Chosen as one of 25 artists "poised to break out" by Opera News magazine, Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins is taking Houston Grand Opera audiences by storm.
The McGill University grad studied with famed vocal coach Dixie Ross Neill and her husband William, before joining the Houston Grand Opera Studio in 2003. Some of Hopkins' studio highlights include the HGO's 2004 revival of Rachel Portman's The Little Prince, where Hopkins sang the pilot's role. Other professional milestones include his performance with the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera and Canadian Opera Company, among others.
Though the artist often works outside of Texas, he and wife Zoe continue to call Houston home.
Birthplace...Close to Ottowa, a tiny town called Pembrooke.
Why Houston?...I was offered a position with the Houston Grand Opera. I auditioned for a number of programs--the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Canadian Opera--and Houston seemed like the best fit. They had the most to offer me. Houston Grand Opera has a studio program called the Houston Grand Opera Studio. It's kind've like an apprentice program.
First impression of the city...The company invited me to come down to audition. They put me up at The Lancaster [one block from the theater], so I didn't get a real sense of the city. It was so nice outside. I'm coming from Montreal, which has winter through quite a few of the months of the year. So to come to Houston, no snow, and everything is gorgeous and sunny. It was great. It kind've felt like a vacation, like I was coming to somewhere special. Somewhere completely different.
Favorite part of town...The Museum District is awesome. I could be entertained there for days on end, really. Everything is so close. I always have an interest in checking out Downtown--exploring more of Downtown and getting to know more places like Flying Saucer and Les Givral's and Barnaby's at Market Square. I've heard a lot of good things about Anvil, too [in Montrose].
The Houston food scene...I'm very proud of the restaurant scene here. My wife and I are really into that because we travel a lot, and we dine in a lot of revered establishments around the world, so to find things in Houston that are so competitive with the quality and flavors is great.We've found some real gems like Reef, for instance, and Triniti.Washington Avenue, which is actually very close to where we live, is building up so strong now. You can walk to all these great nightspots and restaurants. It's fantastic.
Food truck fan...Bernie's Burger Bus is insane. They have this burger--it's called the Detention. It's a huge patty, but the two parts--the top and bottom buns--are grilled cheese sandwiches. There's a fried egg in it.
World premieres...It's known, not only for putting on amazing versions of the standard repertoire, but also for world premieres. I don't have the numbers, but the numbers of world premiere operas they've debuted here is pretty outstanding. [Note: By the end of the 2012-2013 season, HGO will have debuted 50 world premieres.]
Houston Grand Opera's international reputation...Certainly, Houston Grand Opera is thought of very highly. It's one of the top opera companies in the United States. The Met, Chicago, San Francisco, then Houston--they're the biggies. That's thought of around the world, too. It's such a warm city and everyone involved in the opera-- whether it's the staff or volunteers--are family. It's a different vibe. I think there's something to be said about the southern hospitality of Texas and especially Houston. It feels very comforting and welcoming to be, and consider this, our home.
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