Musician and Vocalist Artist Interviews

A Talk with Baritone Nathan Gunn


JVS: Do you do the coat and tie routine, and do you speak with the audience?

NG: I generally don't speak with the audience because it makes me a little nervous [chuckling]. I don't know why. I try to stick with just singing, and make it just a singing experience. I usually do wear a coat and tie. I'd like to move away from that a bit, but it is somewhat of a formal occasion, and I want the audience to realize that it demands real attention. I wouldn't be surprised if I move away a bit from that and dress in a more modern formal way. But for now, if it's in the evening, maybe I'll put on my Armani tuxedo and maybe wear a straight tie instead of a bow tie.

Presenters often want formal dress as well. People are slow to change, and formal attire makes some people comfortable.

JVS: The Nehru jacket seems to be a step away from the usual formal dress.

NG: I want to warn you that I have a car that's picking me up at 12:30 and I'll have to run off.

JVS: Moving right along.. I'd love you to comment on some of the songs and what they mean to you personally. One of them you put in specifically because of your wife. Is it a song for the two of you?

NG: It's "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" by Jimmy Van Heusen. It kind of reminds me of how we met, and finding the person you love. It also describes a little bit what she looked like. For whatever reason when I sing it, I always think of her.

Another one that's one of my kids' favorites, SONY felt was hard for people to understand. For me, it's a poem that I've always loved. It's "Jam Tart," the Auden poem that Gene Scheer set. I love it. I love all the words, and the images, and the stream of consciousness part. The combo playing it is really a beautiful thing.

Which leads to me into of all things, what for me is probably the most fulfilling to actually record -- the musical experience of it -- "The Secret Marriage", the Sting song. Of all things, you would think, how could Sting have the most interesting tonal texture in the music? But that song, for whatever reason, I find so poignant and so moving. And the words are so beautiful, which is another reason I wanted to do it. I think it speaks to many levels. If you want to talk about crossover, I think it speaks to everybody. Crossover music is kind of boring, but crossover text is interesting. I love that song because it speaks to everyone. It doesn't matter if you're married to a man or a woman, and it's not done because of some legal paper or because someone is getting money from a dowry or because it's arranged, but because you love someone.

"Just Before Sunrise" I love. I've known it for a long time, and I've been wanting to find a venue for it. I thought this recording would be perfect. It sets the scene for the entire album. It describes what is a very personal thing for me, which is finding (every once in a while in this chaotic life) that moment that is peaceful and quiet. I think I had said once that it kind of feels like that moment between heartbeats, when you're not breathing in and not breathing out, and everything is settled and okay and peaceful. Those moments come and go, and you get glimpses of them all the time. It's kind of Buddhist as I think about it. It's kind of the point of life, when you can take everything in and your heart is exposed and you're available to people.

I love all of these songs. "This Heart That Flutters" was a catalyst for everything else. It's beautiful music, written by Ben who is living on the upper West Side. It's modern, yet still communicates to people in a way that I think vocally and textually describes what I do best.

JVS: Let me squeeze in a final question. A lot of women and gay men fawn over you. That whole thing – the Franco Corelli phenomenon, where if anybody has a good body and good legs in the world of opera, where so many people don't, people go wild – how has all that attention been for you?

NG: I'm one of those people who… Director David McVicar once said to me, ‘Nathan, I don't think you realize how attractive you are.' It never struck me. I guess I don't view myself that way. I don't think too much about it, I guess. I love people, and that's why I do what I do.

If what you call fawning over me and how I look brings people into the theater, that's okay by me. I think of it as a complement, and I think of it as flattering. And it kind of ends there, I suppose.

JVS:Fabulous. What a perfect way to end.