Studio Spotlight: Q&A With Joseph Michael Brent

With the close of our 2016-17 season, we share our final Studio Spotlight blog featuring our tenor Joseph Michael Brent. Throughout his time in the Michigan Opera Theatre Studio, Joe has starred in Little Women as Laurie and The Tender Land as Martin. He has also held roles in The Girl of the Golden west, Silent Night, Carmen, The Magic Flute, Macbeth and The Passenger. Studio Spotlight Joe

What is your favorite opera and why?

A: I do not usually think in terms of favorite: usually, the opera I am working on becomes my “favorite.” “Salome” is the opera that had the most profound impact on me. It was the first opera that I had decided to track the score and literal translation while listening to a recording. The opera unfolded in front of me as I listened, and I literally fell out of my chair in my room when the final chord of the opera were struck.

What has been your favorite performance experience?

A: My favorite experience on stage as a singer was during a performance as E.T.A. Hoffmann in my second production of Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann.” I recall in the epilogue of Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann”: Hoffmann has spent the last three hours recounting — in vivid, Bacchic, and poetic detail — three moribund, fantasmagorical stories of love and loss (framed by the tale of Kleinzach). At this point in the opera Hoffmann is destroyed; he remains not a man, but rather a vestige: unraveled, an inebriated puddle of despondent tears and trauma. I felt, in that moment, so deeply connected to the character, and so well rehearsed, that there was no concept of a performance any longer, but real extemporized communication between real people. It’s difficult to explain but very special.   

What is your dream role?

A: I do not have a dream role in my fach, but I have always wanted to sing Iago, from Verdi’s “Otello.” I have also dreamed of singing “Come in quest’ora bruna” from Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra,” the aria for Amelia Grimaldi.

What’s been the best part about being in the Michigan Opera Theatre Studio program?

A: The best part of being in the MOT Studio — outside of the obvious and unquantifiable benefit of bringing roles to life at a high level, sharing the Detroit Opera House stage with some of the most respected singers of the opera world and continuing to hone my craft with the input from a growing list of lauded industry professionals (conductors, coaches, and celebrated opera stars) — is fostering a relationship with the patrons of this opera company, from board members to season ticket subscribers to the casual, once-a-season, single ticket adventurer, who demonstrate their nearly quenchless thirst for this art form and deep, unparalleled love for the city of Detroit.  

What’s the best part about living in Detroit?

A: The best part about living in Detroit has been witnessing and participating in its renaissance. Anthony Bourdain once likened the collapse of Detroit with the fall of Ancient Rome: the ruins of its Packard Automotive Plant to the Coliseum or Forum. It’s exciting to be a part of the stimulus.  

If you weren’t an opera singer, what would you be?

A: I don’t know, probably anything.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

A: I enjoy knitting.

Michigan Opera Theatre Studio is a resident artist training program focused on supporting the next generation of opera singers. For more information, visit Michigan Opera Theatre Studio.