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Where are you from?

I’m a Midwest guy through and through - I was born in Evanston, IL and grew up in La Grange. I’m now (still?) based in Chicago.


Which character are you portraying and do you identify with him or her at all in your own life?

I’m singing Marcello. I think part of the beauty of La Boheme, at least for me, is that there’s an artist in all of us. I may not be the best painter with a brush, but Marcello takes pride in his art in a way that I can certainly identify within myself. I can also say that I’ve had a slightly tempestuous love in the past … we weren’t as hot and cold as Marcello and Musetta, but I know those feelings.


What appeals to you about working with Windy City Opera?

It can be really difficult to navigate this in-between part of a career, but there are some companies that are willing to take a chance and help to develop an artist - for me, this is Windy City Opera. I’m really jazzed to work with a new conductor and to meet new colleagues and experience their insights into this amazing story in my favorite city.


What’s something about opera that fascinates you? 

The first full role I sang was Paris in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, and throughout the rehearsal process I couldn’t quite get hooked. When we had our first sitzprobe, I could suddenly hear everything the composer had written into the music where there wasn’t a singer. The sounds of morning in the sunrise scene, the anguish as the lovers lay dying. Every time I listened to the orchestra playing, I learned something new about what was happening onstage. The orchestra changes tone and suddenly the actions a character takes a few bars later make perfect sense.

I’m utterly fascinated by the way that an opera can marry physical actions and music, and teach us new things each time we listen.


When did you know performing opera was what you wanted to do with your life? 

My college voice teacher is going to flip when she sees this, I should be expecting a phone call.

I thought I knew in high school, when I realized that singing for a living appealed to me both because “it was easy and fun” (HA!) and also because I had no other ideas about what to do in college. In my first college voice lesson my teacher asked why I wanted to be an opera singer in the modern world and I fed her some answer with those buzz phrases like “love what you do” and “art speaks to me.” It was SO cheesy because I wasn’t convinced that I did want to be a singer. My first jury (singing for the voice faculty, like a final exam) was ABYSMAL and I spent all of winter break my freshman year thinking about what my new major would be, but in my first voice lesson of second semester my teacher made me promise to finish out the year as a vocal performance major. By May, I was hooked and there was no going back. So, it really took until the end of my first year of college to know for sure.


What do you enjoy doing when you are not involved with singing or preparing a role?

I love to eat! I like to cook, but I really love to bake. I like to swim and run to stay in some sort of shape - this also allows for me to eat more baked goods. I’m a very avid reader and I LOVE museums. Also, I’ve been known to binge on Netflix. No shame.   


What did you think of the first opera that you saw/heard? 

The first opera I ever saw was La Boheme! Also my freshman year of college, because I was a latecomer. I was completely hooked. It was all of my favorite things in one place: a beautiful place (Chicago’s Civic Opera House), incredible music, and a phenomenal story. There were tears.


What music has inspired you recently – opera or otherwise? 

I’m so boring. I feel like my iPod gets maybe one new artist annually that isn’t classical. WFMT recently turned me on to Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, which I love and listen to at least once a week. When I’m not listening to classical music, I really enjoy Ella Fitzgerald. Something about the way she spins a tune really speaks to me - I want to tell that much of a story when I sing, too.


Did you have an experience related to singing, while stressful or unexpected at the time, you now find amusing? 

Once in a competition I made up some words. Well, that’s not true - I subbed in part of another verse where it didn’t belong, because I blanked in the middle of the song. I’m actually still not 100% over that, but it does make for a good story. Also, I can now laugh about my terrible first jury, when I missed an entrance toward the end of a song, so it was a beautiful piano solo for the last page.


Do you sing to your pets?  If so, do they enjoy it? 

My old dog, Buddy, grew up with me while I was really finding my voice. We got him when I was going into high school and he was with me until after college. I used to sing while I was walking him, and I think he really helped me (and our neighbors) learn some of my first arias. Later in life, when I started taking things seriously, he would howl along with me as I practiced. We did a mean Cat Duet. Buddy’s gone now, and my new dog, Zoe, is less musically inclined. She listens.


Have you ever worn a stage costume outside of the theater?

I’m telling all of my stories here! Apologies to my costume designer friends and my stage manager friends! I once ran from the theatre to the convenience store across the street in a vicar costume. I really do think the service was better.


If I could have coffee with any living person, it would be…

I’d really like to meet and chat with Thomas P. Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Someone who knows that much about such a vast amount of cultural history seems fascinating. Plus I feel like he would know where to get a really wonderful flat white, or a great cup of tea.


If you could trade places with anyone for a day, I would choose…

Beyonce. For me, the answer to this question is ALWAYS Beyonce. But if I may be wildly specific, it would be Private-Tour-of-the-Louve-Yonce.


Tell us a secret. 

I have a stuffed horse named Topaz travels with me to every out of town audition, every concert, every performance I have. He’s great. My ride or die.

Samuel James Dewese   -   Biography  Q&A

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