The exciting conclusion of William Suit’s children’s opera, IL GUFO IL TOPO.
The Villainous Silvano: An Interview with Jackson HodgesThe Villainous Silvano: An Interview with Jackson Hodges
When Will Suit considered who might work best for the role of Silvano on the recording of IL GUFO IL TOPO, he wrestled with the type of voice. It had to be animated, yet believable. It had to betray treacherous emotion and ill-intent. This was, after all, the villain of the story. Who could capture this and maintain the integrity of the role? Early on when Will was developing the story, students offered input regularly on the owl, Silvano. Without exception, they felt he should be a scary, nightmarish creature. All were curious as to the demise or escape of the mouse, Zita at the hands….well, talons…of such a cunning villain.
After Will opened his own music school, he met some young musicians looking for work as instructors. Among them was a young man who, at first sight, was quiet and timid. His polite, soft-spoken manner was in great contrast to the boisterous personalities of music teachers with which Will was familiar. Nonetheless, he took a chance and welcomed Jackson Hodges to his list of instructors. His major in college had been Voice.
A few months later, Will asked Jackson if he’d like to sing a song at a student recital the following week. Jackson gladly accepted the invitation and met Will for a rehearsal. He and Will looked over material, deciding on a song from Les Miserables. Will thought his voice sounded pretty good as he heard the first full song. Then came the day of the recital with a room full of parents and kids. Jackson stood to sing as the room fell silent. That was his canvas and he filled it with the most wonderful sound from the depth of his emotions.
The audience applauded vigorously and Jackson probably gained a couple of students from that very room, but Will had found Silvano. Over the next few months life threw many obstacles into the path of the recording, but when Will finally confirmed with Jackson, he stepped to the mic and delivered! Silvano was in place!
Here are Jackson’s thoughts on being a part of this project:
1. How did you feel about being a part of this project?
Personally, I very much enjoyed being a part of this project. It’s not as often as I’d like that I get to stretch my classical singing legs for performing, as it were. So it was entirely too much fun to get to use that side of my performance technique.
2. Who is Silvano?
Silvano is the villain of Il GufoIl Topo, and fits nicely into the stereotypical operatic villain role. Singing as Silvano was such a great experience. There’s this weird part of me that has always wanted to fill the role of a villain in a production, so this was truly a privilege.
3. How did you get into character for this recording?
To get into character for this recording, I pictured some of the classic Disney villains I grew up with – Scar, Ursula, Hades, and the like. They’re all evil in their own rites, but they still have that sense of cartoonish whimsy about them in most cases, which I felt was quite fitting for Silvano. I included just a touch of Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas to add a sinister touch just to make it clear that he is, in fact, a villain.
5. Which song was your favorite? Why?
Out of all of the songs that I got to record, “No Escape,” was probably my favorite. I love the chromaticism at the end. There’s something about the closeness of the notes in the vocal melody that create an ominous, foreboding atmosphere that I feel really brings out the events surrounding this part of the opera – Zita fleeing through the woods late at night in an attempt to escape from her would-be captor.
6. What can people learn from the story of IL GUFO IL TOPO?
They can definitely learn to be mindful of those around them – not everyone who shows interest in you or what you’re capable of always has your best interests in mind.
7. What aspirations do you have as an artist for the future? What have you done and what are you doing now toward that future?
For the future? Honestly, I’d love to do some more work like this. I’ve done recordings with rock ensembles and choral groups, but solo operatic work was a new experience which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m still working with many rock groups in a studio setting, so I’m refining my performance technique within the bounds of a studio. I’m getting better at taking creative direction, as well. Sometimes I have a difficult time finding the exact character that a producer is looking for, so I’m pushing myself to get better at doing that in the moment.
Will Suit takes us all to the opera to enjoy his recent release of IL GUFO IL TOPO (The Owl and The Mouse) in part 1 of this two episode adventure. You can find IL GUFO IL TOPO on your favorite streaming service. Read about it at www.willsuitmusic.com
In My Backyard
a children’s album
Will Suit Music is excited to announce the release of “IN MY BACKYARD.” The recording has been months in the making, but is finally available to purchase or stream.
In a conversation with Will about the release, he had this to say, “I finally have a compilation to put into the hands of my young vocal students to reinforce the classroom experience. I believe it will have a reach far beyond my studio, because of its educational value.”
The recording follows the songbook by the same name. The songs were all written and arranged by Will. Observe the sights and sounds of creatures at play in the backyard or deep in the forest beyond while singing along with your kids. “My dad provided us with a wonderful backyard against a large forest, ” Will reflected. “I still remember hearing the screeching “Hoo!” of an owl at night amid the chirping katydids just outside my window.”
The recording introduces the talents of a young singer from Atlanta, GA. Elishka Baer agreed to participate in the project early on. She provided the background vocals, including the owl calls that are heard throughout the CD. She also is featured as a soloist on “Give a Hoot” and “Forest Creatures.”
When asked which is his favorite song, Will pondered the question before answering. “I don’t know, really. It’s my music and I’m so close to it. So, I don’t hear it like everyone else does. I will say this about ‘Forest Creatures.’ That song was cut from a children’s opera I wrote last year. I put it on this recording initially as a filler, because it’s theme followed the recording’s format. In fact, we almost didn’t record Elishka’s solo for that one. It was at the end of the session and we were out of time. I was about to wrap it up when Elishka and I decided to do a take on it. We worked so hard on the others and did so many takes that we were both out of steam. Yet, with only a couple of takes, Elishka pretty much nailed this song. When I heard it played back the next day, I sat there in disbelief. I liked it! I still do. While I don’t know if it’s my favorite, it certainly has my attention.”
We caught up with Elishka on a busy afternoon amid her school activities and private studies to ask her about the recording. “My experience in making the recording was a great one. Mr. Suit did an amazing job making a wonderful and fun learning process.” Asked about “Forest Creatures,” Elishka beamed a response, “The process of recording Forest Creatures was special, and stood out. I really loved bringing this fun duet to life. I hope you love it as much as I do!”
You can purchase “In My Backyard” from your favorite music service . You can also find the songbook and other writings by Will Suit at www.willsuitmusic.com.
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