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

Sound Bites: Geoffrey Agpalo

The tenor breaks out of the chorus this month as Alfredo in Saint Louis.
By Henry Stewart 

Sound Bites Agpalo hdl 618
Tenor Geoffrey Agpalo, OTSL’s Traviata Alfredo
© Tim Klein
Sound Bites Agpalo sm 618
Photographed by Tim Klein at Lyric Opera of Chicago

FOR FOUR YEARS, lyric tenor Geoffrey Agpalo has been a full-time member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago chorus, from which he receives a steady salary and benefits for thirty weeks of work per year (plus vacation). But for the past four springs, while Lyric was dark, he has emerged at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as a sterling solo artist, with an energized stage presence and strong, clear voice. This month, he sings his first starring role—Alfredo, in Opera Theatre’s Traviata,directed by Patricia Racette. Is it time, then, to ditch the chorus? “I’ve had conversations about [it], not only within myself but with colleagues and mentors,” he says by Skype in January. “And everybody seems to have good insight on that. But it’s very difficult to not really have anybody else in my position to talk to about it.” 

Agpalo, thirty-two, is from Chicago but spent some formative years in Orlando, Florida. “I moved halfway through high school, and I remember just, like, a month-long period where I ate lunch by myself,” he says. “I kinda used music and music theater as a way to open myself up socially.” When he was an undergrad at the University of Central Florida, his voice teacher, Priscilla Bagley, persuaded him to drop his business major and stick with singing. “I’m grateful to her for that,” he says, laughing, “because I enjoy what I do now, at least.” After graduate school at Northwestern, he joined OTSL’s Gerdine Young Artists Program in 2014, and made his debut as a Festival Artist in 2015. Each season, he got a little more to do; last year, he stood out in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Grapes of Wrath as the former preacher Jim Casy, “which I think kind of solidified with them that I could hold my own onstage,” he says. 

Casy is a role he holds close; Alfredo, though, is a dream role—one in which he sees some of himself. “He’s very passionate and romantic, and I can sometimes be a very jealous person,” Agpalo says. “One of the things that maybe I don’t quite have in common with him is, at first, he’s a little oblivious [to] things.” He laughs. “I don’t think I can put the veil over my head and just enjoy the now”—which is understandable when the now is as anxious as his. “It’s getting to the point where I have to make the decision of where I’m going to focus my attention,” he says. It might just be time to quit the band and go solo. spacer 

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