N.O.-born tenor to sing ‘La Traviata’ in New York City
19th May 2014 · 0 Comments
By Fritz Esker
New Orleans native and tenor Tyrone Chambers is poised to make a splash in the New York City opera community with his performance as Gastone in Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” in July.
La Traviata is a tragic romance about two lovers, Alfredo and Violetta, who are torn apart by Alfredo’s father’s rejection of their union because of Violetta’s past as a courtesan. Verdi’s work is widely considered to be one of the greatest operas of all time.
Chambers will play Gastone, the friend who introduces Alfredo and Violetta. Performances will be held July 10 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kaye Playhouse in Hunter College. The performances are part of the Martina Arroyo Foundation’s Prelude to Performance program. The program is a six-week experience designed to give selected young singers the opportunity to study, interpret, and perform significant operatic roles, culminating in two performances.
The 28-year-old Chambers was first exposed to opera as a child when his family took him to the Mahalia Jackson Theater to see Turandot. However, Chambers did not begin to develop a passion for opera until college. He majored in music at Morehouse College, where he was given a thorough background in European classical music. The medium provided a natural fit for Chambers’ outgoing personality.
“I’m a performer as far back as I can remember,” Chambers said. “I’m extroverted…I like to be in the center of attention.”
Opera provided an outlet for Chambers to pursue his lifelong love of singing. He says he still gets an adrenaline rush every time he puts on a costume before a performance. He likes to put himself in his characters shoes and experience life through someone else’s eyes. Referring to his performance as King Nebuchadnezzar in The Burning Fiery Furnace, he said, “I’m not a king, but I got to play one.”
After graduating from Morehouse and earning a master’s in music from the University of Oklahoma, Chambers, a native of the 9th Ward and Mid-City, returned to New Orleans. He performed with Opera Creole ensemble in New Orleans. While Chambers loved that experience and still returns to the city to perform with that troupe, he moved to New York City because it offered him unparalleled access to auditions.
A graduate of McDonogh 35, Chambers acknowledges that modern audiences are sometimes intimidated by opera. They feel overwhelmed, partially because they don’t understand the language. But he thinks people would find a lot to love about the form if they gave it a chance. For audience members afraid they won’t know what’s going on, he recommends looking up the basic plot of an opera on Wikipedia before attending.
“I tell people to think of the era of silent film,” Chambers said. “You can revel in the beauty of the music.”
Chambers is excited about the future, but has not forgotten his roots as a New Orleanian. Even though he moved to New York City, Chambers’ heart has remained in the Crescent City.
“I’m proud of my heritage,” Chambers said. “I’m proud of where I come from.”
This article originally published in the May 19, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.