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

Sound Bites: Edward Parks

The baritone makes his Santa Fe Opera debut as an American icon.
By F. Paul Driscoll 

Sound Bites Edward Parks hdl 717
Photograph by Dario Acosta
Grooming by Affan Graber Malik
Sound Bites Edward Parks sm 717
Edward Parks, ready to illuminate the title character in The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs © Dario Acosta

EDWARD PARKS'S warm, sunny, expansive baritone has an innately sympathetic sound that has served him well as some of opera’s classic “good guys”—Sharpless, Marcello, Valentin and especially Rossini’s Figaro, which he sang at the Met this past season. This summer, the Indiana, Pennsylvania native takes on a much more complex contemporary character—the title role in Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, an opera by Mason Bates about the late cofounder of Apple, Inc. Opening night is July 22.

Parks has prepared to play Jobs by “reading as many articles on him as I could find—the big TIME cover story on him, and so on. I saw the documentaries. The fascinating thing about him—one of the many fascinating things about him, I should say—is that Steve Jobs was essentially a private person operating as a public figure. Everyone knows the ‘greatest hits’ of Steve Jobs’s life—what he was like as a boss, how he treated his daughter. To present him as the character, I have to understand him as a person, his motives—or his lack of motives. I have to keep my personal opinion of him out of it.

“What would I say if I ever met him? I’m not sure I’d want to meet him and talk to him. I’d want to watch him when he was not with anyone else, to see him pure—when he wasn’t burdened with being the public’s idea of Steve Jobs.”

Parks cites Anthony Davis’s revised version of Amistad, which he sang at Spoleto USA in 2008, as “my first big, serious encounter with new music, contemporary opera. That was really hard. At Oberlin, I had learned how to study. At Yale, I had learned how to memorize music completely and process it in a way that it would stay with me. But learning the music for Amistad required me to devise a new system for myself, with a lot more time at the piano. I had almost to work backwards from the page and really dig in to the idea of it.”

Parks got the part of Jobs after a single audition. “I flew in from Chicago and got the good news the next day. But you know what was fascinating? Listening to someone play my part [in Steve Jobs] through my phone.  Because of him, our world changed. My professional life and my personal life would be so different without the impact of Steve Jobs’s imagination.” spacer 

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