As a 13-year-old studying voice in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, tenor Christopher Bozeka dreamed of a career in opera. He took a relatively traditional path developing his craft at the Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts, obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Capital University, getting his master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, then additional training at Wolf Trap, Merola, Glimmerglass, and the Houston Opera Studio. Following a professional debut as Joe (La Fanciulla del West) with Lorin Maazel’s Castelton Festival in A Coruña, Spain, Chris was well on his way to forging a sustainable career.
Chris acknowledges that his hard work and dedication coupled with his mentors, including Sandra Schlub, Lynn Roseberry, Dr. William McGraw, and Dr. Stephen King laid the foundation for his ease in his upper register, his dramatic intensity, and his sense of legato. “There is a phrase that my former coach Terry Lusk said to me once; it is so simple that it’s brilliant, and I think of it all the time. He said, ‘You gotta sing legato! But that’s very hard to do!’”
Like many American opera singers, Bozeka’s journey has included inspiration from many sources. “We are so rarely afforded an opportunity to publicly thank our mentors. There are so many who have championed me over the years, and they all have my gratitude.” He relishes “the community that surrounds the American Opera world: the shock and yet wonderful feeling of familiarity when you see fans who travel cross country to support you; the shared realization that you and a beloved colleague are performing together in the next three gigs; the traditions and superstitions which must be honored.”
He recalled an interaction he had with the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, “After singing the arias of Pinkerton and Duca di Mantua at the event, Justice Ginsberg approached me. She spoke to me saying: ‘Wonderful singing, but, as a feminist, I hate both of your characters.’ There couldn’t have been a better response from one of the leading feminists of the 20th-21st century.”
Chris recently made his mainstage Metropolitan Opera debut jumping in as Abadallo in Nabucco. He joined the Met roster covering the role of Monsieur Triquet in Eugene Onegin during the 2021-2022 season. Chris made his “official” debut in Brett Dean’s Hamlet singing an Offstage Voice. Of his recent house debut he says, “ It was the first time on the Lincoln Center stage alone. I felt pride, joy, overwhelmed. As a young aspiring opera singer in Ohio, I always dreamed of being in a Met production like Nabucco!”
Having gone through years of training, developing his technique, and working in opera houses large and small, Chris has learned some important things in his young career. “Start saving money as soon as you possibly can—and learn how to do that! Opera is not a career which pays consistently well unless you are at the very, very top of the business… and even then, there are no guarantees. Many acclaimed singers have told me they have had stretches in their careers where they struggled to get work, and this was after they were opera superstars.” Another thing that one learns in this career is how to deal with rejection, “In today’s opera world it is so rare as professionals that we receive any sort of direct word of rejection. Often, we audition and then wait to hear back, but as the days and weeks go by since that audition, we are left to slowly realize we are not going to hear anything. In a way, we are given time to accept our rejection so slowly, that it may not feel like rejection at all.”
“I feel it is much harder to deal with success and combat the ‘imposter syndrome’ which often goes with success. We celebrate ourselves and our colleagues on social media, but when we don’t have work, we are often left wondering why it seems like everyone else we know is posting work and we aren’t? Even worse, it can feel that our work is not good enough to be posted, when we have friends who are singing in bigger roles at bigger houses. I deal with this by reminding myself that despite the outward appearance, professional singing is not a competition and that we are all on our own separate paths.”
Bozeka is in that rare class of tenor who sings the high-lying bel canto roles, but also enjoys singing supporting tenor roles as well. Finding that balance has allowed him to collaborate with different companies in a variety of ways. He recently performed the Duke of Mantua (Rigoletto) and would love to add Tom Rakewell and someday, Pollione to his repertoire.