Magazine article Opera Canada

Rules of Engagement: Bass-Baritone Stephen Hegedus Takes a Concentrated Approach to the Business of Maintaining a Busy Career

Magazine article Opera Canada

Rules of Engagement: Bass-Baritone Stephen Hegedus Takes a Concentrated Approach to the Business of Maintaining a Busy Career

Article excerpt

Bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus arrives for our meeting eyes bright, with a warm expression. But he's more tired than his looks would suggest. "My daughter was, like, 'Daddy, can you build this 170-piece Lego?' earlier today," he says with a smile. "And I said, 'It's five in the morning! Please, can you do something else? I'm going to lie on the couch'."

The 36-year-old Toronto native has indeed enjoyed a hectic schedule over the past year, working with Toronto's Opera Atelier, Opera Columbus, Chicago's Grant Park Music Festival, the Vancouver Bach Choir, Pacific Opera Victoria and the Minnesota Orchestra. He also did a memorable turn last December in Toronto as part of Against the Grain Theatre's decidedly unorthodox version of Handel's Messiah directed by stage director and company co-founder Joel Ivany. The production featured theatrical elements, along with a solo by Hegedus costumed in a skin-tight gold unitard. "He's a guy who's been at it for so long and paid so many dues," says Ivany, "and he's still going at it, which is great."

Hegedus has a varied repertoire that includes roles in works by Verdi, Britten, Strauss, Puccini and Stravinsky, and was a winner at the Lyndon Woodside Oratorio Solo Competition, hosted by the Oratorio Society of New York. Alongside his extensive concert and oratorio resume, he's performed in Don Giovanni (Leporello), La boheme (Colline), Costfan tutte (Guglielmo), Werther (Albert), and the title role in Le nozze di Figaro. Hegedus has worked with the Canadian Opera Company, Edmonton Opera, Opera de Montreal, Opera Hamilton and the Teatro Municipal de Santiago, as well as a number of symphony orchestras, including the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the principal symphony orchestras of Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Victoria, Seattle, Houston and San Antonio.

Friendly and articulate, Hegedus attributes part of his success to his supportive home environment. As well as being an in-demand singer, he's father to two children, aged two and four: "My wife has never pressured me to be home with the kids. She's always been 100-percent supportive. But it's hard with the kids. My four-year-old will look at me, like: 'You're going away again? How many sleeps this time?'"

Hegedus's path to being a singer was not quite straightforward. Though he was a member of Toronto's St. Michael's Choir School as a youngster (encouraged by his grandmother, who was eager that he develop his music skills), he entered the University of Toronto as an economics major. His passion for music became more and more pronounced, however, and he ended with a double degree in music and economics before moving on to get his Master's in opera studies. Later, he was an alumnus of Opera de Montreal's Atelier lyrique. The first time he sang onstage was beside tenor Richard Margison in 2007. "He won't remember that, but I do! And that was cool, a lot of fun."

Fun is exactly what Hegedus seemed to be having when he performed in Against the Grain's reimagined Messiah last winter. That turn in the gold unitard, throwing glitter while he sang, triggered a jubilant reaction from audiences. Though he says he "couldn't hold back the laughter during rehearsals," he was completely straight-faced, even stern, during the show--no small task in the costuming. "He comes across as very reserved, yet he owned it like there was no reservation at all," Ivany recalls of Hegedus's performance. "That gives you a hint of him. …

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