When did you start singing?
As a child in Upstate New York, every Sunday I was taken to Mass. I loved hearing the songs in Latin, and hearing the choir. I wanted so badly to sing along, but was told by the organist I'd have to wait until my voice changed!
At school I was definitely noticed at an early age, and encouraged. This year, my home town of Pavilion NY honoured me as an outstanding alumnus of the High School.
For the award ceremony in June, I had a little film made, as a thank you, which I managed to have projected there at the Fire Hall, a sort of résumé of what I had become since those days.
I named the film Magnum Opus:
Why did you start singing?
Here's what did it: I would stand spellbound at eye-level with the keyboard, listening to my grandmother sing and play her wonderful upright piano for me, and this was heaven, the revelation of my life's passion. Following a period of pleading with my mother, she bought my piano (an amazing used Wurlitzer spinet she purchased with her first pay-check) and I began lessons at age nine or ten.
I know that after seeing Oklahoma on the large screen, I sang “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” by heart the next day! Bicycling along country roads, I sang my heart out when no one could hear me, with all the songs I knew. Makes me realize now, we can't over-emphasize the importance of surrounding children with good music, and art in general.
Which singer inspired you most when you were young?
One day in our local music store I picked from the display rack a 33 RPM of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Brahms Lieder. The only word on the cover I could understand was Brahms, but I knew I had to buy it! His singing, his use of varied colours and timbres immediately appealed to me. I memorized every song. Likewise, Barbra Streisand opened me to phrasing and an independent way of thinking vis-à-vis the printed music.
Soon, at age 16, I was taking professional lessons in Rochester from a retired singing teacher. He diagnosed that I had perhaps one note in place (I still don't know which note!), but I nevertheless had a voice “worth a million dollars.” I believe I already possessed a long, flexible voice, which years later acquired a true bass timbre. Mr Ahern taught me many of the values I honour today: to be prepared, to “always be a gentleman,” and to mark everything in the score – breathing, word stress, dynamics… I don't know how kids today remember any cues from a rehearsal or a lesson, if they have only their tablets for a score!. I can open up sheet music from 30 or 40 years ago and find the precise notes and indications that are so essential to an interpretation.
Later I had the joy of hearing Eleanor Steber countless times in Boston, and participating in her Master Classes. She inspired me by her impeccable musical preparation, her shimmering sound, and her love of singing.
Which singer do you most admire?
Anna Netrebko. Fascinating evolution, I heard her years ago at the Met as an agile young soprano. She continually makes her priority the beauty of singing, with lots of hard work and discipline behind this. Besides, she moves so well, and she articulates the music so effectively.
What's your favourite role?
Sarastro, where I can demonstrate nobility and Mozart style. Also Gurnemanz, not only for the beautiful writing of Wagner, but for his vision and wisdom. Don Quichotte, for his folly and lack of self-consciousness, with some of Massenet's most inspired music! And Seneca, for his practical, stoic adaptation to death, and for the incredible beauty of Monteverdi's universe.
What role have you never played but would have liked to?
None, really. I've studied Die Winterreise all my life, and do regret never having made a point of performing it… And all those Brahms songs!
What's your favourite opera to watch?
Nabucco! I revel each time in it's shameless, over-the-top operatic Kitsch!
Who is your favourite composer?
Who is your favourite writer?
Oscar Wilde, for many reasons. Love reading his short stories, such as The Happy Prince, love the prolific genius of his plays, and concerning The Portrait of Dorian Gray, I had the privilege of creating the role of Basil Hallward in the premiere of the opera by Lowell Liebermann in Monte Carlo. Unforgettable and enriching experience!
Who is your favourite theatre or film director?
Who is your favourite actor?
Robert Hirsch. The greatest living actor.
What is your favourite book?
Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia. I've sent it as a gift to countless friends. She takes you, at breath-taking speed, back and forth through a résumé of Western Civilization! I'm a fan, and would love to meet her someday.
What is your favourite film?
The Band Wagon, 1953. The high point of American culture (Fred Astaire again!).
Which is your favourite city?
Paris of course, because I live here since 1978!
What do you like most about yourself?
What do you dislike about yourself?
What was your proudest moment?
Artistically speaking, having survived performing the last scene of Don Quichotte in Rio de Janeiro. After the exhaustion of the high-wire solo performance of five very demanding acts, just for getting through the emotionally draining death scene, and getting the words right!
Someone (my wonderful director Jorge Takla, actually) took a candid shot of me in the wings, waiting for my final curtain call cue, stunned: quite in character! The production was later awarded “Best Show of the Year, 2016” in Brazil!
When and where were you happiest?
In Venice one night, in the wings of Il Teatro La Fenice during a performance, standing in my armoured costume by Pier Luigi Pizzi, watching the beautiful scenery changes and just hearing Les Indes galantes, which I love. It was in 1983, and I realized at that moment that by singing the rôle of Huascar there, I had already accomplished more than I had ever dreamed. Gratitude is part of my constitution, and that precise memory has followed me to this day.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Many things, such as music and painting, but surely my partner Jacques, to whom I owe so much since 1980. Now, there's a book to write someday!
What is your greatest fear?
Living too long.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would have gorgeous, long hair…
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Surviving: sticking with a singing career despite tremendous odds, despite so many people in the profession who don't really wish you well. I also am known to bake the world's best butter pound cake.
What is your most treasured possession?
My piano, and our rather large collection of signed photos of the greatest historic opera singers.
What is your greatest extravagance?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
A true artist is a born liar.
If you hadn't been a singer what would you have liked to be?
A lawyer or a politician: you get to lie, and doing so make lots of money!
What is your most marked characteristic?
What quality do you most value in a friend?
What quality do you most value in a colleague?
Knowing their music, showing up on time, and good breath.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Abraham Lincoln. Leonardo da Vinci. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Which living person do you most admire?
Perhaps Jimmy Carter. My father died during the election in 1976, and predicted Carter would be a great president. It took many years, but it seems true now.
What do you most dislike?
The self-centred world we have engendered.
What talent would you most like to have?
What's your idea of perfect happiness?
No unsolicited phone calls.
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?
I love Sarah Bernhardt's epitaph: Quand même! roughly: Nevertheless!
Gregory Reinhart – a biography
The gifted and versatile bass Gregory Reinhart has achieved a solid international reputation for strong musicianship, remarkable acting and a generous and beautiful bass voice, appreciated in the concert hall and yet especially effective onstage.
Gregory Reinhart's credits in the US include the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, the Santa Fe Festival and most recently Carnegie Hall, for a concert with the American Symphony Orchestra. He also sang many times as guest with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In Brazil, he now performs frequently with the Theatro Municipal of São Paulo. He has performed hundreds of times a variety of roles with the Paris Opéra (Bastille and Palais Garnier), also with the Châtelet, Champs-Elysées Theater, Opéra-Comique, as well as the National Theaters of Nice, Lyon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, and has also performed extensively in Italy: Venice, Verona, Turin, Pesaro… as well as Germany: a frequent guest soloist over the years at the Handel Festival in Halle; and Britain, with numerous concerts in London and an engagement with the Royal Opera House. Recently he debuted with the Zürich Opera House and the Theatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro.
He teaches and offers coaching with his former teacher Jacques Chuilon, in Paris.
Master of Music, 1977; Bachelor Diploma “With Distinction” 1974, New England Conservatory of Music, Boston
Keep up to date by visiting Gregory Reinhart's website: www.gregoryreinhart.com
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.