his life is about “still working on everything with all of my voice, all of the time. Once you get to a certain spot in your career, every performance has to be as good or better than the last. When I began to study, I struggled with having to line out the first passage for the baritone — A-natural, B-flat, B-natural. Those pitches in particular gave me a riot. I had a good low and a good top, but somewhere in the middle, it went a little wonky.”

Pershall has given a lot of thought to the future of being an opera performer. “Things are shifting in terms of acting for high-definition broadcast versus acting for the theater,” he says. “What’s the main emphasis — are we really focused on the screen right now, the close-up shots? That kind of acting is extremely different from the kind of acting required to get to the gallery. Are we heading in ten years to being a digital medium, where everyone can find any performance all over the world at any moment? I think, what’s it all for? I think that’s a pretty big shift for most musicians. We come from a conservatory background, where the focus is on the voice. Here in Vienna, audiences attend live theater all the time. The demand for acting onstage is different here from what it is in most places. And I find myself thinking, ‘Let’s just tell the story.’ That’s why we go. We want to be moved.”

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