Where Are They Now: Tenor Brett Sprague
With the 2019-20 Artists in Residence starting their contracts this week, we wanted to highlight one of the Program’s distinguished alumni. Tenor Brett Sprague is an accomplished singer who is taking the European opera world by storm. Brett was a Young Artist here at Opera Colorado for two years, joining us in 2014 and again when we brought him back for the 2014-15 Season. He also spent three seasons as an Assistant Director, working with Cherity Koepke, Director of the Opera Colorado Artist in Residence Program and Director of Education & Community Engagement, for the 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 seasons.
Catch up with Brett in Germany, as he starts his exciting 2019 Season!
What was your experience as an Opera Colorado Young Artist like? Do you have a favorite moment?
It was a life-changing experience to be a Young Artist at Opera Colorado. I loved the opportunities to perform in the community and bring opera to young audiences, hoping to build the opera audience of the future. The staff at OC helped me grow in so many ways and they made me the performer I am today. I relished the chance to work alongside world-class performers in the mainstage productions. My best experiences were performing in the Student Matinees of Carmen and The Magic Flute.
What makes this program unique? How are we different from other AIR/YA programs?
The best things that set this program apart are the mainstage opportunities. Not many places offer the opportunity to build your resume and performance skills, through constant stage experience. It set me up with the confidence and skills I needed to succeed.
What was it like returning to OC as an Assistant Director? What was it like working with the 2018-19 AIRs? Do you have a favorite moment?
I loved the years I was able to work with Cherity Koepke and the team at OC. Working with the AIRs was a great time. Every year, I loved An Afternoon of American Song. That program has grown more than we could have imagined when we started it a few years ago. I am incredibly proud of what we were able to put together.
Describe your professional journey, from university through today? Are there any career lessons you’d care to share with other aspiring singers? Do’s and don’ts?
I started with my undergraduate degree at Chapman University in Orange, CA, majoring in Vocal Performance and Germanic Studies (German language and history). I received my Master’s of Music from Manhattan School of Music in Classical Voice performance. I was a Studio Artist with Chautauqua Opera in 2013, performing in Peter Grimes and Falstaff. In 2014, I began at Opera Colorado and between my first and second seasons as a Young Artist in Denver, I sang in Susannah and Fiddler on the Roof at Ash Lawn Opera in Virginia. After leaving OC, I returned as an Apprentice Artist to Chautauqua Opera, performing in Macbeth and Eugene Onegin, as well as two concerts with the symphony.
That was the end of my young artist phase and I continued to perform as a mainstage artist at a number of regional opera companies around the USA, as well as singing a lot of concerts. In April of 2018, I started working with an agent in Germany and that led to some exciting opportunities in Europe. I started as the tenor soloist in Carmina Burana with the Tampere Filharmonia in Finland and the Gothenburg Symphony in Sweden. After that, I made my German opera debut as Lord Barrat in Der junge Lord at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich. Then performed Pedrillo in Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Thüringer Schlossfestspiele. That brings me to where I am now, at Theater Erfurt as a fixed member of the soloist ensemble.
Career lessons are different for everyone, I think there are a few general things that would have served me well to hear when I was in grad school and starting the YAP audition circuit. I think it is important for every person to never forget who they are and what they value. Self-respect and integrity is incredibly important and can be easy to lose, when faced with the stress of this career. Find a group of mentors that you can trust and listen to them. Most importantly, always be yourself and don’t let other people change you.
What are you up to nowadays? How has your career and life changed after your time at OC? What upcoming engagement or project are you excited about? Where can people see you next?
I am currently a member of the Soloist ensemble at Theater Erfurt in Germany. This season I have an exciting program of productions and concerts I will be performing here, and a few things in the works around Europe as a guest. I start my season as Prinz Gwidon in Das Märchen vom Zaren Saltan, then as Hexe in Hänsel und Gretel, I will be a featured soloist in the Theater Erfurt New Year’s Eve Operetta Gala, then I’ll sing The Visitor in the chamber opera In the Penal Colony, and then I’ll finish the season as Ismaele in Nabucco at the DomStufen-Festspiele. Outside of Erfurt, I will sing Carmina Burana again with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. I am equally excited about all of the opportunities and I cannot wait to be onstage all season long.
How are you managing as a resident in another country? What is your favorite part about living/working abroad?
I love living in Germany! In the beginning, there is a lot of bureaucracy that can be tedious and there are a few day-to-day differences that take some getting used to, but I am SUPER excited for this chapter in my life. The theater system here allows for a much more consistent work and the quality I have experienced is top-notch. I’m also a full time employee at a theater, making a good salary and growing my repertoire all the time. That opportunity is hard to find in the USA. One huge perk is the health insurance system here, I don’t ever have think twice about going to the doctor for fear of the cost. Also, the cost of living here is not so out of control as in places like major cities around the USA.
Do you get homesick? How do you keep in touch with your family/friends/colleagues in the States?
Oh yeah, I definitely miss my friends and family. I text my people back home a lot with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. I am lucky to live now when it is super easy to stay in touch with people across the world. The time change is a bummer, but we make it work. It is hard to fly back to the States with my schedule and the distance, but I hope to get a few visitors here.