Conversation with Kristopher Irmiter

Performing as Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro, or Le Nozze di Figaro, Kristopher Irmiter will take the Belk Theater stage for the second time in just six months. Last fall, he was the title character in Opera Carolina's presentation of Don Giovanni -- now he comes back as the scheming, beloved Figaro in one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's most famous operas. A bass-baritone, Kristopher graduated from nearby Winthrop University, and after years of traveling all over North America, he has come back to live in the Charlotte area. He'll be performing, along with the rest of Opera Carolina's talented cast, on March 7, 8, and 12.

Why opera?
I always knew I wanted to be a performer; I'd been singing since I was probably ten. My first experience was in a barbershop quartet with my father and a couple of my brothers. I actually thought I'd be the next Billy Joel of the world. But I'd always had an interest in acting in dramas, too. When I did my first performance, I realized I was very comfortable getting in front of people and singing, but not talking. When it's music and drama together, that's when it's interesting to me.

What was your 2007 GRAMMY nomination for?
There was the American [revival] of an opera called The Mines of Sulphur. We did the commercial recording for the opera. It was a great experience to be nominated for a GRAMMY, and my fifteen-year-old thought his dad was the coolest person ever. But I was actually working somewhere else and had to miss the show. I hope it happens again so I can go.

Have you performed as Figaro before?
This will be the sixth production of this show that I've done, which is interesting because last season it was the first time I was Don Giovanni. I love coming to Charlotte, and come as often as I can. And Opera Carolina is always really great to work with.

You travel a lot to be in different operas. Where have you performed?
I'm basically a private contractor. I've worked in all fifty states and Canada.

All fifty? How did you ever end up singing in Alaska?
Both Alaska and Hawaii were interesting. I was singing the title role in The Flying Dutchmen in Alaska. It wasn't until I was there when I started reviewing, and I thought, "Holy smokes, this is the fiftieth state."

What kind of language training do you need to perform opera?
A lot. Easily 90 percent [of opera] is in Italian, German, and French. Ideally, you'd like to be conversational in these languages. I'm not. My French is pretty good, one on one. They're not going to hire me as a translator at the UN or anything. You also develop a great vocabulary. Of course, you have to be able to speak, but you also have to understand what's being said to you. For me, it's a lot of work, but I love that, because that's when the acting comes to life. When you understand what's being said and can reply. And I keep working on it. I'd like to become better in Italian, because I really do admire the language.

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