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An attentive tenor

Chambersburg, Pa. native to perform on hometown stage

Chambersburg, Pa. native to perform on hometown stage

May 01, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Tenor Corey Evan Rotz, a member of The Washington (D.C.) Opera, is coming home to Chambersburg, Pa., this weekend.

Pianist Susan Rowe Gable, his friend and collaborator, will join him onstage at the Capitol Theatre to present "A Capitol Encore," a concert of Broadway favorites and popular standards - "My Funny Valentine" among them.

The album was a way for Rotz and Gable to document their nearly decade-long musical friendship and Gable's 35-year career in musical theater.

Gable, who founded Escapade Theatre Company and Tres School for the Arts in Hagerstown, says she is looking forward to having Capitol Theatre audiences get to know Rotz, as well as to hear him sing.

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Rotz, 33, grew up in Chambersburg and organized his own shows as a student at Guilford Hills Elementary School. But it wasn't until he was a seventh-grader that the singing bug truly bit him. Then a "boy tenor," he sang "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Then he heard his first opera recording. He doesn't recall the aria or the opera, but Placido Domingo was singing. Rotz knew then that he wanted to sing opera. "This is what I have to do."

Rotz sang, but he had no formal vocal training until he was a high school freshman and took private lessons with Margaret Weeks.

Rotz made his Chambersburg Area Senior High School debut as Tony in "West Side Story" when he was a sophomore. The weekend's concert will open with "Something's Coming" from that show.

Rotz saw "Les Misrables" in Washington, D.C., in 1988. That first trip to the Kennedy Center was a high school graduation present.

Fast forward, and that Kennedy Center Concert Hall has become his artistic home.

Rotz, after graduating with a major in voice from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., auditioned for the chorus of The Washington Opera. He's been with the company for nine seasons - more than 200 performances. He sang Cassio to Placido Domingo's Otello in Verdi's opera. Domingo has been the Washington Opera's artistic director since 1996.

"I'm working for the man who inspired me," Rotz says.

Last summer the opera company performed in Japan, an amazing experience for Rotz. Opera for the Japanese is like rock concerts to Americans, he says. People wait in autograph lines for two hours. "They stomp. They throw flowers."

The kid from Chambersburg has his own dressing room - even his own dresser and makeup artist for his Washington Opera performances.

But being a professional opera singer is not all roses. Talent is only one small part of a musical career.

"It's incredibly hard work," he says. His competition is extraordinary. Rotz recognizes that there are 50 talented tenors who could have his job, but he's not giving it up.

"It's the only thing I want to do," Rotz says.

His life in Washington, D.C., includes regular workouts at the Watergate gym.

"Your body is your instrument," Rotz says.

Rotz keeps busy singing in the opera's off season. Last January, Rotz performed with the Arizona Opera.

He also keeps "on his game" by teaching private voice lessons one day a week at the St. James school outside Hagerstown. Rotz says he enjoys teaching, and it helps his singing. "Every time I teach a lesson, I give myself a lesson."

There will be a stage crew at the Capitol this weekend, but instead of a large opera company cast and elaborate set, there simply will be Rotz, Gable, a piano and an evening and afternoon of inspirational music.

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