Oh no! Another blog by a displaced musician during the pandemic appeared as you stepped into the tall grass outside Pallet Town!
Hi. My name is Joseph Canuto Leon, and I'm a baritone living in Dallas. Before the pandemic hit was I making a (very) modest living as an opera singer, mostly consisting of occasionally singing in the chorus at The Dallas Opera, singing comprimarios/covers at some C and D houses around the American South, some pretty big roles with tiny companies, and choral work at one of the bigger church jobs in the area. It was far from a monster career, but I was getting paid to sing and I got to do what I loved.
So then enter Covid-19. Suddenly, around this time last year TDO's Don Carlo was cancelled while we were mid-rehearsal (causing this Deputati much despair). Soon after a small company that was just getting started who had hired me for Almaviva cancelled, then my Faure Requiem with HPUMC, and finally my Marquis/Germont cover at Little Rock Opera (that one hurt the most). So there I was in May with no work and very few prospects. There was a brief flirtation with Don Carlo going back up this spring, but that was quickly quashed by rising cases in the Lone Star State in a frustrating but ultimately correct decision by TDO. And then we were back to square one.
This is not going to be a blog about the arts surviving this pandemic. Smarter people than me have written those articles and grant proposals. Go read them and give them your money. This isn't my blog on how music should be performed or who is good and who isn't. I have plenty of opinions on that (understatement of the year) but the point of the matter if you are getting paid to sing professionally you're good at it, period, and I doubt you care if this member of the Comprimaro Crew thinks so or not. Certainly this blog is not about the ills and sins of the opera industry. You don't need a 30 year old part timer to explain to you why Peter Gelb is the Grand Moff Tarkin of the opera industry. If you can't see the issues plaguing our field regarding race, gatekeeping, or creativity you're either choosing not to you or you just haven't had enough interactions with the field yet. You are young, life has been kind to you. You will learn.
Instead, what I'm going for is a gratitude blog. A girl I went to grad school with does a thing on Facebook where she posts three things she's grateful for every day. It's a sweet gesture, and one I'd like to emulate on here. So the game plan (rarely does anything go according to plan, I know) is to talk about one thing each blog post that I was thankful for during this pandemic. They will be music related, and I guess instead of despairing at the state of the industry, I want to talk about the things that personally have helped me through this craziness. So my next post (and sort of the first REAL post of the Leon's Den) will be about the music of Piotr Illich Tchaikovsky and great work Russian Opera Workshop in Philly is doing. But before that, we should establish some things about this blog:
There are going to be pop culture references. Lots of them. If you don't care for that, go ahead and read another blog. There was at least one Star Wars and one Pokémon reference in this one, and I was trying to be professional. I'm a nerd, deal with it.
Speaking of being professional: All the opinions expressed by the Leon's Den are strictly my own, and don't reflect that of my various employers. If you the reader have an issue with anything raised in the blog, please message me or send your complaint to JaAsaftma, who will put their top people on it and start an investigation immediately. Or you could just not read my blog, which is hosted on my personal website.
When celebrating people in the industry, I plan to use people's names, because I believe that praise should be public and these people deserve it. When being critical, I will try to be as vague as possible (with the exception of Gelb, since frankly I think he does opera a disservice and I'm probably not going to make it to the MET anyway). That being said, if I use your name in this blog and you would prefer I don't, go ahead and send me a message and I will remove it immediately. This is all about celebrating the good things in Opera, and I don't want to make anybody I'm trying to compliment uncomfortable.
Thanks for reading today, and I hope you will come back and keep reading as I try to highlight some of the cool stuff going on in the classical music world!
PS. Below are the pictures of the three titular "Leons" of this blog: Joseph Canuto, Merry, and Pippin. Merry and Pippin make their living as investigators for JaAsaftma, and Joseph is a struggling baritone.