Meet the Artist: Morgan Smith
We sit down with Baritone Morgan Smith, who stars as Don Giovanni in the Arizona Opera production of Mozart’s famous opera.
Why have you pursued a career in opera?
I come from a musical family, and I grew up playing cello and upright bass. A music teacher in high school named John Brooks identified that I had a special voice, and since money was tight he offered to teach me for free. He nurtured me through scholastic competitions, and introduced me to some friends who were professional singers. They also encouraged me to follow a career in opera.
How do you get inside the head of the character you’re playing, in this case, Don Giovanni?
This starts with good writing. If the libretto is compelling, distilled and honest, it makes our job much easier. I also look for a personal connection to the circumstances and traits of the character. I try to call upon my emotional memory of similar experiences and circumstances in my own life.
Do you have any memorable moments from your career?
My first professional engagement was singing the role of Donald in Billy Budd with Seattle Opera. It was an incredible experience, and has led to nine additional engagements over 15 years with the company. Also, I had the unique pleasure of having a role written for me by Jake Heggie -Starbuck in Moby-Dick. Performing Starbuck has been the most dramatically and spiritually engaging experience of my career.
What is on your non-opera music playlist?
I love to write songs in my spare time, and I have a lot of respect for artists like Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, and Brandi Carlile. I'm also a country and bluegrass fan, and 80s music is always a good accompaniment to driving and house work.
Do you have a favorite scene from Don Giovanni?
I love the final scene. It's one of the rare moments on stage where a performer essentially gets to challenge God to a duel. There is no greater impudence imaginable, and I find the scene incredibly challenging and compelling.