By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Patience is a virtue for most, but absolutely essential for an opera singer. Just ask McNary High School grad Daniel Ross.
“I’m getting old enough that it is about time to start trying the bigger competitions. It seemed like the right time so I went for it,” said Ross, one of two Oregon District winners in the annual Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
The contest is the most prestigious opera competition in the country and the final winner receives a job with the New York Metropolitan Opera for its upcoming season. He’ll compete in the regional qualifier, slated Jan. 10, in Seattle. The finals will be held next March.
Ross, a 27-year-old tenor, has been pursuing a career in opera since his high school days.
“I had some natural talent and teachers who were able to direct me toward opera,” Ross said. “I just happen to have a particular talent and a rare voice type. Very few people are capable of making the sounds that I make and, even on stage with a symphony, my voice is trumpet-like and will still rise above the instruments.”
After graduating from McNary, Ross earned a bachelor’s degree in music and went on to graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati. While there, he was a featured singer in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s performance of George Fridric Handel’s Messiah.
He moved back to Oregon in 2013 and performs regularly at Salem First Presbyterian Church, but larger roles have been elusive.
“With the economic crash, it’s taken its toll on the arts and its far well from over. At least 14 opera companies I know of have gone bankrupt this year, and that’s slowed from previous years,” Ross said. “Suffice it to say it’s difficult to find work as a professional musician. The competition was a way to put myself out there and network with new people.”
Still, his star is rising. In addition to advancing in the Met’s competition, he has an upcoming engagement with Oregon Festival Chorale. He’s also in talks to perform at Willamette University.
“Persuing the career is very different from the educational path. Getting the opportunities to do professional work requires a lot of legwork and networking,” Ross said. “It can mean trying a million different things in a row that don’t work and then having the last three things you tried come together all at once. It feels very whimsical at times.”
While Ross can take care of his voice and run through all the exercises to make it stronger, the one thing he hasn’t had control over is how quickly it matures. That’s where the patience becomes essential.
“I probably already have the full top range I will have for the rest of my life, but as I age the color of my voice will change and become more appropriate for singing things like Richard Wagner,” Ross said.
Wagner’s operas, which are considered some of the highest examples of the art, are still performed regularly in Germany. Landing a Wagner role has been a dream of Ross’s for the better part of five years now.
“They require singers who are capable of heroic endurance, five hours or more. Those operas require singing high and loud and low and loud and all the different colors in between,” Ross said.
Despite his age, Ross would still be considered far too young for such parts.
“They would look at me like I was crazy. In order to do it properly, you have to let your voice develop slowly, but it is very much something I would love to do.”
Come January, he might be one step closer to making his dream a reality.