Classical 91.5

He Was a Comet Streaking Across the Opera Sky: Then Came the Crash

Jul 12, 2020

Meyerbeer: Le prophete - Gregory Kunde - Deutsche Oper, Berlin
Credit (Photo Bettina Stoss)

Gregory Kunde is supposed to be singing in Europe.  

The internationally-acclaimed tenor had just finished a run as Jean de Leyde in Giacomo Meyerbeer's grand opera Le Prophète at the Deutsche Oper Berlin when the pandemic hit.

Now he finds himself at home in Rochester with time to clean the garage and croon his favorite Frank Sinatra standards.

Kunde was born in Kankakee, Illinois, and studied choral conducting and voice at Illinois State University. He made his professional debut in 1978 with Lyric Opera of Chicago as Cassio (Otello). He has sung for companies including the Metropolitan Opera, New York, Paris Opéra, Théâtre du Châtelet, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Opera Australia, Teatro Real, Madrid, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, La Scala, Milan, La Fenice, Venice, Teatro Massimo, Palermo, Theater an der Wien, Semperoper Dresden, Deutsches Oper Berlin and Liceu, Barcelona.

In a video interview with WXXI's Brenda Tremblay, Kunde traced the events that brought him back to Upstate New York. 

Kunde said he is enjoying time with his family and wistfully watching opera companies in Italy and Spain begin to reopen.

"They're excited to get back and to get paid again," he said. "Hopefully they can get audience members to not be afraid, and of course they have to wear masks and leave two seats between them."

The ecosystem for the arts is much different in Europe, he said.  Many theatres are state-sponsored and employ hundreds of people who have kept their jobs.  Things are much different for musicians in the United States.

Kunde said, "Unfortunately for us in the arts, opera and in symphonies as well, when Mr. Gelb came out and decided that the Metropolitan Opera would not come back until December 31st of this year, that canceled everything.  I think that he gave license to pretty much everyone in the United States to say, 'Oh, okay, so we can do it as well.'"

Most major US opera companies have canceled their seasons until 2021. 

Kunde with his wife Linda Wojciechowski and daughter Izzy
Credit Linda Wojciechowski

Kunde's next singing engagement is abroad in November.  In the meantime, he said, he's enjoying an unexpected break with his family.

"What's keeping me normal and centered," he said, "is getting used to the fact that I'm here. I'm home and trying to be a husband and father doing work around the house. And we're having a nice time, you know. We get on each other's nerves a little bit, but it's been really good for all of us.”

Kunde said he’s making up for all the time he’s not been home.

“We cleaned the garage today,” he said, “and we're making our way through all the Marvel movies.”

(Gregory Kunde sings "You never walk alone" from the musical Carousel.)