Meet the Artist: Joshua Dennis

A favorite of MN Opera audiences, in-demand tenor Joshua Dennis has quickly made a name for himself as a versatile and wildly talented performer. In the past few seasons alone, he’s sung roles at the Ordway as demanding and varied as the lovesick Romeo of 2016’s Romeo and Juliet and the dastardly Duke in last season’s Rigoletto. This season, we couldn’t be happier to have him back for the world premiere of The Fix, debuting the role of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, a star outfielder of the 1919 Chicago White Sox who finds himself embroiled in a nationwide scandal. Recently, he sat down with us to discuss “Shoeless” Joe, his approach to portraying a historical figure, and what he likes to do in his downtime.

 

MNOp: When and how did you first fall in love with opera?

Joshua Dennis: I remember hearing the Three Tenors on a commercial when I was a very young child and being drawn to the voices. It wasn’t until probably my twenities that I started actually listening to opera, and it didn’t take long until I caught the opera bug. Once it hits you, you’re stuck with it.

MNOp: Do you have a favorite opera?

JD: I would say almost anything Puccini. I love La bohème and Tosca. They make me feel so many emotions.

MNOp: Describe “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in 3 words?

JD: Conflicted, talented, and humble.

MNOp: What is it like portraying a historical figure? How is your approach different as opposed to when you portray a fictional character?

JD: We know what Joe looked like. We know what his batting stance was. We know what his dialect would be. Since he’s a figure in recent history, I had to do a lot less guesswork about who he might be, but there was still a lot out there to discover.

MNOp: What have been some of the joys and challenges of singing this role so far?

JD: The music is amazingly beautiful. It’s been such an honor to have a small part in this giant creation. The music is pretty challenging to sing, but it’s still a joy!

MNOp: What are some of the themes in this opera that you think will resonate most with audiences?

JD: I think it’s interesting that the issue of corporate greed is so relevant today while we are doing this show. It deals with what lengths people will go to get themselves out of poverty. In this show, the American public sides with the everyday man who is getting exploited by the richest people, and I think that is a huge issue in the US today.

MNOp: Are you a baseball fan? Do you have a favorite team?

JD: Since I grew up in Sacramento, my team is the San Francisco Giants.

Ever since I started traveling almost full time, however, I’ve stopped watching sports. I wish I could find the time to watch a game or two.

MNOp: When you’re not performing, how do you like to spend your time?

JD: I like a good mixture of being active and leisure. I’ll hike with my wife and our Great Dane puppy. I love to cook. Relaxing at home, when you’re on the road, is such a luxury. Being home feels like vacation has started.

MNOp: What are some of your favorite things to do while you’re in Minnesota?

JD: The food scene in Minnesota is amazing. I actually love coming to rehearsals, because everyone at this company has become part of my family. And, hopefully, this year I’ll have time to see a Timberwolves game and see some comedy shows!

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