Meadows Alumnus Claims Leading Role in Metropolitan Opera’s Ring Cycle
Jay Hunter Morris Shines in Wagner’s Siegfried and Götterdämmerung
One year ago, Meadows alumnus Jay Hunter Morris (M.M. Vocal Performance, ’90) got a fairy-tale break that performers can only dream of: he was offered the title role in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Wagner’s Siegfried – one of the most demanding roles in the entire operatic repertoire – just days before opening night. Leading tenor Gary Lehman became sick and had to withdraw from the production,leaving Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, to ask Morris to take on the role of Siegfried in both Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, two of the four operas in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle. Morris had served as an understudy for the role for two years at the Met, and had actually sung the role with the San Francisco Opera the previous summer, but said that never in his wildest dreams did he expect such an opportunity.
The production in October 2011 was conducted by Fabio Luisi, directed by Robert Lepage and broadcast by PBS, and it made Morris a star.
In his autobiography, titled “Diary of a Redneck Opera Singer” (available free atwww.jayhuntermorris.com
), Morris writes that he doesn’t remember how it felt to get his big break: “My only moments of clarity were those onstage once the performance began. Thank goodness, there was calm in the eye of that storm, and I disappeared into the music and the story for those few hours. I felt just almost fearless.”
Critics were moved by Morris’s performance. The Associated Press wrote that the production was “visually stunning and dramatically engrossing,” and according to the Wall Street Journal, “Jay Hunter Morris, who took over the punishing title role just a week before the premiere, has a bright, pliant tenor… ringing and energetic.”
Morris is featured in the PBS broadcast of the entire Ring cycle, along with a documentary, which aired September 10-14, 2012. Famed opera star Renee Fleming interviewed Morris as part of PBS’s coverage of the Ring. (See the interview here.) More clips and features from the PBS series on the Ring cycle can be found on the PBS website.
Morris graduated from the master’s program at SMU with Clifton Forbis, another Wagnerian tenor who most recently performed the role of Tristan in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in the Dallas Opera’s 2011-2012 season. Forbis is currently chair of the voice department in the Division of Music at Meadows.
The Ring cycle, with Morris as Siegfried, was performed a second time by the Metropolitan Opera in April 2012 and will return again in April 2013. Since his big break, Morris’s career has taken off with numerous other offers; he performed as Tristan in Zubin Mehta’s production of Tristan und Isolde in Valencia, Spain, in June, and in October he will sing the role of Captain Ahab in the San Francisco Opera’s production of Heggie’sMoby Dick. In January 2013 he performs as Siegfried in the Florence-Valencia Ring cycle for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, followed by the role of Erik in Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in Los Angeles in March.