By Wayne Allen
September 8, 2013
PDT Staff Writer
Jonathan Burton, a Portsmouth native, has found joy in entertaining worldwide audiences with his tenor voice.
Burton is an opera singer and over the course of his young career, has had many roles domestically and internationally. He says the best is yet to come for his career.
“I’m a tenor opera singer. I travel around as an independent contractor, I don’t belong to any one company. I have an agent, like the Hollywood people,” Burton said.
He said as an independent contractor he gets to travel a lot.
“Sometimes I’ll be in Florida, Virginia, New York, Chicago and a different city every month or overseas performing. Usually what I do is a role in an opera. I don’t do a whole lot of concerts but they happen,” he said.
Burton said he will typically be in any given company for about a month.
When asked how he got into the business of being an opera singer Burton said, “It’s a very hard, competitive field to get into. The supply and demand are skewed in such a way there are a lot of out of work singers. I’m lucky in that my voice type is one that’s a little more scarce.”
Burton said the road leading to his opera career started when he learned to play the guitar
“How I got into the business, I started playing the guitar when I was about eight years old after I found a guitar in my parents basement. I got into music and I started teaching guitar at Childers Music Center. I was in a band and played in the studio a few times,” Burton said. “At one point, all at once my band broke up and the studio stopped working. I came back (to Portsmouth) with not a lot to do. At that time a guy named Stan Workman (a local classically trained singer) came back into town, I was asked to try out for the high school musical and my mother convinced me to have a voice lesson with Stan.”
He said at that point in his life he had never thought about singing seriously and ultimately it was Workman who convinced him.
“It was Stan that asked if I had ever considered singing professionally and that was it. He and I became pals and I went to his house everyday for singing lessons, it became like an apprenticeship. This was around 1993,” Burton said.
Burton said everyday he would meet with Workman and they would watch opera, look at scores of music, sing and would talk about opera.
“Then it came time to go to college and honestly I went backwards. I took some classes and would have one voice lesson a week, rather than the four hours a day, as I had become used to. So, I quit college and moved back home,” Burton said. “Throughout this process, Stan stayed my Yoda.”
He said from that point he took some time off to take care of a daughter that was ill.
Burton said it has now been 20 years ago since he made the decision to become a professional tenor opera singer.
“One of the other things about doing what I do is that for my voice type, I am lucky because its scarce and unlucky in the sense that as an opera singer you are almost of no worth until your mid-30s,” Burton said. “I am just now coming into my own in that way and my career has picked up in a way that’s meaningful and helpful.”
Burton said he has been on the sidelines watching others and been an understudy for a number of years.
According to biography information on jubrtibtenor.com “Burton has been praised for having ‘thrilling power and beauty’ (Baltimore Sun) and for being ‘the real find in this production…an engaging all-around singer with a powerful, full-bodied sound.’ (Opera News) During the 2012-2013 season Mr. Burton could be heard as Cavaradossi in Tosca with Kentucky Opera, Calaf in Turandot with Sarasota Opera and Rodolfo in La bohème with the Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman. Other seasons include roles with the Castleton Festival and Dayton Opera, among others. Engagements for the tenor during the 2011-2012 season included Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Opera on the James and with Shreveport Opera, and Cavaradossi in Tosca with Opera New Jersey and the Utah Festival Opera. With Lyric Opera of Virginia he sang Don Jose in Carmen and with the Castleton Festival he portrayed Rodolfo in their production of La bohème. Recent engagements for this Ohio native include Cavaradossi in Tosca with Annapolis Opera and Opera on the James, Don José in Carmen with Central City Opera and Opera Omaha, Rodolfo in La bohème with Palm Beach Opera, Canio in Pagliacci with Annapolis Opera, and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Phoenix Opera. In addition, he has performed numerous supporting roles with Florida Grand Opera, Opera Omaha, and Palm Beach Opera. On the concert stage he has been engaged by the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra to sing Rene Clausen’s A New Creation, the Lexington Philharmonic for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Southern Ohio Symphony Orchestra for Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra for Verdi’s Requiem. His formative years included engagements with the Southern Ohio Light Opera Company where he performed over 20 leading roles with the company, including Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Camille in The Merry Widow, and Caliph in Kismet. Mr. Burton studied at Westminster Choir College and the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati and was a member of Florida Grand Opera’s Young Artist Program.”
Burton said there is a lot of pressure when taking on any role.
“You rehearse for a show for three weeks and you go through six hours a day of rehearsing all of the moves with all of these other people and each conductor has their own spin on each performance,” Burton said. “If you get sick or you can’t hack it, they have to bring in someone who’s got to do in two days what everyone else has been doing for three weeks. So, there is a lot of pressure in that way.”
He through his experiences, the common stage freight has subsided and the only pressure remains because what he does is in the moment. Burton did acknowledge there is a lot of fun to be had in each of the performances.
For more information about Jonathan Burton visit his website at , jburtontenor.com.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.