Brian Arreola has been described as a “robust Italian tenor” by the Washington Post, and his 2008 debut with The Minnesota Opera in Roméo et Juliette had the Pioneer Press praising his “fiery Tybalt.” Arreola was a founding member and co-artistic director of Cantus, a full-time professional touring group described by Fanfare Magazine as “the premier men’s vocal ensemble in the United States.” The Charlotte public knows him from past Opera Carolina productions of Carmen, Otello, and Fidelio. He is current an Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera at UNC Charlotte.
Opera Lively – For once, the tenor role in an Italian opera is not as prominent for Ismaele in Verdi’s Nabucco. The opera is rather driven by the lower voices and the female roles. So, how do you make your Ismaele interesting for the public?
Brian Arreola – Verdi lavishes the same wonderfully evocative and vocally idiomatic music that the titular characters receive on his secondary characters. For example, when I first saw Il Trovatore, I was surprised that the first singer the audience heard, with a terrific scene and aria, was not one of the characters central to the plot, but "just" Count di Luna's captain. Nevertheless, I was captivated by Verdi's terrific music and the great singing and acting of the Ferrando. So, as a singer in a supporting role I feel first and foremost grateful to Verdi, who has done most of the work of creating a compelling character.
OL – You must have some interesting stories to tell about your period touring the country with the vocal group you founded, Cantus. Is there something about this time of your life you would like to share with our readers?
BA – Cantus was a blast! I tell people that I was in sort of a classical boy band for a while. Funnily enough, there actually are a few groups that really do fit that description now, Il Divo, Ten Tenors, 3 Mo' Tenors, etc.: groups that are auditioned and assembled by music industry producers. We were not a boy band in that sense, we were actually just a bunch of friends in undergrad that enjoyed singing together. There are countless stories from that time, mostly sort of in-jokes and nothing too rockstar or interesting… Imagine touring around the country for up to a month at a time with eight of your best buddies from undergrad, with many stops at college campuses, for seven years.
Good stories? We all got food poisoning in Iowa once, started the concert with 11 singers and ended with 7. For a number of years 8 of us were obsessive basketball players and so our rider included access to a gym with a basketball court. We played on our first day in Snowmass and got altitude sickness. The presenter had oxygen tanks/masks for us backstage (they said it was standard practice) and several of us were sucking air at the intermission.
OL – You are involved with teaching voice, as a professor at UNC-Charlotte. What would be some of the advices you have for youngsters who want to approach an operatic career?
BA – [The singer gave us a "must read" precious piece of advice that was lenghthy and would likely be of little interest for patrons attending Nabucco, but is essential for current and prospective voice students and their parents, so we decided to omit it here, but publish it in its entirety in the Educational Section of our site; click (here) if you want to read it.]
OL – This opera Nabucco requires significant forces – from a large chorus to six gifted singers in the main roles. How is your expectation for this Opera Carolina production?
BA – I expect that this production will be an incredible experience for the audience. Opera Carolina is a remarkable company. Using a terrific mix of headlining industry superstars, up-and-coming talents, and gifted local professionals they produce opera at a very high level. I hope that at least a portion of our Charlotte audience gets out of the region to see opera in other parts of the country and thus knows how good we have it here.
James Meena, besides being a fantasitc, old-school opera maestro, is a real innovator in community engagement, constantly finding new ways to make the arts generally, and opera specifically, indispensable to the culture of our region.
The importance of having the Charlotte Symphony in the pit cannot be overstated: a full-time, professional orchestra has a level of musical responsiveness and cohesion of sound that cannot be achieved by other means.
Maestro Meena and the orchestra have a very good relationship, and it really shows when they sound top notch on tough rep like this past season's Flying Dutchman. Pair that with a world-class voice like Greer Grimsley and you have the sort of operatic magic that aficionados live for and that can make life-long fans out of newbies.
OL – On a more personal note so that our readers get acquainted with the man underneath the artist, please tell us a bit about you as a person. Why did you chose an operatic career, how do you define your personality, and what are some of your main interests besides opera?
BA – As a musician and artist opera presents me with so many wonderful challenges that I cannot imagine a more fulfilling musical endeavor. As a music professor at UNC Charlotte I get to share my love for the form with my students, and so I am doubly enriched.
Personality? My students say I am passionate but could be more organized, my wife can see my students' point of view, and my two daughters (a toddler and a three-month-old) still think I'm the greatest man alive.
Other interests: books, science, social justice, fitness, cooking, futurism, alternative energy and transportation (my wife and I are having geothermal HVAC installed in our Harrisburg home this fall, and with an eventual rooftop solar photovoltaic system and electric car plus our existing solar hot water system we hope that our home will be nearly carbon neutral.)
Interview by Luiz Gazzola from operalively.com – click here to visit the full article.