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An Interview with Joshua Bloom
As a follow up to that recent
movie from Australia, Danny Deckchair, we now bring you the exciting
adventures of Joshua Jetset in tribute to the many venues in
which this promising young artist has appeared so far, and
without doubt will expand upon in the future. Joshua
was, of course, our Marchese d’Obigny in La Traviata, the
First Mate in Billy Budd, Cesare Angelotti in Tosca,
and the Black Politician in Le Grand Macabre this fall, a range
of roles that well displays his versatility. His mainstage debut with
SFO occurred last season, as the Second Student from Krakow in Doktor
It all began in Melbourne where Josh was born and raised. His father,
originally from Chicago, is a flautist who studied at Julliard and the
University of Indiana before joining the orchestra of the Scottish Opera.
He eventually wound up in Australia as the Associate Principal Flautist
with the Melbourne Opera Orchestra. It was there that he met and married
Josh’s mother, who played clarinet.
Josh’s first instrument was the trumpet, which he took up at the
age of four, but had to give up at the age of five because he was losing
his first teeth. Then, at eight, he began studying the cello (he thought
the spike coming out of the bottom was cool) and played that instrument
until he was eleven. At that time he heard of a string ensemble looking
for a bassist, so he switched to playing the double-bass (an instrument
that was somewhat bigger than he was at the time) and played with the
ensemble until he was fourteen. Joshua admits that he hasn’t touched
the double-bass since he was about eighteen. During this time, from the
age of eight to fifteen, he was also a member of the Saint Paul’s
Cathedral Choir and attended high school on a music scholarship. At university,
where he took a Bachelor of Arts degree in History, he became interested
in the theater. When there was an audition for the musical Chess,
he tried out and got a small part. He almost left the show in the rehearsal
period because the lady director was so difficult to work with (she was
even worse than the Billy Budd director). A member of the cast
told him that he should be patient and stick it out. He also told Josh
that he had talent and should start vocal lessons. This he did at the
age of nineteen and started performing in many amateur and professional
Joshua made his major operatic debut at the age of twenty-three as a high
baritone singing Figaro in a production of The Barber of Seville
with the Oz Opera of Australia. Josh is pleased to note that he is the
third Australian to attend the Merola program and become an Adler Fellow;
following in the footsteps of Daniel Sumegi and Stuart
Skelton. He is also proud to have been sponsored by our own "Opera
Mom" and beloved Super, Pat Beresford.
His favorite role, so far, has been Dandini in La Cenerentola
with Opera Australia. Josh was the cover at first, but when the original
artist who signed for the part never showed up, he took over the role
and sang for the entire run. The most challenging part, Josh thinks, is
probably Don Basilio in Barber. This was for Merola, and doing
it the justice it deserves is “a bit tricky”. This role has
also been the most rewarding when performed with his fellow Adlers.
As for the future, Josh would like to try his hand at Scarpia, Nick Shadow
(The Rake’s Progress), all the villains in The Tales
of Hoffmann and maybe even a Falstaff someday. These are
all fantastic roles for such a gifted singer as Josh, who is a great comedian
to boot. When I suggested that he might even steal the title of "The
Clown Prince of Opera" away from Anthony Laciura, he laughed, with
a wink in his eye.
We now come to what is always my favorite question in an interview. What
is the worst thing that ever happened to him onstage during a performance?
Joshua was singing the role of Paris in Romeo et Juliette and
during the wedding scene, right after she has taken the sleep-inducing
potion and collapses, he was supposed to pick her up in his arms (sacrifice
style) and, after a very long time, carry her up a steep rake and lay
her in a glass coffin. In this performance he picked her up successfully,
with chest out and stomach tucked in, when suddenly a button flew off
his pants. “My God” he thought, “my pants are going
to fall down.” So he popped his tummy back out to hold them up and
gingerly made his way up to the coffin with nothing embarrassing coming
In a a production of La Boheme, the Colline announced to his
colleagues before the start of the opera that in the café scene
instead of "La commedia e stupenda" he was going to sing "La
chlamydea e stupenda." He did and everyone on stage broke up with
laughter and lost their places in the music. In another Boheme,
another Colline forgot his place and called out "Salame!" after
Parpignol’s first off-stage shout instead of the second, thereupon
totally confusing the Rodolfo and the conductor and putting them into
For the first four months of 2004, Joshua was at the Vienna State Opera
for two roles with that renowned company: Fiorello in The Barber of
Seville and the Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly.
At the same time he was also covering a role in Billy Budd, the
same production we experienced here, and yes, the rehearsals were just
as contentious there. He loved his all-too-brief stay in Vienna, enjoying
the sights, the music, the history, the food and, especially, the beer.
Between touring with the Oz Opera in Australia and with the Western Opera
Theater in the U.S., Josh has sung in quite a few cities, thus the soubriquet
"Josh Jetset." And, after recently spending a little time in
London, he hopes that contacts will be able to present him there in recital.
Joshua feels right at home here in San Francisco because the climate is
similar to that of Melbourne except for their very hot summers. He will
have the opportunity to sample said warm holiday weather when he returns
to Australia in mid-December for ten performances with Opera Australia
as Giuglielmo in Cosi Fan Tutti, and plans to squeeze in four
whole days at Christmas with his family in Melbourne. He returns to start
his second year as an Adler Fellow in February. At that time he will start
preparing two roles for the Opera Center’s Showcase 2005: that of
Umberto in Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrone and the Father-in-Law
in Milhaud’s Le Pauvre Matelot.
- Tom Carlisle
backstage with Joshua Bloom as he is transformed for his rôle
in Le Grand Macabre.