Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.
Sound Bites: Scott Conner
A Kansan bass arrives at the Metropolitan Opera.
by F. Paul Driscoll.
Photograph by Dario Acosta
Grooming by Affan Graber Malik for Tom Ford Beauty
SCOTT CONNER calls his Met debut next month, in the company’s new Rosenkavalier staging, “the highlight of my career—so far. I’ve sung the role of the Police Commissioner before, in Munich and at the Glyndebourne Festival, and for the BBC Proms, and it’s a lot of fun. Right before the Met, we do it at Covent Garden. I enter in the third act, get fifteen minutes onstage, in and out—and I get to share a few lines with Renée Fleming! It’s going to be amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything more.” After his run at the Met, which includes a Live in HD presentation on May 13, Conner heads to San Francisco, where he sings Colline in La Bohème.
A native of Olathe, Kansas, Conner has a rich, well-centered bass and the imposing, easy stage presence of a natural athlete. “I grew up playing sports—football for seven years, ran track, played basketball. I started doing choir in middle school, because I thought it would be an easy grade. Then when my voice dropped, about my freshman year in high school, my choir teacher heard potential there. I started taking voice lessons when I was about fifteen. I knew nothing—not how to sight-read music, no piano skills, nothing. I took two piano lessons a week to try to catch up, you know? It went like that all through high school.”
While working toward his bachelor’s degree at University of Missouri-Kansas City, Conner sang small roles with Wichita Grand Opera. “I was Wagner in Faust with them, and Sam Ramey, who was my idol, was the Méphistophélès in that production. I remember him singing part of the ‘Le veau d’or’ aria in my ear—it was part of the staging, but it was profoundly moving and exciting, to say the least, to be onstage with someone that I will always, always look up to.”
Conner studied with Bill Schuman at AVA in Philadelphia before moving to Europe as a member of the ensemble at
Dresden’s Semperoper. “I did that for a year—I sang sixty-three performances over the course of the season in eight different operas. It was a great experience, with unbelievably good colleagues. I consider myself able to do anything after that season. I’ve now been over here in Europe for about five years. I live in Zurich. I miss my Kansas City barbecue, but I have to say that Zurich is a wonderful place. Horribly expensive, but very, very beautiful.”