Baritone Andrew Jones never intended to be a singer. He stumbled on a career in voice whilst marking time waiting to gain entry to drama school. The discovery was serendipitous because this young singer, presently a member of the Moffat Oxenbould Young Artist Program with Opera Australia is able to combine his love of acting with his gift of the voice.
It’s been a busy season for Jones, presently performing the role of Masetto in OA’s Don Giovanni as well as Marcello in La Boheme and prior to that, Slim in Of Mice and Men. Jones was surrounded by singing as he grew – his maternal grandfather was a singer and his father trained as one. However, Jones himself didn’t consider singing in a ‘classical’ sense at school. He was never a chorister, although he did take on roles in music theatre – Lazar Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof, and Frederick/Petruchio in Kiss Me Kate.
Attending Open Day for drama school at the Victorian College Arts, he was told to return in 3 years. Apart from this 3 year wait, it was an hour before his father would collect him and Jones found himself in the music school. There he auditioned for renowned baritone Ronald Maconaghie who offered him a place in the vocal programme, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Jones spent three years in the chorus of OA before joining the Young Artist Programme. Crucial years he says, in building stamina and an understanding of opera and stagecraft. “Being a Young Artist has given me access to some wonderful coaches, visiting international artists, it has raised my profile in Australia and the opportunity for amazing practical experience” he says. It is a measured balance between taking on roles and being ready for them, yet the practical experience is invaluable. “You learn the tools by doing the roles – it is integral to the learning process and a single rehearsal can teach you what you may never learn in a class. It is the grounding for the next step”.
Jones’ two present alter-egos, Masetto and Marcello are very different characters. For Marcello, life is a struggle. He has sacrificed his creature comforts for his art and ultimately his strength and loyalty as a friend are tested to the extreme. Life for Masetto is seemingly simpler, with the limitations of peasant life and his over-riding love for Zerlina. “Admittedly” says Jones ” Masetto doesn’t spend as much time on stage and is perhaps less dramatically demanding than singing Marcello. However Masetto has his own complexities and singing this role is a bigger challenge for me as it sits lower in my voice”.
Jones is hard pressed to nominate singer role models but acknowledges his namesake Andrew Greene, Director of the Young Artist Program and Lyndon Terracini, Artisitic Director of Opera Australia for their confidence in him. For Jones, Andrew Greene has been a repository of knowledge for language, musicianship, characterisation and repertoire.
Through the years of high school and opera, Jones has performed across the genres, from operetta and music theatre to Bel Canto. The Romantic style, especially La Boheme is his favourite. Like many basses though, the role of Scarpia is one he aspires to ‘one day’. For now, 2012 is looking exciting with the role of Papageno in Mozart’s Magic Flute, Zurga in Bizet’s The Pearlfishers where he’ll sing ‘that’ duet with Henry Choo (first cast) and John Longmuir (second cast) as well as learning and understudying the role of Figaro in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.
Images courtesy Opera Australia. Photo credits: Branco Gaica.