Basso profondo Gregory Stapp To Sing The Magic Flute at Notre Dame de Namur University
Belmont, CA, November 23, 2009 — The Queen of the Night is in a tizzy. Tamino pines for Pamina, and Papageno, well, he’s lucky if he learns to keep his mouth shut. All is chaos and confusion. Then the commanding, six-foot, six-inch figure of Gregory Stapp appears. He begins to sing, and the same low, resonant rumble that has filled opera houses around the world reverberates through the tiny chapel.
Audiences will be dazzled by these events and more when bass Gregory Stapp performs as a guest artist in Notre Dame de Namur University’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, opening Friday, December 4 at 7:30 p.m.. The opera, presented in the English translation of Donald Pippin, artistic director of San Francisco’s Pocket Opera, runs December 4-6 in Cunningham Memorial Chapel on the NDNU campus.
Debra Lambert, director of the Department of Music and Vocal Arts at NDNU, originally approached Stapp with the idea of his giving a master class, and then offered him the role of Sarastro, the high priest of Isis and Osiris. “Debra spoke with me and said she had a ‘crazy idea’, and here I am,” said Stapp. “I accepted because I have the utmost respect for Debra, and I wanted to see the campus and what is going on down here [at NDNU].”
Stapp is not a stranger to The Magic Flute. He has performed or covered the role of Sarastro in 13 productions to date, including the PBS Great Performances: Live From Lincoln Center telecast of the New York City Opera production. His debut at San Francisco Opera in 1980 was in Die Zauberflöte, as it is known in the original German setting, as the Second Armored Man, and he sang Sarastro for the first time in 1983 with Eugene Opera. However, his favorite production of Flute was in 1995 in Japan. “I absolutely loved the people,” said Stapp. “It was a wonderful experience.”
Now Stapp has the opportunity to work with a different kind of people: students who are learning the ropes of the music business. “I like being a resource to those aspiring to be in the business,” said Stapp. “When I was in high school and college, I was friends with my professors. Now I get to do it the other way around.” Stapp joined the cast a few weeks late, after the production team searched for a singer who possessed the presence and voice to fill Sarastro’s shoes. The casting has proven to be a positive experience for both Stapp and the student performers, who get a fresh taste of professional singing from Stapp. “Their vitality is contagious,” said Stapp. “It’s keeps old fogies like me young! I am so impressed with the talents in this opera. The experience has been interesting, in the good sense of the word.”
Stapp, who has had an extensive operatic career for over 35 years, still performs, when, as he says, “people are foolish enough to have me.” His next engagement is March 15, when he will perform a new work set to some of his poetry. Stapp received his BA in Music from Loretto Heights College in Colorado and his Artist’s Diploma from Academy of Vocal Arts in Pennsylvania. He has performed in 30 productions with San Francisco Opera, and has worked with over 60 American opera companies, including New Orleans Opera, Nevada Opera, Baltimore Opera, Portland Opera, Mississippi Opera, Sacramento Opera, as well as in Europe, Mexico, China and Japan. He has authored a number of articles and pamphlets, and has given master classes in the United States and Japan. Stapp is a member of AGMA, and has served on its Board of Governors, and is currently Second Vice President. He lives in San Francisco, where he maintains a voice studio, with his wife Marcie Stapp, an accomplished vocal coach, accompanist, and translator.