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In Conversation with Bass-Baritone Mark Steven Doss

By Alkis Karmpaliotis





Mark Steven Doss is an American bass-baritone renowned for his pristine technical prowess and impressive ability to tackle a wide variety of musical genres. Doss has performed on the world's biggest stages, including La Scala, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Royal Opera House, the San Francisco Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Carnegie Hall to great acclaim. He has received several noteworthy accolades, such as the George London Award and a Grammy award in 1993 for his recording of Handel's Semele. He also won the International Verdi Competition in Busseto, Italy, and was a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Doss's vocal versatility is showcased in his latest studio album, "Welcome to My World," which contains arias by Beethoven, Gounod, Handel, and Mozart, as well as several Italian pieces, such as 'O Sole Mio, and numerous American songs.


Doss fell in love with music in grade school when his counselor encouraged him to take drama and chorus classes for extra credit since he had been held back two years early in elementary school. As fate would have it, one of his teachers invited him to audition for a production of Godspell, kickstarting a lifelong journey with music and theater. Doss did not find his place in the opera world until later when a teacher encouraged him to pursue singing professionally. Skeptical about doing so, he double-majored in sociology and music, originally intending to stick to the former. He laughingly declared, "I don't need to socialize because I have a degree in sociology," something that he might tell friends when glued to the practice room. Early in his career, he was told that he would have to choose between singing baritone or bass roles; however, he ultimately realized that he could do both successfully. In this interview, he reflects on the development of his technique and repertoire as an opera singer. He also tells several deeply interesting stories from his career, from studying with Carlo Bergonzi to skipping the Grammy Awards to perform the role of Leporello in Fort Worth, Texas.


Perhaps Doss's defining characteristic is his relentless passion and dedication to everything he does. In the interview, he explains that, in preparation for a role, he not only studies the score and reads the libretto but also does supplemental research, going as far as to examine the opera's source material in order to fully embody his character and enhance his performance. One example he gave was Verdi's Macbeth, a role to which, he explains, reading Shakespeare's original play adds an extra layer of meaning and connection. "I throw all of myself into what I do," he said. "It becomes my world." He takes this same detail-oriented approach to his pedagogy and masterclasses, encouraging pupils to think mindfully about every aspect of their performance, such as the movement of their eyes and body language.


Outside of work, Doss also enjoys playing tennis and chess, and has a knack for juggling; however, he emphasizes that music generally takes up the majority of his time, saying, "People always ask me: what do you do with other aspects of your life? I mean, [music] is my life. I'm always working on music."



In this interview, Doss recounts his journey with opera and the staple roles of his career, such as Escamillo from Carmen, and shares the inside scoop of what life is like as an opera singer. He also discusses his journey to winning a Grammy award and the work that went into his latest album.


Listen here!


"Opera is the culmination of all the arts!"

- Mark Steven Doss















 

I'm Alkis Karmpaliotis, and I'm a Junior at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York. I hope you enjoyed this interview! I founded AppreciateOpera.org in 2019, and you can support my work by becoming a member and reading some of my other articles!

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Always fascinating to hear one's passion in their voice!

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