In tune onstage, in life


POSTED: Friday, February 26, 2010

Why don't we duet on the road?

Opera singers have this reputation, you see, one of grand vision and sterling artistry, of highfalutin class and diva-demanding standards, of a rarefied artistic plane up there, somewhere, in the clouds.

And so it's always gratifying for us mere mortals to discover that opera singers are not just humans, too, but as goofy as everyone else. Sometimes goofier.

Take Evelyn Pollock and Derek Taylor. They have classic good looks straight out of central casting and angelic voices straight from heaven. And while they're in the islands, appearing in Hawaii Opera Theatre's “;La Boheme,”; what they're focused on is—hitting the beach.

“;Oh, my gosh!”; bubbled Pollock. “;We're in this amazing bungalow on the beach in Lanikai. We can kayak out to those islands ...”;

“;The Mokuluas!”; interjected Taylor.

“;And we're going scuba diving Sunday!”; continued Pollock. “;It's winter at our home in Switzerland and ...”;

“;Thank God, we love it here,”; finished Taylor. And yes, they speak in fluent italics.





        presented by Hawaii Opera Theatre

» Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave.


» When: 8 p.m. today, 4 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday


» Cost: $29 to $120


» Info: 596-7372 or hawaiiopera.org




The two play the put-upon lovers Rodolfo and Musetta in “;La Boheme,”; parts they've played onstage and in real life, when the Hawaii Opera Theatre production opens tonight at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

“;We're really lucky with our careers,”; said Taylor. “;And it helps to have the same agent if we want to work together.”;

“;We're under contract in 'fest' positions year-round at Theatre St. Gallen in Switzerland, where we live,”; explained Pollock.

St. Gallen, one of Switzerland's largest cities, has a publicly financed opera house with singers on salary. Both Pollock and Taylor are in the repertory and feel fortunate to have a base income.

“;Every opera singer in America is a freelancer, always traveling,”; said Pollock. “;As 'fest' singers for St. Gallen, we have a semblance of a normal life and can take the odd freelance role in the off season, like in Hawaii!”;

POLLACK WAS auditioning for HOT's edition of “;La Boheme”; last summer, and Taylor tagged along—“;I wanted to go to Hawaii!”;—and just for the heck of it, he auditioned as well and was cast.

“;That just doesn't happen,”; said Pollock. “;It's rare for freelancers to work together.”;

Oh, did I not mention they are married? To each other?

Evelyn Pollock, lyric coloratura soprano, was valedictorian of her graduating class at Lake Forest High School near Chicago and went on to graduate magna cum laude in psychology at Northwestern University. Her big break was an apprentice position at the Santa Fe Opera in 2003 singing the title role in the world premiere of “;Madame Mao,”; by Bright Sheng.

Derek Taylor, tenor, is from Los Angeles and trained at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, where he met Pollock. He has appeared as “;La Boheme's”; Rodolfo at least a dozen times in different opera companies.

Even though Pollock and Taylor shared a home while studying in Philadelphia, there was no romance. Yet. Or so they claim. It took a while and involved chance encounters.

“;We didn't date until years later!”; protested Pollock. “;But we were good friends for years.”;

“;The turning point was one night in Manhattan,”; teased Taylor.

Pollock made a sultry giggle that revealed a lot.

Back to “;La Boheme.”;

“;I've done the role a lot,”; said Taylor. “;I've had half the roles of poor Evelyn. She's had to learn something like 40 different roles.”;

The couple have the same study habits when it come to preparing for a role. They get the score, study the motivation of the characters and listen to historic recordings. “;Right! The great interpreters, like Pavarotti,”; said Taylor.

“;Pretty typical of Italian operas, in particular, for the heroine to end up dying sometime in the third act,”; laughed Pollock.

“;La Boheme,”; memorably, was re-imagined as Broadway's “;Rent.”; They both gasped when asked whether they'd do Broadway.

“;Only in that 'Rent' did bring people to opera to see the original. And 'Miss Saigon,' that was a retelling of 'Madame Butterfly.' But to sing on Broadway? Hmm ...”; Taylor mused. “;I'd have no idea how to sing Broadway properly. The bar for opera is set so high, so nit-picky and critical.”;

“;Well,”; said Pollock. “;I was just in a premiere of a modern opera, a retelling of Cyrano. I must say, to sing in your own language is very liberating.”;

“;We've both done modern opera,”; said Taylor. “;But never together.”;

Give them time.