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Adam Diegel has made a home for himself with opera companies around the world. He's performed in Wagner's Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera, sung Don José in Bizet's Carmen with San Francisco, and will appear with Nashville Opera this weekend, starring as Lieutenant Pinkerton in the season opening production of Puccini's Madame Butterfly.
Singing Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly has become one of your signature roles. We regularly see mature caucasian actresses sing the role of the 15-year-old Cio-Cio San. But even as we live in an era with colorblind casting, there's something unique about being a half-German / half-Korean artist singing a role that embodies the worst of American / Western imperialism. Is your approach to the role made any different by your heritage or is it simply a matter of playing the part?
Diegel: A little bit of both. It's funny... the irony... my father is American-German and my mother is Korean and they met while he was stationed in Korea. I'm the youngest of two and we moved to the states when I was two years old. There's not a lot of my life that can relate to Korean culture, although I obviously know so much about Korean culture.
I don't, for better for worse, see myself as Korean, mostly American. And it is, especially these days in opera and other art forms, not requisite, but kind of 'heavy air quotes' preferred that the person look like the role.
My only answer or rationalization for this is that the voice has to speak before the aesthetics, the physical aesthetics. Puccini is known for a really, really deep and full orchestra sound. And you need a voice that can carry over 70 instruments in the orchestra pit. There's a lot of brass, there's a lot of winds, they're all doubled, which just intensifies the sound. And if you don't have a voice with the quality to really carry through the orchestra, it seems a little lackluster.
Pinkerton is a lieutenant and he's supposed to be this strong character type. And, for me, the voice has to match that. So there's that aural aesthetic, if you will, and then there's just the sheer physical prowess of someone's voice. It's a really tough position for companies to be in, but that's how I approach it.
Adam Diegel--Don Jose (Flower Song) 2020 youtu.be
You've played Pinkerton in the Metropolitan Opera's Anthony Minghella production of Madame Butterfly and with at least six other companies around the world. What it's like to rehearse a role you're so intimately familiar with for a new company? Do you find something new in him or is it more molding the character to a new director's vision?
Diegel: I like to learn something new on every production. Rarely do you get to work with the same director or the same conductor even twice in two or three years. So it's always interesting. I always look for something new that I haven't experienced or heard from a director or a conductor. And it helps me to bring something new to that production and in those performances. Even if I didn't do that, there's always someone in the audience who's never heard Madame Butterfly before. It's my job to present Pinkerton or whatever character it is to the best of my ability and to the best of the storyline's abilities for that audience member.
You spent much of your young life in Memphis, Tennessee. Can you pinpoint what made you fall in love with opera? Was there a composer, a singer, or a work that made you think "Yup, that's for me"?
Diegel: Well, I wasn't actually exposed to a lot of what Memphis is known for: the blues. My father was in the military. Before moving to Memphis, we lived in Germany for two years in Virginia for two years. He was a big classical music fan and my mother was a classical ballet dancer. So there was always an emphasis more on the classical side of music. She was a big opera fan and he always had the CDs or cassettes back in the day that just had opera hits, certain duets or certain arias.
He bought one of the first Three Tenors recordings - Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras. I just remember hearing that music and just thinking that it was the most beautiful thing I've ever heard in my life. And with their ability to communicate that music, it just really spoke to me. I remember hearing the Butterfly duet, "Bimba, dagli occhi pieni di malia," and playing that over and over and over and just thinking, "I have no idea what these people are talking about, but it's gorgeous." And so I think, even if I was exposed to other types of music, it's the one that resonated, no pun intended, the most with me.
It's interesting that this music has lasted and survived 300 years in some cases. It's timeless. The themes are timeless, harmonies are timeless, and the resolutions, I mean, everything. I think that's where it just kind of everything kind of clicked.
I never had an ambition to sing music or opera. I started really, really late, when I was 24, with an appreciation for opera. I met a teacher in Memphis who heard the potential and she said, "You know what? You can definitely do this." So we gave it a go.
Is there a production or performance you recall just standing in the wings and hearing a castmate sing and pinching yourself while thinking "Damn, I'm actually here and doing this"?
Diegel: Probably Wagner's Das Rheingold at the Met. The cast was Stephanie Blythe, Bryn Terfel, Dwayne Croft. Every single night. It was so kind of surreal. And even the first day of rehearsal. You're standing there amongst Wagnerian gods. It's one of those moments where you remember it like it was yesterday. And you kind of questions like, how did that even just happen? You dream of certain things happening and then that realization happens and you're just like, wow, you hope that you say the right things.
You've stated that you look forward to singing weightier tenor roles, including more Wagner. Is there a bucket list you've got going? Perhaps a top three of the operatic Everests you'd like to summit in your career?
Diegel: Well, I'm actually going to proverbially summit two of those this coming season. I've always wanted to sing Manrico in Il Trovatore and I've always wanted to sing Radames in Aida, and I'm doing both of those later this year. I'm over the moon. I also really want to do Otello and I really want to sing Siegmund (in Wagner's Die Walküre). Parsifal is really interesting to me and Lohengrin is as well.
I think it's kind of where my voice wants to go - the more Germanic route. Oh, and also Florestan in Fidelio would be a really, really interesting role for me. Probably that one more than anyone, especially given kind of the times we're living in? Being imprisoned unjustly.
It's really an exciting adventure. I'm learning those roles right now, Manrico and Radames. When you do a deep dives into those roles, into the music, it's just unbelievable how you have one composer writing two different - almost completely different - musical structures for Manrico and Radames. They're completely different roles. It's fascinating.
Finally, opera can be intimidating for newcomers who aren't familiar with the form. They think it will be difficult to understand, that the music isn't for them, or that they don't belong. Do you have any advice for opera novices?
Diegel: I don't want to speak for the company, but I would think that they would say Come as you are and dress how you will.
I think the best approach, if you've never heard an opera before, if you feel compelled to, go to YouTube and look up whatever particular opera you're going to. Just type in whatever opera name and then add "full opera" and there's at least five or six examples of that opera being performed in different venues. That way you can kind of get an idea of what you're in for.
But I think the most important is to come with an open mind and an open heart. I think once we place stereotypes or have a kind of preconceived idea, you know, "It's not over till the fat lady sings," it can jade our experience a little bit. Come to it and just say: "I'm going to let the music and the story speak to me, and I'm going to be open to it." I think opera has an ability to transform lives. And I don't mean that in a facetious, overly dramatic way. It can be such an amazingly beautiful experience.
Madame Butterfly is one of Puccini's greatest compositions. There is a reason why Madame Butterfly is one of the most performed works in the entire opera repertory. So I think that's probably my best advice: be open.
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.
This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.
When I was 14 years old, I surreptitiously made my way through the stacks in the local library until I came to the Psychology section. One after one, I took down the books whose titles I thought would provide an answer, went to the table of contents and, if there were any, I flipped to the pictures.
Eventually, I landed on one with a word I had never seen or heard: Transvestite. And on the next page there was a black and white photo of a man wearing a dress, looking like he had just crawled out from under a rock. I can still see the expression of guilt on his face.
Not long after that, the newspapers and TV broke the story of Christine Jorgensen, a former member of the U.S. Army who had gone to Denmark to have Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS). Of course, the majority of the reports were always accompanied by some sort of joke, such as “Christine Jorgensen went abroad and came back a broad!”
America's First Trans Celebrity: Christine Jorgensen youtu.be
But those two events rescued me. I learned that I was not the only person in the world with this “affliction,” this sense that something wasn’t right. And I got a word I could apply to it and maybe even hope for a cure. But it was too early. I knew that to say out loud, even maybe, that I should have been born a girl, would mean being ostracized, becoming part of the joke, so I chose the path followed by most transgender people of my generation. I put all of my energy into making sure that no one knew.
And that wasn’t easy. For no matter what I did, I couldn’t match the image of the all-American boy, so I became the class clown. If I wasn’t the John Wayne male, at least I could be Lenny Bruce. It was my way of deflecting the mismatch, and, to some extent, it worked.
Others like me took varying escape routes, becoming athletes, businessmen, or whatever role they could slip into and hide behind. Most married, had kids, and did whatever was necessary to survive, with varying results, but never with happy endings.
Segue to the present. The scenario I described above is, to a great extent, still being played out, but now there are exceptions. Transgender kids today can find some consolation on the Internet. They can learn early on that they aren’t “afflicted.” They can make contact with others like themselves. And they can read about transgender people who are proud of themselves and what they have accomplished as well as hearing about transgender children whose parents accept them and allow them to be who they are.
But the information highway is not all smooth driving. And naïve youth can get lost on detours and take wrong turns, winding up as prey to the trolls, predators, and religious zealots—as well as various other kinds of bullies—who inhabit the virtual world.
So is it any better today for our transgender youth? Most still have parents who reject them and peers who bully them. Nearly half of transgender teens have seriously thought about taking their lives, and one quarter report having attempted suicide  compared to a rate of 1.6 percent for the general population.
It’s far from a perfect world. But I believe it is definitely better than the one I grew up in, because it’s a world where the President of the United States has condemned “the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender”; it’s a world where the parents of transgender children have publicly supported their sons or daughters and stood up to schools that would try to discriminate against them; it’s a world where the medical and psychiatric professions have come to recognize that being transgender isn’t a disease. All these things were inconceivable possibilities on the day I sneaked into the library.
Nina Simone To Be Young Gifted And Black youtu.be
When I was a teenager, Nina Simone had a hit record titled “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” that has since been covered by artists as diverse as Elton John, Rah Digga, and Faith Evans. A portion of the lyrics say, “We must begin to tell our young / There’s a world waiting for you / This is a quest that’s just begun.” That same message applies today.
To be transgender is not a curse; it’s a gift. As Derrick Moeller, a graduate student in Education at Iowa State University and a transman explains, “Having to contemplate what your gender identity and gender expression looks like is a privilege that most folks don’t have to go through” . Rather than being rejected they will know that they have been blessed, so that their plea “Why was I made like this?” will be replaced by a prayer of gratitude: “Thank you for making me like this.”
 Grossman, A.H. & D’Augelli, A.R. (2007). Transgender Youth and Life-Threatening Behaviors. *Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviors* 37 (5), 527-37.
 Tiffany Herring, January 28 2015 Iowa State Daily [goo.gl/YSL3SC].