Doug Jones, Pong, took some time the other day to answer 10 Questions for us. Read below to learn what operas Mr. Jones is a fan of and about his Kansas City roots.
1. How did your initial interest in the art form of opera begin?
Mr. Jones: It didn’t really begin until I was actually in one, in the chorus in Dallas while in college. I grew up on musicals, and – if I had had my way – would be singing musicals now … I did musicals when I first moved to Vienna, which was rather ironic, as my intention in moving to Vienna for study was to get serious about singing.
2. Where did you grow up?
Mr. Jones: I grew up in Overland Park, attended Shawnee Mission South High School, and then attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and Eastman School of Music.
3. Do you have a significant other? Children? Pets?
Mr. Jones: I have two dobermans, Daisy and Daphne. They keep me grounded – they are my babies.
4. What is an average day like for you? Do you have a set routine?
Mr. Jones: I take the dogs out to the park every morning, then do some vocalizing – or learn new music – then go to the gym in the afternoon. My competition keeps getting younger and younger and I find that terribly annoying – so I make an effort to keep up.
5. What is your favorite opera to watch/experience?
Mr. Jones: Hmmmmm, I enjoy going to see/hear John Adams’ operas – I think it would make me crazy to have to learn it and then rehearse it six hours a day for four weeks. Some operas are more fun to watch, some are more fun to be in.
6. What is your favorite opera to perform in?
Mr. Jones: Usually I’d answer whichever one I am in at the time. I just had the opportunity to perform in Shostakovitch’s Lady Macbeth of the Mzensk District in Tel Aviv, a piece I did ten years ago. It is an incredible score – I never ever got tired of listening to it; and he wrote it at, what? – 26 or 27 years of age.
7. Have you performed your role in Turandot before?
Mr. Jones: That’s an interesting story – I have actually done both Pang and Pong in the same production, but at different times. I was in a production staged by Francesca Zambello for the Opera Bastille in Paris – very modern, with none of the Chinese trappings that one comes to expect. It was a very exciting production, but has very much “warped” my sense of what Turandot is about. I first performed Pang in 1998, then came back to do Pong in 2003. It is initially confusing to have performed both roles – but after a while one settles in to the correct role (with a bit of luck). My colleagues have been very understanding when I accidently sing one of their lines (or worse – not sing one of mine).
8. Do you have any interesting anecdotes you can share about the experience?
Mr. Jones: I am very grateful to have coached the roles with Bob Kettelson, a dear friend of mine – I have made a dedication to him in the Turandot program. He was Muti’s assistant at La Scala for several years, and he was so generous and patient with me. Anything I do which sounds remotely correct with regards to Italian language or interpretation is entirely due to his tutelage. When I return to this score, he is there in every bar.
9. The opera role you haven’t performed, but would like to perform the most in your career?
Mr. Jones: I would love to perform David in Meistersinger. I have covered the role in San Francisco but I never got to perform it. It is a pity that productions, because of the sheer size and scope of the piece, are not done very often.
10. If you bumped into me at a coffee shop and learned that I had never been to an opera before, what would you say to entice me to give it a try?
Mr. Jones: I’d probably lie and tell you they give out free drinks at intermission. And dress up. And don’t take any candy in wrappers. If you were a complete philistine I’d tell you to consider that those singers are singing without microphones, with a 70 piece orchestra – and you won’t hear Britney Spears doing that any time soon …