As employees in the opera world go, Kirk Dougherty has a pretty sweet gig.
Right now, his bread and butter is as a resident artist with Opera San Jose. As a resident of the company since the 2014-2015 season, Dougherty is featured in many shows of the company’s season, and that is something he certainly loves.
“Being a guest and being a resident of a company are very different experiences,” said Dougherty. “I love to guest at places, but it’s nice to have an audience I know and knows me and can see me in a variety of characters for each production.”
Dougherty’s latest production with Opera San Jose is Giaochino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” the 1816 opera buffa, or comic opera. The opera follows the quest of Count Almaviva, who through his alias as the student “Lindoro,” works hard to gain the love of Rosina. Plotting with the barber Figaro, a man who can also be described as a factotum, they work to outsmart the doctor Bartolo so the Count can have Rosina.
Comic opera is a style Dougherty is very much at home with, and gives him a chance to showcase the range he has spent years sharpening.
“I love the versatility of many types of characters on stage,” said Dougherty. “I tend to choose my experiences by what allows me to create an effective character. I try to present beautifully sung music and a memorable character from production to production.”
Those characters have taken him to a lot of places throughout his career. A native of Sleepy Hollow, New York, Dougherty started off as many singers do – in a high school chorus. Once his voice began to develop into a more mature sound, his vocal refinement began in earnest as a music major at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. And when he completed his performance degree in vocal music, he moved onto the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York for graduate school.
His first real apprenticeship after his education was with the Central City Opera in Colorado. With plenty of education and a professional internship program under his belt, he was very clear that opera music would be his future.
“I learned a lot from that program, and from there I knew I wanted to pursue singing in some form,” said Dougherty.
One of his most formative professional experiences he had came from Tri Cities Opera in Binghamton, New York. It was there where he was able to sing some great roles and some debut roles – Manrico in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” Edgardo in Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” and Tamino in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”
All of this has led Dougherty to San Jose as a resident artist, but there is also something about the nomadic lifestyle of an artist that appeals to him. Dougherty is based in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, and loves to take on other gigs when he may be on a break from Opera San Jose. He most recently finished performing in Giacomo Puccini’s “La Boheme” in Wichita, Kansas and will be singing the Duke in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” with Opera Las Vegas.
Dougherty maintains that as an opera singer, he certainly understands the minutiae of vocal performance, and is careful to pick the right roles, which allow his talents to flourish. But there is something more important than just the voice in opera. A lifetime of performing, even in the musical theatre experiences he has garnered, has taught him the importance of total performance.
“I think when anyone is singing is challenging, but it’s more of a challenge to present an audience with a great character and a memorable evening. It’s not just about great singing, you have to develop a good story,” said Dougherty. “It’s so important to tell a story with all the forces you have, with a great orchestra and a fantastic cast.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
Opera San Jose presents “The Barber of Seville”
Writen by Giaochino Rossini
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Through Nov. 27th
The California Theatre
345 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113
Tickets range from $55 – $175
For tickets, call (408) 437-4450 or visit www.operasj.org