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It's not easy trying to do David Pomeroy's voice justice in print. There's only so much one can say to convey the power of his tone or the agility and colour of his tenor vocals or the sheer beauty of their delivery.
"That is how a god sings," a German magazine has said of the Goulds native, who has spent the past 20 years making a living as an international opera artist.
Pomeroy left Memorial University in his third year of a bachelor's degree program because he had been accepted at an uncommonly young age into the University of Toronto's Opera School. From his extensive training there, he has gone on to grace stages around the world, singing in four different languages and performing significant roles in some of the best-known operas on five continents.
Pomeroy moved home just over a year ago and has recently completed a long-planned project: his debut opera album with 65 members of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (NSO), under the direction of Marc David. Expected to be released in the fall, the CD is a tribute to Pomeroy's career, both past and, he hopes, future, representing some of his favourite roles, those he's known for, and those for which he is being considered.
I’ve dreamed of recording Newfoundland & Labrador’s first #opera album for many years. Now, after 2 years of planning, it’s become a reality. Tonight I head to the studio to start recording my debut album in St. John’s NL! . Over the next 4 days, I’ll record 10 of opera’s greatest tenor arias with the 65 musicians of the @newfoundlandsymphonyorchestra, conductor Marc David, and an incredible production team led by #grammys & #junoawards winning producer Denise Ball. . Sincere thanks to ArtsNL, FACTOR Canada, and many private donors and foundations for their generous support and making this project possible. . Let’s go record the GREAT TENOR ARIAS! . #operasinger #cd #recording #canadian #tenor #studio #production #recordingstudio #singer #orchestra #classicalmusic #sing #album #newfoundland #record #recordingstudio #ilovemyjob #music #musicproducer #nlarts #FACTORfunded
There's Don José's "La fleur que tu m'avais jettée" from "Carmen," a role he has played at least 100 times (and one he had been scheduled to perform again in Winnipeg until the COVID-19 epidemic struck.) There's "Salut, demeure chaste et pure," representing his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in the title role of "Faust," and Puccini's "Nessun Dorma," which he has performed on no less than four continents. There are also selections in German, included on the recording to represent the present stage in his career, in which he finds himself growing into helden tenor roles.
"I'm 46 and I don't fit some of the younger roles, the prince roles anymore," he says, explaining that the voice changes as the body ages as well, meaning he is ever-learning and ever-evolving in terms of his singing. "I'm moving into the more heroic roles now, the kings. I'd be really grateful if I could do this until I'm 60, because I've been blessed to have such a career. I'm blessed again now to be able to move home and reconnect with friends and family and so many talented musicians."
It was the NSO that gave Pomeroy his first professional job — performing in Handel's "Messiah" at age 20 — and he was excited and proud to record the album with the orchestra. Having performed on stage together dozens of times over the past two decades, there is a strong connection, he says.
"I feel like I'm an ambassador of Newfoundland in the opera world and the more attention I bring to the province, the better," Pomeroy says. "Opera is the ultimate art form. The highest art form. Some people might ask how I can say that, but it includes costumes, acting, set design, lighting, vocal artistry without amplification, orchestra, ballet; all of the art forms combined into one. It makes for an explosion of the senses. It can really draw someone in and give them something they've never experienced before."
1. What is your full name?
David Frederick Pomeroy
2. Where and when were you born?
St. John's, September 1973
3. Where do you live today?
4. What’s your favourite place in the world?
I'd have to say St. John's, without question. I think it's obvious. I've never found as much peace and comfort anywhere else I've lived, or travelled. When I started singing professionally in Toronto, and started building a life there, I didn't think I'd ever get back home again permanently. I'm incredibly grateful to be back at home while maintaining my international career.
5. Who do you follow on social media?
Well, really I just use Twitter to follow Mark Critch impersonating Alan Doyle. I love following Greg and Allan Hawco for some good Goulds Rules nostalgia. And I keep tabs on my daughter, Juliette, who's a terrific composer/singer/songwriter doing cool things in Toronto, and, of course, Esther the Wonder Pig.
6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I fight with anxiety before I sing, every show. People always assume that because I love to sing and love my job, that it's easy and effortless. It doesn't matter if it's a role I've sung 100 times, or a new role I'm debuting, or a concert here at the Arts and Culture Centre; I'm very anxious. I spend the whole day combatting intense feelings of anxiety. I try to stick to a routine as much as possible to keep calm. I pace the floors. Once I step on stage, I'm fine. I'm preoccupied with giving the best performance I can. It's not stage fright. I love being on the stage. But no matter how many shows are under my belt, the anxiety is always present. I think it's something many artists deal with, and we would all do a lot better if we talked about it more honestly.
7. What’s been your favourite year and why?
2018. A couple of big life changes happened. I met my love, Laura, a cellist. We travelled the world together from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, Mexico, the USA, and decided to move home to St. John's together. It was the first year of my career where I didn't have be alone on the road the entire time. Musically, I was singing some of my favourite repertoire and hitting my stride. I entered what is now the prime my of career as a dramatic tenor and feel blessed to live close to my parents again. After 24 years of living in Ontario, it was time to come home.
8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Simple. It was hard being a dad and building an opera career at the same time. My daughter was born immediately as I finished opera school. I had to sing wherever the job took me and sustaining a career meant a lot of travel. Sometimes that was within Canada and sometimes it was a 3 month contract in Germany, New York or wherever. It meant missing a lot of the every day moments at home and her milestones as she grew up. Juliette was able to travel and visit me several places in the world which were great experiences for us. I would have given a lot to have been at home playing a more active role in raising her. She's now grown up and living on her own in Toronto, a freelance artist herself, we're ending up more alike than either of us imagined.
9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life?
In my second year as music student at Memorial University, I heard Pavarotti sing for the first time. I was sitting in the Music Resource Centre listening through old headphones to one of his recordings of "Nessun Dorma." I had no idea people could sing like that. I had been exposed to lots of classical singing, but never really had listened to opera, which is very different. I was consumed and inspired. I knew I had to learn to make that sound. From that day on, whether I understood it at the time or not, I was determined to be an opera singer.
10. What’s your greatest indulgence?
Food and entertaining. I love growing my own vegetables and herbs. I'm big into cooking and try to make everything from scratch. I go to the grocery store every day to check out the fresh produce and new products. I spend a lot of time planning a recipe. I love cooking for my girlfriend, our families and hosting dinners.
11. What is your favourite movie or book?
The "Rocky" movies. And I liked reading John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men." I sang the opera of the same title in Kansas City (during) my American debut in 2003, so I read the book to understand my character better, and ended up really loving it.
12. How do you like to relax?
I spend a lot of time on my feet, in staging rehearsals, or cooking, or pacing the floors, so I like to relax with my feet up. Honestly, my favourite way is to watch cooking shows on tv at home with a beer and some chips! It's nice to do something that completely takes my mind off whatever opera I'm working on, and off the business.
13. What are you reading or watching right now?
Right now I'm reading the Ron Hynes' biography, "One Man Grand Band." I'm really loving it. I never had much connection to his music when I was growing up, other than "Sonny's Dream," because I was screaming in rock bands before finding opera, but the more time I spend back in Newfoundland, I have such admiration and appreciation for his songs. I also just got the Metropolitan Opera app on my Smart TV, so I'm able to stream historical broadcasts. Just finished watching Pavarotti in the 1979 production of "Tosca."
14. What is your greatest fear?
I don't like heights. It's usually something I don't have to spend too much time worrying about. But when Laura travels with me, she's big into sightseeing and we end up on road trips and adventures. I was reminded how much I'm afraid of heights when I was halfway across the Sea to Sky suspension bridge in Squamish, B.C. last spring. The whole bridge just sways underneath you and I could feel the individual boards rolling under my feet. My knees felt like jello. Oh! And horses, I love looking at them, but please don't try to put me on one.
15. How would you describe your personal fashion statement?
Probably much more casual than people assume for an opera singer! No scarves in summer (laughs). I keep it simple: jeans, black t-shirt, Vans. I prefer to perform without any kind of tie and in just a black suit. However, the tuxedo does call at certain events.
16. What is your most treasured possession?
I have my grandfather's Order of Canada and Queen's Jubilee medals in frame by our piano. There's also a great framed photograph of my grandparents, Ignatius and Dorothy Rumboldt, with Pierre and Margaret Trudeau from when he received them. My mom saved them for me all these years. It was a pretty perfect house warming gift when I moved home last year.
17. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
Both of my parents have tremendous work ethic. My mom, Louise, still works as a nurse, and recently spent 58 consecutive hours at St. Clare's during Snowmageddon. My dad, Ron, owned Pomeroy's Convenience in the Goulds for 30 years, and just retired this past summer. They've never been afraid of hard work or long hours. My job can be demanding, and the travel draining, but they never entertained my complaints. I just had to do the job.
18. What three people would join you for your dream dinner party?
My mentor and retired famous tenor, Ermanno Mauro; my late Poppy, Dr. Ignatius Rumboldt; and the recently passed Reg Pye, Poppy's student and my dear friend. What a time we'd have! There'd be rum and single malt scotch. No doubt there'd be an epic singalong that followed.
19. What is your best quality, and what is your worst quality?
My best quality: I'm a perfectionist. I'm meticulous about learning a new role, I'm a clean freak around the house and need my food cooked perfectly. I like my work and my house organized. My worst quality: I procrastinate. I can avoid the one pressing thing I have to do by filling my time with nonsense, usually just scrolling on my phone or watching a show. It drives those around me cracked!
20. What’s your biggest regret?
I wish I had taken learning languages more seriously when I was in school. I was more focused on the "extra curriculars" of junior high and high school than French class. Now as a world traveller, it'd be helpful to be multilingual and to be able to converse fluently. I do, however, get by with the bits I've picked up on over the years, but definitely envy the European opera singers who speak 3 or 4 languages. When I sing in French, Italian, German, Russian, sometimes Czech, I understand entirely what I'm singing about and have learned the craft of perfect diction, but you can't really grocery shop with a vocabulary based around love, murder, revenge and death!
Twitter: @tara_bradbury | facebook.com/TaraBradbury