Justin Berkowitz, tenor, is thrilled to be making his Haymarket Opera debut. His 2016-17 season began in Central City, Colorado where he appeared as a Bonfils-Stanton Apprentice Artist with Central City Opera, performing the roles of the Old Miner, Mayor of Leadville, and Chester Arthur in The Ballad of Baby Doe. This year he joined the Janesville Symphony for the Bach Magnificat and made debuts with DuPage Opera as Nanki-Poo in The Mikado and Opera on the James as Dr. Cajus in Falstaff. He also returned to St. Petersburg Opera as Jack in Into the Woods. Justin has appeared with Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Naples, St. Petersburg Opera and Ohio Light Opera, among other companies. Sought for his interpretation of Orff’s perilous tenor solo in Carmina Burana, he has performed the piece throughout the country, and will perform it with the Chicago Philharmonic this season, as well as his debut with Opera Louisiane as Monostatos in The Magic Flute. Justin is a graduate of Lawrence University and Conservatory and the University of Michigan.
What is the story of how you first came to love music and opera?
I grew up in a home where classical music was very important (my grandfather played violin for the Chicago Symphony for nearly 50 years), so my early childhood memories involve going to concerts throughout the Minneapolis area with my parents, but most of that music was instrumental. It wasn't until high school that I discovered opera (at the hands of a very insistent choir director!). My mother took me to see Carmen at the Minnesota Opera and I was hooked. The drama, the passion, the vocal prowess - it was all so inspiring!
What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?
Finding my own voice and my own identity. In a field dominated by so many inspiring artists, brilliant singers and directors, pedagogues and teachers it’s easy to feel like everyone is guiding and shaping you to become a certain type of singer. To me, the greatest challenge is taking all the knowledge passed my way, all the words of wisdom and figure out how to apply it to my voice, my sound and who I am as an artist.
Do you have a favorite performer?
I could listen to Fritz Wunderlich and Nicolai Gedda for days and days. Those two tenors have such an ease and natural beauty to their sound - it is incredible. I also fall into the somewhat controversial camp of being a HUGE Peter Pears fan. He's his own artist through and through, and his interpretation of Britten and feel for the English language are remarkable.
Do you have a favorite role? Aria? Opera?
Getting to play the Tanzmeister in Ariadne auf Naxos was a blast! I also loved singing 'The Ride to Rome' from The Rape of Lucretia and 'Frisch zum Kampfe!' from Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. I am also a sucker for La Traviata. The ending makes me weep every time!
Do you have any favorite books about music?
Great Singers on Great Singing
What else are you reading?
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
Who are your favorite 17th- and 18th-century composers?
If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you?
Can I say a recording of ALL of the Mahler Symphonies? If I have to pick, I would pick Symphony no. 8 - but I would rather have them all!
What do you love about HOC?
I am so excited to be a part of my first HOC production! This company has such a wonderful reputation for bringing amazing music to Chicago audiences - I am very excited to join that tradition.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not making music?
I am currently training for the Chicago Marathon, so there's been a lot of time spent running along the lakefront.
What is the first thing you think about in the morning?
Do you have any heroes/heroines?
What music do you listen to most often?
I am really into the band Haim these days.
If you had not entered into your current career what do you think you would have done instead?
Before I was called to singing, I grew up thinking I would become a lawyer--probably because I tried to argue my way out of a LOT of situations while growing up!