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Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Theo Hoffman

A native New Yorker returns to Missouri. 
by F. Paul Driscoll 

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Photographed by Coral von Zumwalt at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles
Grooming by Tracy Moyer/The Rex Agency
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Tales of Hoffman: baritone Theo, on trial in St. Louis this month
© Dario Acosta

THEO HOFFMAN, who sings Joseph K. in this month’s U.S. premiere of Philip Glass’s Trial at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, made his debut with the company in 2013, as a Gerdine Young Artist. Hoffman covered principal roles in The Kiss and The Pirates of Penzance, in which he did a scene-stealing turn as one of the bumbling policemen in Act II. His sad-eyed, silent double-takes and sharply timed gestures marked Hoffman as the rare singer who feels his music with his entire body. “That season in St. Louis was just after my first year at Juilliard, and that Pirates was the most wonderful experience I’ve ever been a part of. I had never been exposed to the beauty of this community of artists that is our industry. To see it in action—to realize that it’s not about one person, but about what everyone brings to the process—was incredible.”

Born and raised in Manhattan, Hoffman received much of his schooling on West Sixty-Fifth Street—first at LaGuardia High School and then (after a brief stint at Eastman School of Music) at Juilliard. His poised, clear baritone and professional-class acting were clear assets in Juilliard’s Mamelles de Tirésias, in which his trim, fast-moving Directeur won full marks for authority and grace,and as Papageno, a role he was born to sing, in Die Zauberflöte. He’s also impressive in recital: he is a favorite performer at New York Festival of Song and returns this season for his second summer of chamber music at the Marlboro Festival. “I sang the Marlboro premiere of Othmar Schoeck’s Notturno, this massive, amazing monologue for baritone and string quartet. I proposed the piece, they programmed it, and I had no idea what I was getting into. Daily struggle. It kicked my ass, but it was one of the most satisfying projects ever.” 

Hoffman, who turns twenty-four during the run of The Trial, moved to Los Angeles in 2016 as a member of LA Opera’s Domingo–Colburn–Stein Young Artist program. Over late-morning coffee at the Daily Dose, Inc.—a café in Los Angeles’s arts district that he calls “my spot”—Hoffman says, “Being here in L.A. is the most wonderful shift. I love New York, and I love the energy it gives me, but I was starting to get stressed out by the feeling that you always need to be doing something in New York. You can’t just exist. You can do that here.” spacer 

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