The Doctor Is In: Meet Patrick Cook, tenor

Tenor Patrick Cook boasts an impressive resume including a performance for President Obama, awards at The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and a role in The American Symphony Orchestra’s recording of Les Huguenots. He joins On Site Opera as Dr. Henry Osborn, president of the American Museum of Natural History, in OSO’s upcoming production of John Musto’s Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt. We sat down with Patrick to discuss his thoughts about this exciting world premiere.

OSO: Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt will take place in the dinosaur hall at the American Museum of Natural History. Could you share a memorable museum experience from your childhood?

 PC: When I was younger we read The Diary of Anne Frank in school and later went to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum had recently opened and the design was so different from any other museum I had been to before. Instead of just having display cases and pictures on the walls, there were different methods, particularly lighting, used to create the space of the exhibit. The most memorable and powerful moment at the museum was towards the end when we walked into a room full of shoes from victims of the Holocaust, the smell of old leather was so overwhelming. I had never experienced a museum that utilized all of the senses including smell.

OSO: Are there any ways in which you’re like the character you play in the show?

PC: Like Dr. Osborn, I am an academic and I am also a Doctor (Doctor of Musical Arts). Dr. Osborn attended and taught at a number of different colleges and universities. In my academic career I attended a conservatory, a liberal arts college, a major university and now I teach at a community college so I have experience in just about every type of higher education environment.

OSO: What ice cream flavor do you most hope to eat at the ice cream social following the Sept. 23rd performance, and why?

PC: I love pistachio ice cream, it is such a weird flavor and you don’t find it in many places, so whenever I do I get excited.

OSO: Is this show or role unique for you in any way? If so, how?

PC: This is the first time I am playing a character based on a real person. I am currently reading a biographical memoir about Dr. Osborn and learning quite a bit about his background and his research, which is providing insights as to how I might develop the character.

OSO: Have you done other site-specific productions before? How is this different for you than a conventional show in an opera house?

PC: This will be my second site-specific production. I recently sang Peter Quint in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw with DC Public Opera. It is so much fun to perform in non-traditional performance venues. It forces you to think about your movement and gesture in a more comprehensive way because in a non-traditional venue, the audience is not usually confined to the house, they may be surrounding you and be able to see you at angles that traditional audiences would not. I also love the interactive opportunity from site-specific productions.

OSO: What is the craziest or funniest moment you’ve ever experienced onstage?

PC: I was recently in a production of Champion at Washington National Opera where I was portraying a drag queen. The set had many moving pieces and as a result there were tracks in the floor to make the scene changes happen easily. As I am not used to wearing stiletto heels, my shoe got stuck in one of the tracks during a performance and I almost fell. I was able to recover but not before losing an earring and a bracelet that had to be retrieved by some wonderful colleagues. I have a new found respect for my soprano and mezzo colleagues who often have to wear very elaborate (and frequently uncomfortable) costumes and maintain poise and elegance onstage.

OSO: This is a relatively short show. What is the shortest role you ever sang, and how was that experience?

PC: When I was a Studio Artists at Wolf Trap Opera I sang the Officer in Ariadne of Naxos by Strauss, he has one measure of singing for the entire role. It was a wild ride because I was also singing the Wigmaker who appears onstage 2 minutes later. I had a wardrobe crew of 3 dressers helping me do one of the fastest quick changes of my performing career.

OSO: You’ve played characters ranging from romantic and silly to creepy and evil. What is your favorite kind of role to sing and why?

 PC: I love singing the tortured heroes. My dream roles are Lenny in Of Mice and Men and Peter Grimes. Both of these guys are at heart good guys, but for various reasons have had a lot of tough times. They are misunderstood and struggle to fit in. These types of characters are so much more interesting to play because in addition to the good, they often times have a dark side or a past or a secret that adds depth and dimension to their character. It is rare to find that depth in the typical tenor young lovers.

OSO: Any other general thoughts about “Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt” or On Site Opera you’d like to share?

PC: I am looking forward to being able to introduce kids to opera in a fun and accessible way. John’s music is so much fun and enjoyable and I know the kids will like it.

For more information on Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt, click here.


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