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Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger
04 Dec 2013

Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger

Heldentenor Jay Hunter Morris tells us about the lean times when the phone did not ring, as well as those thrilling moments when companies entrusted him with the most important roles in opera.

Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger

A review by Maria Nockin

Opera Lively Press, 2013, ISBN: 978-0615793870

$9.86  Click to buy

Readers will learn of his fishing trip with Bryn Terfel, why he was not safe at the Safeway, and his experience as John Lithgow’s dinner guest.

Jay Hunter Morris says that he has been keeping a diary of his experiences as an itinerant opera singer for more than fifteen years. Eventually, he edited its many chapters and formed them into a manuscript which he calls the Diary of a Redneck Opera Zinger. Then he put it on his website and let fans read it for free for quite some time. Having first encountered it when I was digging for questions to ask him in an interview, I could not put it down. Now that it’s published in paperback, it can be read the old fashioned way in places the computer might not go, such as waiting in line for opera tickets.

After acknowledging the contributions of various people who helped him on his way to Heldentenor stardom, Jay covers non-operatic events from the years 2000 to 2011. He begins with his introduction to an earthy hippie commune that took place while he was in San Francisco singing his first Wagner role, Walther von Stolzing in Die Meistersinger. He describes its people, such as Wendy the windbreaker who wore no clothes, in a most amusing manner. Some readers might be offended by Morris's potty humor but he uses it in a good-natured way. Much of the writing is in dialect, but it’s not hard to read and his self-deprecating style is absolutely charming.

Under all that humor lies a sensitive artist, and he tells us beautiful stories of people who love opera so much that they devote their lives to it with no thought of stardom. Those of us who sit in the red plush seats don’t often think of the people who retire from non-musical jobs and devote their time to working backstage. Thank you for that, Mr. Morris. He finds interesting people in foreign cities, too. His description of Gunta, the German widow who was trying to maintain two gardens, that of her late husband and her own, told the reader as much about the writer as it did about her.

Not all of a singer’s life is high C’s and bravos, however, and Morris tells us about the lean times when the phone did not ring, as well as those thrilling moments when companies entrusted him with the most important roles in opera. He did not have to tell us what happened when he portrayed those heroic characters. That news was are all over the media. Readers will have to get the book to learn of his fishing trip with Bryn Terfel, why he was not safe at the Safeway, and his experience as John Lithgow’s dinner guest. There is a great deal of amusing reading in this book and I think opera loving readers will want to have a copy at hand to look at more than once. I also think that filmmakers should take a look at this work. It could be a very funny movie.

Maria Nockin

DIARY OF A REDNECK OPERA ZINGER. By Jay Hunter Morris. Washington, D.C., USA; Auckland, New Zealand; São Paolo Brazil: Opera Lively Press, 2013. 132 pp. Paperback $10.95

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