Corey McKern discusses Hamlet

#BIRMINGHAM, AL: This Friday, January 23rd, marks a notable role debut for American baritone Corey McKern when he returns to Opera Birmingham in the title role of Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet. Says the singer, "The French grand opera tradition, and the iconic role of Hamlet in particular, caught my attention long ago. The piece honors the same dramatic integrity of Shakespeare's brilliant work."

A Birmingham native turned opera house favorite, Mr. McKern has appeared on the Opera Birmingham stage every season since 2007. Over the years he has tackled an impressive number of roles with the company including Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor, Escamillo in Carmen, Ping in Turandot, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, the Count in Le nozze di Figaro, and most recently in the 13/14 season, Silvio in I Pagliacci. The title role in Hamlet, however, is in a class apart.

Hamlet is an operatic rarity, a star vehicle made famous by several top baritones of the past, particurarly Titta Ruffo. Its challenges are considerable, requiring unmatched vocal stamina and dramatic ethos. Quips the singer, "be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it." He explains, "it's a role I've long been both impressed and intimidated by." And now, thanks in large part to the planning of Opera Birmingham's former General Director John Jones, McKern's wish has been granted. Joking aside, simply learning this rarefied piece, let alone performing it publicly, is a milestone achievement in McKern's career.

The stage is now set for the singer to demonstrate his considerable abilities in coping with the lengthy score and time on stage, plus show off his dramatic qualities and smooth, lyrical sound. He says, "I feel right at home in the French baritone repertoire. I relish singing this music and exploring its multitude of layers." Mr. McKern then employs his customary, self-effacing humor by concluding, "I'm ready to be king...or at least one crazy prince."

What: Corey McKern debuts in Hamlet at Opera Birmingham
When: Friday, January 23 at 7:30pm and Sunday, January 25, 2015 at 2:30pm
Where: The Wright Center - Samford University / 800 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, AL 35229
Tickets and information: HERE


As told to EMILY DOYLE
Photograph by REED HUMMEL | Post digital production by THE DOYLE TREATMENT
Published JANUARY 21, 2015