Acrobat-Turned-Opera-Director Reflects on His Musical Trajectory

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“Tumbling Tenor” Dean Anthony will direct Cosí van Tutte at the Brevard Music Festival

Brevard Music Center, with its companion festival, is both a destination and a source of inspiration. Each summer, young classical musicians from around the world travel to Brevard to hone their skills and perform for the public. Dean Anthony is Director of Opera at BMC’s Janiec Opera Company. He was also a student at BMC in the ’80s. Now he teaches the art of opera to the next generation.

Bold Life: Do you remember what first sparked your passion for opera?
DEAN ANTHONY: The first opera I was ever in was at the Brevard Music Center 31 years ago [the festival celebrates its 79th installment this year]. I came here as a student having never done or seen an opera. I was thrown into a role immediately. The people who ran the company back then were old-school opera people and taught us the traditional way to dive in and bust it out.

Now you’re on the flip side, training young musicians at Brevard Music Center. What is it like to work with the rising artists?
It’s just the most rewarding thing for me, to be able to guide young singers in the way that I performed. I love working with young singers. I love how real they are. I’m in my early 50s, but I have the mind of an 18-year-old.

In addition to being a director, you’re also a stage performer. You’ve been called the “tumbling tenor.” How did that happen?
I was an acrobat and studied clowning. I basically changed my life and I brought my physical abilities as an actor and a tumbler to my work as a character singer. I did a show years ago and a reviewer gave me that name. It kind of snowballed and made people laugh.

You directed Verdi’s Rigoletto in June and will direct Mozart’s Così fan Tutte this month. How do you help the student performers prepare?
They do their musical homework before they come. We don’t waste any time. The morning sessions are training and the afternoons are run like a professional opera company. We want them to really understand how fast things have to work in the real opera world.

You’ve been a faculty member at BMC since 2008. What keeps you coming back?
It’s the history that I have here. How many people have the opportunity to come back and run an opera program that they were a student in? Also, I feel a responsibility to be part of teaching young singers — to represent the business after we’re gone.

Hopefully I’ll instill the same desire and hunger for them to do it for the next generation after that.

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