Mark Cotton, Baritone
Baritone Mark Cotton will sing with Opera Company of Brooklyn as the lead role in Simon Boccanegra on September 10. He possesses a strong, ringing voice and a stage presence that brings his characters to life with great dramatic range. He has performed throughout Europe and the United States in more than 28 roles including Falstaff in Otto Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Germont in La Traviata, Valentin in Faust, Belcore in L’elisir d’amore, Schaunard in La Bohème, Wolfram in Tannhäuser, Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Sharpless in Madama Butterfly. He has also performed extensive oratorio repertoire including Handel’s Messiah and Judas Maccabeus, Bach’s St. John Passion, and Mozart’s Requiem. We’ve asked him to share our experience with us.
How did you get into Opera?
When I was 15 years old, I heard a recording of Ezio Pinza singing “Some Enchanted Evening” during a summer school music class in my native home place Florida. At that moment I knew I wanted to be an opera singer.
What, in your opinion, makes OCB unique?
From the singer’s perspective, OCB gives you the ability to try out a new role without big pressure. It’s a low key, and a supportive atmosphere.
How do you relax when not on stage?
I like to lift weights and practice martial arts. Spending time with my two sons is great. They both are adults with responsibility, so when I see them it’s precious to me.
Do you have any advice for other singers?
If I were giving advice to YOUNG singers it would be this, a quote from a mentor: Don’t have a poverty mentality. Don’t think of spending money to develop your career. Think of it as an investment. And DON’T have something to fall back on. That’s giving yourself comfort to fail.
What are your dream roles?
If you would have asked me that 30 years ago, it would be Dutchman and Wotan. Now as I am starting my career again, I would say Verdi roles. Some…not all.
Which colleagues do you admire?
Mark Doss and I have been very close friends for 30 years. I admire him because of his painstaking preparation, couple with his seriousness to be true and loyal to this art form. Also, Paolo Montarsolo. I had the opportunity to spend time with him years ago in Rome. He had such a zest for life that spilled over into his music. Plus I love the buffo repertoire. Working on some rep with him was priceless.
What/who is your favorite opera and composer? Why?
My favorite opera composer is Wagner. The motion and color that he paints in the music speaks to me. A colleague of mine mentioned that listening to Wagner is stressful because of a lack of tonal resolution. I pointed out that the opera starts at the downbeat and resolves at the end of the opera. Doesn’t that make sense? So, having said that, my favorite opera is La Traviata. Why? Because of all the Verdi baritone roles I think Germont is the most human. Not royalty…not a larger than life figure. Just a dad trying to protect his family.
Which character (not in your voice range) would you most like sing and why?
This is tough. But I would have to say Manrico in Il Trovatore. Why? Just to sing di quella pira!
What other music do you listen to?
I like classic rock, some country, blue grass and certain rap.
Do you read books/watch movies to prepare for a role?
When I started sing professionally in 1979 you needed to do real research. Go to the library. Call a university half way around the world to find an obscure piece of music. Find a book with an original play. These days you point and click. So YouTube is VERY valuable.
How do you balance a career with a life offstage?
You need down time. Your question is right on point. BALANCE. I haven’t dated in a while because balance means different things to different people. We are slaves to our art form. But, to travel and spend time with family and friends is paramount to recharge.
How do you unwind after singing?
To go out with the cast is always nice. In most cases you spend a lot of time together. So, to relax with them is like spending time with a family.
Opera Company of Brooklyn Presents: Simon Boccanegra on Saturday, September 10 from 7 PM to 9:45 PM at 600 W 218th Street, 1 G, NY, NY 10034. Tickets are a suggested donation of $20 in advance, $40 day of and can be reserved online here. For more information about the production and cast, click here.