What better way to celebrate Black History Month by enjoying some history in the making, this time in the traditionally white field of opera.

We caught up with Phoenix native and rising opera star Terrence Chin-Loy for a chat about his role in the upcoming production of A Little Night Music. The distinguished tenor and first generation Jamaican-American will play the part of Henrik Egerman.

Studio Spotlight & Scenes in the Wittcoff Concerts

Terrence, how did it feel to be cast as Henrik Egerman and are things starting to improve with more diverse casting in opera given that the canon is already so white?

Terrence: I still remember when I received my Resident Artist contract from Arizona Opera for the 21-22 season and I saw that instead of one of the Liebeslieders, which I expected to be cast as, I was cast as Henrik. I was very aware that shows like A Little Night Music are often cast with completely white casts, not because they necessarily need to be, but because they focus on familial relationships and it makes sense to most people.

Historically, musical theater has been much more adamant on sticking to what we would call typecasting, and part of that is race-based casting. It was so heartening when my boss, Chris Cano, told me that “...[the general director] and I just really hear this role in your voice.” I was very emotional when he said that because I think anyone of any race goes into opera because they want to sing. When we think of singing, we are thinking of the voice. It means a lot to me that in my time here at Arizona Opera, I have always felt that everyone around me considers the voice primarily, and therefore I’ve never really felt any limitations regarding what was possible for me. The idea that the opera canon is “white” is really a mindset. In most operas, and even in most musicals, there’s no real specification that a character must be white; it’s just often what we default to. I think as we as a society make more and more strides in diversity and inclusion, the arts as well as other institutions will continue to reflect those values.

Tim Trumble Photography

Congratulations on Fire Shut Up in My Bones. What do you think it will take for more Black stories to enter the canon - because there are more than plenty of true Black stories out there that remain untold. And do you ever feel like writing something yourself based on your own background?

Terrence: I think this is part of a larger question that opera is answering currently. Most new opera does not enter the canon; it’s performed once or a couple of times at co-producing theaters and then archived. Opera is a large-scale art form that takes a long time to create and eventually produce. I do think people in power are taking initiative to find and encourage these stories to be written, but it’s not an overnight fix. I think someone like Terence Blanchard is a great example, because he had not really written an opera before Champion, which he was encouraged to compose by an opera director.

A lot of composition initiatives that engage composers of color are already taking root, but opera is a specific idiom and these composers, often coming from other idioms, need support and time to become proficient in operatic storytelling. I think that’s where the opera companies come in as they have the power to work with composers from all backgrounds and see their visions become operatic reality. I don’t consider myself a composer, but outside of singing, I do quite a bit of writing. I am very interested in writing a libretto one day!

Yale Spotlight on Terrence Chin-Loy '14 youtu.be

Tim Trumble Photography

What in the storyline and themes of A Little Night Music most resonates with you personally, and as an artist?

Terrence: A Little Night Music is so beautiful because the characters are complex. No one can be said to be doing the completely right or wrong thing, but rather we see each individual character as very human, which is to say idiosyncratic. Desire is a strong theme that runs through the piece. I really connect with my character Henrik because he is stuck between the desire to be morally upstanding and the desire to feel love and passion. I think even though Henrik is not queer, there’s a personal resonance there for anyone who has grown up not wanting to be gay because it felt “wrong.” No matter what our experience, we probably have all felt this tension between something that we felt we should do and the thing we actually want or need to do. Other characters in the show work through this same dilemma in their own ways, and what we see on stage that still makes this piece so relevant today is that sometimes being happy isn’t about what’s right and what’s wrong. I think A Little Night Music is about listening to your heart to find clarity.

How long have you lived in Phoenix and what do you like about it and the scene, the community, and culture?

Terrence: I have lived in Phoenix since August 2020, and this place and its people have really surprised me in the best way. Discovering my love for hiking has been one of the best things about living here. The American Southwest is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and getting to experience that in Phoenix and Arizona at large has been such a joy. I’m a Florida boy at heart, and having the sunshine as a mainstay of daily life has been a beautiful way of living to return to.

Get your tickets to A Little Night Music here.

Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

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I think it’s fair to say we all want that #fitlife, especially with Spring around the corner — as well as Gaypril on the way. Whether it’s pool season yet or not, everyone would choose to look fit over not looking fit, if they could have it with a snap of their fingers. OK, the vast majority of us would.

If you’ve met me, or have been reading my articles, you know that I live, sleep, eat and breathe fitness; it’s my heart and soul. That being said, I’m here to tell you that the concept of “fitness” is oftentimes tragically misunderstood.

Before you get too aggressive with your goal for pool season, let’s dive a bit deeper into what fitness means on the inside versus what it looks like on the outside, and common misconceptions around this concept.

1. Beware of the cultural pitfalls and misleading information around fitness.

Most of the bodies you see in the media are probably not real, they just look very convincing. As a trainer who also moonlights as a photographer and Photoshop wizard, I’m telling you that it is incredibly easy to alter pictures in materially misleading ways. Once you know the tricks of the trade, the imposters are easily spotted. But that’s not what this is about.

The point is: to the untrained eye, it can be devastatingly defeating to see such impossible standards. It seems as though the cultural pressure to look a certain way, to look perfect, has spread all the way from runway models to fitness novices with the help of smartphone apps.

The truth is that we fitness models look that cut, and that lean for only a couple days at a time. That’s it! In many cases, months or even close to a year of training, dieting and programming all go into looking like that for ONE day. Let that sink in for a second. Day to day, I am less cut, less tan and much flatter muscularly than what you see in some of my pictures. That’s just the nature of the beast. So, when you have a bad day on the scale, in the mirror or in any other scenario, remember that we’re all human and that the most legitimate photos you’re comparing yourself against were from someone’s very best day. That should help to keep things in perspective.

2. Most people want the results, without actually doing the work.

Fitness is not six pack abs, it’s not superficial, it is not temporary and it’s not an isolated phase in your life. Further, fitness is not something you do for someone else, do to spite someone else or even to impress someone else.

Fitness is confidence, toughness, dedication, coordination, power, balance, speed, strength (both literally and figuratively) and persistence in the face of all obstacles. This includes control over your attitude, your mood, your sleep, your schedule, your diet and other aspects of your life. This means getting that workout in when you least feel like it.

It’s not easy, and it’s definitely a grind that has good and bad days. You must show up and keep working on the days you’re tired, stressed, rushed, defeated, doubtful, afraid and so on. The days you actually have to overcome something instead of just checking your workout off your to-do list are the days you have the greatest opportunity to really make progress, push your body and see the most improvement.

3. Fitness is really an internal mindset. The external physique is the fringe benefit.

I’ve said this time and time again, and it might sound strange coming from such an aesthetic-focused trainer, but you are not your body. Your body is a tool, it’s a means to an end, to express your internal mindset, belief system, discipline and dedication to your workout program. Your physique will come and go. Your strength will come and go. Your abilities will wax and wane depending on what you’re training for at the time.

The outside will, and should, be always changing, but the inside is what we’re really after here. Good trainers want to train you to believe in yourself when sh*t gets hard. We want to train you to be resilient in the face of injury, obstacles and other setbacks. We want you to set ambitious goals and shoot for the moon because you can get there with smart programming and relentless will (do yourself a favor and ditch the crash diets and the photo editing software).

So, as you make your spring preparations for swimsuit season, try focusing on developing a sterling, unshakeable internal character and the muscles will come along the way, this I promise you.

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