The Atlanta Opera: What is your vocal part, and how long have you sung with The Atlanta Opera Chorus?
Chris Hawkins: I am a bass, and this year marks 30 years in The Atlanta Opera Chorus! I have participated in 85 productions with the chorus with this La traviata being the 76th mainstage production.
TAO: Where did you grow up and how did you get into music?
CH: I am a rare breed: I’m an Atlanta native and I’ve lived here all my life. I attended my first opera at age 8. It was a Met Opera tour matinee of The Barber of Seville. I wasn’t too impressed with the comedy (don’t ask me why), but when I saw Madama Butterfly the next year, I was hooked. I played the violin in school but was too shy to sing. As a freshman at Georgia State I volunteered to work backstage at an opera for the School of Music and loved it so much, I transferred and began studying with Peter Harrower. It was a late start but here I am 35 years later.
TAO: Tell us some interesting performance stories.
CH: Scary: My audition for Georgia State. After MANY runs to the restroom due to nerves, I was shaking so badly when I was singing, I could hardly stand up. Mr. Harrower thought it was funny – me not so much (at the time).
Funny 1: The false start at the opening of one of the acts of Manon at the Fox Theatre. We had just started to sing when Maestro Scott suddenly stopped conducting and stood there looking up. We looked up to see the fire curtain drifting in (there was no fire – it was accidentally triggered), so we reset and started over.
Funny 2: As Di Luna was manhandling Azucena in a performance of Il trovatore, her wig got tangled in the buttons of his costume and as he threw her to the ground off it came! We’ve always been told not to leave stuff lying on the stage, so since I was the last soldier off at the end of the scene, I scooped it up and exited with said mass of curls.
Embarrassing: Falling flat on my face during a performance of The Pearl Fishers. Enough said.
TAO: What do you do when you’re not singing?
CH: I’m in transition right now. I spent the last couple of years as care giver for the conclusion of my mother’s wonderful 94-year life and now I’m figuring out what’s next.
TAO: Besides classical, what other genres of music do you like?
CH: I enjoy a wide variety of music. Oldies from the 40s, 50s, and 60s are always fun.
TAO: If you had to be another voice part, what would it be, and why?
CH: Probably soprano. They get such great stuff to sing and so much variety. Verdi didn’t forget us basses but Mr. Puccini didn’t have much time for us.
TAO: What are your favorite musical moments in La traviata, and what should audiences listen for?
CH: La traviata is a favorite for many opera lovers, including me, and it is beautiful from the first note to the last. Beyond all, the beloved arias, the scene between Violetta and Germont at the country house is very lovely and moving. For the chorus, my favorite moment is our response to Alfredo after he “repays” Violetta by flinging money at her at Flora’s ball – both fun and powerful.
TAO: What is your all-time favorite Atlanta Opera moment?
CH: After thirty years of wonderful moments, that is an impossible question to answer; but one that comes to mind was the opportunity to sing the riddle scene from Turandot with Dame Gwyneth Jones at the 1996 Olympic Gala. She was really on that night and blew everyone away with “In Questa Reggia” and we wholeheartedly joined her for the riddle scene – an amazing experience!
TAO: Any advice for young singers?
CH: My advice would be to work hard, be professional, and have fun. The reality is that you might get to be the next Pavarotti or Leontyne, but maybe you won’t. There is so much more to a career than talent, and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t mean you weren’t good enough or didn’t try hard enough; maybe God just has a different plan for you. So, in the meantime … ENJOY!
TAO: Where do you hope to see The Atlanta Opera in 30 years?
CH: I hope to see The Atlanta Opera (and opera in general) going strong and continuing to give life to the centuries of beautiful music for new generations of music lovers.