“No make-up!”… Brandon Jovanovich

Winner of the 2007 Richard Tucker Award, Brandon Jovanovich is recognized by the world’s leading opera companies for his passionate stage portrayals of leading roles in French, Italian, German, and Slavic opera.
An accomplished musician and actor, Mr. Jovanovich has had successes in repertoire both standard and contemporary, including, among the others, Pollione in Norma, Boconnion in Richard Rodney Bennett’s The Mines of Sulphur, Macduff in Macbeth, Alfredo in La Traviata,   Baron Lummar in Strauss’s Intermezzo, Luigi in Il Tabarro,   the American premiere of Lowell Lieberman’s The Picture of Dorian Gray as Lord Geoffrey, the title role in the world premiere of Craig Bohmler’s The Tale of the Nutcracker and Phillippe l’Entendu in Romberg’s The New Moon. Recently, he starred opposite to Elina Garanca in Bizet’s Carmen at the Met in New York and now he is about to debut in the world première of Marco Tutino’s Senso in Palermo with Nicola Beller Carbone. For further information, his website
Which is the main feature of your personality?
I’d say there are two aspects to my personality: On a professional level, or people with whom I am acquainted, I am very genial, laid-back, easy-going and nice.  Once you get to know me, or around my family and friends, I am more of a goofball on one hand and driven on the other.
Your worst flaw?
I am very critical of myself.  I think it has served to propel me and hinder me in all aspects of life.
Which is your star sign?
I am a Libra.
Are you superstitious?
Not in the slightest.
Are you a spiritual person?
Spiritual? Yes.  I was raised Catholic, went to a Catholic high school, and one year at a Catholic college.  I don’t go to church regularly, mainly because I am on the road a lot.
Have you ever envied someone?
I think it is impossible not to envy people.  I envy certain people for different reasons both professionally and personally.  I am pretty good at tempering that envy with acceptance, understanding and gratitude for what I have.
What did you dream to become as an adult when you were a child?
I thought I would be a professional football player, or a lawyer.
Did your family influence your choices?
Not really.  My family has always been pretty hands off when it came to choices that I have made, but very supportive after the fact.  A great combination.
Which is your most cherished memory?
I can’t pinpoint one certain memory.  I have a collage that floats through my mind when I think of this question.  My mom smiling, my childhood home, graduating from college (first and only one in my family to do so), marrying my wife, my kids faces and laughter…a myriad of images and feeling really.      The moment you felt the proudest?
More than any definitive moment, I would say that it is a collective group of accomplishments.  My family is very important to me.  The birth of my three children & their accomplishments; getting praise from colleagues; providing for my family.  My answers are more obtuse than I would have thought.  There are too many influences and changing variables that keep redefining what, where, why and when things are important.
The greatest disappointment?
The greatest disappointment that I have is the amount of time I spend away from my home.
What’s missing in your life today?
My wife and kids.  (Realize that all of these answers are being tempered by my being away from home for the past three months with one more to go.)
What are you afraid of the most?
I am afraid of failure on all levels.  Whether it be singing a high Bb, providing for my family, giving an opera company the best performance that I can give, to forgetting words.  I am afraid to look back on my life and not be able to see a positive, lasting impact that I have made on those around me.
Do you have a recurrent dream?
I have two stress dreams.  One is being pushed onstage to sing Rodolfo in La Boheme (a role I have never sung) and trying in vain to tell those pushing me that I don’t know the role!  The other is a having a restaurant filled with tables waiting for me to serve them, and me failing miserably!
How important is money to you?
The short answer: a lot.  The long answer: I didn’t have a lot growing up.  My mom struggled to raise three kids on her own.  I used student loans for college and have always held a number of jobs from the time I was 15.  Living in NYC, paying off student loans, paying for coachings, scores, voice lessons and food while trying to audition and hold down three catering jobs was tough.  I didn’t jump right into a brilliant, fast-track career.  I had to cultivate it slowly over a number of years, which takes time, money and patience.  Now that I am the sole bread winner in the family (so my wife and kids are able to visit me more often while on the road), money and the security that it affords means a lot to me.
Which is the item you like spending money on the most?
We recently bought a farm.  So, that is what I am enjoying spending money on at the moment.  Before that I would have said “gadgets.”  Cameras, computers, i-pods, recording devices, etc.
Do you collect anything?
Cameras, computers, i-pods…well, I’m sort of joking.  If I think about it, I would say that I collect tools.  I really like tools.  I am going through them at home and have a nice assortment for all sorts of things.  (I’m pretty handy around the house!)
Which are your favorite readings?
I enjoy historical biographies: His Excellency (George Washington); American Lion (Andrew Jackson); Washington: A Life (George Washington), etc.  I also enjoy fantasy adventure novels: The Wheel of Time series, Lord of the Rings, I’ve read everything by an author named Brandon Sanderson.  I find these two genres provide me ample mental exercise while on the road.
Which is your favorite perfume?
I don’t use perfume much.  So I’m going to stick with “Eau de Brandon.”
Favorite city?
I never thought I would say this, but I am partial to New York City. Seattle is up there too.
Favorite color? 
Red.  Other than that, I like earth tones in general.
Favorite flower?
Your favourite singer(s)?
I love Franco Corelli’s virile sound.  Carlo Bergonzi is another favorite.  Frank Sinatra too.
Which is the first record you ever bought?
WOW!  I couldn’t tell you.  I have bad associations with music from the 70’s and 80’s.  The first song that I have a vivid memory of is “Jack and Diane” by John Cougar Mellencamp.  I think one of the first CD’s that I bought was a Jefferson Starship album, but I don’t recall which one.  I do know it was tossed out of the window of a moving car.
The film you love the most?
That is tough.  I don’t have a favorite.  I like Westerns in general; the Lord of the Rings series; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Midnight Run; The Big Lebowski.
Your favorite season and why? 
I’ve always liked the autumn.  The changing colors,  the cooler days, the crisp air.  When I think of the fall I feel content.
How is your relationship with technology and which is the electronic gadget you can’t do without?
I am a big gadget guy as I mentioned earlier.  I think it has changed the way this business works for good and bad.  I remember having to carry around headshots and a resume not that long ago.  Now it is all done online with  High Resolution photos that can be downloaded, and resumes that can be taken from your web-page.  I pay bills online, conduct almost all of my business via email, receive cuts in the music, schedules, buy tickets, Skype my family, so much via the web.  So, I would have to go with my MacBook Pro.  It is invaluable to me.
How’s your attitude towards TV ?
I like to watch TV.  I am not a fanatic about it one way or the other.  I enjoy “Do-it-yourself” shows.  I would rather spend my time working with my hands either cooking, building or cleaning.  Memorizing music would be a better use of my time, or if I were home, I’d be playing with kids.
How is your relationship with politics?
I am an avid political junkie.  I have thought about jumping into politics on more than one occasion.  Fortunately I am too sane to do so, and to religious to want to sell my soul!
Do you have causes that are very important for you?
Just thinking of child trafficking gets my heart pounding.  I hate it and think it is something that every person should abhor.  Alzheimer’s is a disease that I find frightening and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. The lack of a good educational system in the US is something that needs to change.  These are three things that I care a lot about.
Day or night?
Both. Depends whether I am on the road, or at home.
Which is the situation you consider the most relaxing? 
A good dinner party with friends sounds very relaxing.  As does tossing a ball around with my kids.       Tell us your ideal day.
Waking up in my own bed, having a nice breakfast with bacon worked into it somehow, and some coffee.  Talking with my wife about anything.  Playing with the kids, making them laugh.  Doing some physical labor of some sort.  Having a nice dinner.  Walking across the street (this is an IDEAL day don’t forget) and singing Lohengrin, Otello, Andrea Chenier or perhaps Peter Grimes.  After a resounding success, return home, have a nice glass of wine, talk with my wife and sleep in my own bed.
Which is your hideaway?  
I don’t know if you are getting the sense of a certain theme running throughout the course of this interview, but my ultimate hideaway is my home.
What’s the soundtrack to your everyday life?
I don’t think I have one.  Talk radio keeps me entertained, as does whatever opera I am currently learning.
What do you miss the most when you’re away from home? 
My kids, wife, and the routine of it all.
The holiday or the trip you’d like to take?
I’ve never been to Hawaii or a Caribbean Island.  I think that would be a wonderful way to unwind.      What or who makes you feel embarrassed?
Not much embarrasses me.
How would you define your relation with food ?  
I love food!  I love to cook it, eat it, smell it, taste it and see it!
Mediterranean diet, mocrobiotics or fast food? 
Without a doubt, a Mediterranean diet!  Some of the most wonderful dinners that I have come from my time in southern France and western Italy.  I love the food from this region.
Your favourite dish? 
Funny that you should ask this question next because the answer is distinctly American.  The thought of a nice cut of sirloin, asparagus, mashed potatoes with a mushroom gravy and a nice glass of Bordeaux or a Medoc makes my mouth water.  (An alternative meal would be a burger, with fries and a Guiness beer.)
Red or white wine?  
Which is the place where cooking is the worst ever? 
I hate to say it, but I wasn’t too impressed with England.  There are some places in the US that are lacking too.  Especially in smaller towns and cities off of any major highway system throughout the United States.
Was music a vocation?  
I guess that it was.  Not opera, but music in general.  I have always enjoyed singing and acting.  In college I thought that acting was something that I would do with an occasional musical thrown in. I didn’t even know about opera at the time, so it wasn’t on my radar.  It became apparent that my voice was more suited to opera than to musical theater, so I started to pursue it full time, and I am so thankful that I did.  I don’t think that I could handle singing the same role 8 times a week month after month.
What would you want someone who doesn’t know your voice to listen to?
More than listen to me, I would want them to see me onstage.  I think that is where I have the biggest impact.  The whole package if you will.
If you were granted the chance to chose a role, which one would it be?
That is a tough one.  I think I’ll go with Otello.
Have you met Marco Tutino, the composer of Senso, in which you star, and how is your relationship with him?  
I have met Marco Tutino.  He is around the theater a lot at the moment.  He seems to have a hands off sort of approach, but he isn’t afraid to ask questions as to why something is being interpreted in a particular way.  He seems to be very nice, the few times we have actually had time to talk.
Was your role tailored on your voice?  
The role was not tailored for my voice.  It does seem to fit it though!  So, I guess we were both lucky.  Has the original movie version by Luchino Visconti influenced the creation of the characters and how? In case not, in which way are they different, taking into consideration the difference between movies and theatre? 
The Visconti movie has certainly flavored this production.  There is homage paid to the opening scene, and minute details throughout, help to keep the feel of the movie alive.  That being said, it is definitely different.  The opera is structured around the Boito novella, and the director (Hugo de Ana) seems to be melding the two rather ingeniously.  Tutino has left relevant scenes from the movie intact, while adapting the overall structure to the cadence of the novella.  The one idea that has been repeated to me on numerous occasions was the original intent of Visconti to use Marlon Brando in the title role.  That obviously didn’t pan out, but the character that we are developing in Hans Buchner is more in the Brando vein.
What do you do an hour prior to go on stage?
My routine is to not have a “routine.”  Depending on the role, I may be warming up, having some coffee, or just trying to stay relaxed and focused in my dressing room.
What’s never missing in your dressing room?
I am not one who demands or needs anything.  Wait, I say that and one thing that I always have on me both onstage and off are Ricola.  I always sing with one in my cheek, and I guarantee you there are many in my dressing room. That and a piano of some sort.  Either my little electric piano, or preferably an upright.
What do you think of when looking at yourself in the mirror? 
Where are those grays coming from?
Your mood at the moment?
At the moment I am pretty content.  I’m feeling a little anxious to have this next opera totally at home in my voice and head.  I am yearning to be with my family again, and a little nervous when I think about the amount of new music that I have to learn over the next 12 months.  I am trying to not think about aspect of it all and take it one day at a time!
What’s your motto?
I have a few. “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”“If you start a project, finish it.” “Never forget what is important in life.”
Photo Kristen Hoebermann