Resident tenor Marc Schreiner, who recently delighted Opera San José audiences as the witch in Hansel and Gretel, came to Opera San José from Minnesota, via Iowa, New York and Texas. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Education from Simpson College in Iowa and a Masters Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Houston. In addition to his vocal career, Marc has taught piano and guitar, conducted a college choir, and he is also a leather craftsman, a portrait photographer, and a furniture maker. He grew up in Rollingstone, Minnesota. “It is a beautiful place with green hills and valleys and many of the people are of Luxembourg descent,” Marc said” His parents thought piano lessons at an early age important, “and driving. I could drive when I was ten. Lots of freedom back there!”
Marc stated that public education in Minnesota was excellent and he had a broad exposure to different kinds of music when he went to high school. “From an early age I loved music and singing,” Marc said. “I listened avidly to my parents’ record collection.” At fifteen he sang in the high school choir. “We had excellent directors,” he said. “I always liked groups that sang in harmony, like the Beach boys and the Mills Brothers.”
In high school, Marc auditioned and was selected for the lead role in Annie Get Your Gun. The director started introducing him to classical music and did some recordings with him.
When he completed high school, Marc thought it would be “cool” to teach music. His parents and his sister were educators, so it seemed a natural path to follow. He went to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, majoring in Music Education. Simpson is notable for being the only college in the United States with an entirely student-cast undergraduate opera program that is supported by a largely professional orchestra. They do two full productions a year and have an excellent young artists program run by the Des Moines Opera. Marc did two leading roles each year he was at Simpson.
By the time he graduated in 1994, however, Marc knew the wanted to be a performer. He also knew he needed a good voice teacher so he enrolled in the MA program at the University of Houston and studied there with W. Stephen Smith, all the while singing where he could, like in the chorus of the Houston Grand Opera. After completing the requirements for a Masters in Vocal Performance, he sang at the Salzburg Festival and for many regional opera companies around the country. He met Khori Dastoor, the Artistic Advisor to the General Director of Opera San José and a former resident soprano with OSJ, while singing in Opera Saratoga Springs, NY. She let him know that OSJ was looking for a tenor and that he should audition.
Now a first year resident, and the recipient of a Howard Golub fellowship, Marc says he likes many things about OSJ. “I like the long rehearsal periods, and I love the California Theatre and working with this group of singers.”
He also loves singing. “Whatever I’m doing right now is my favorite role,” he says. “I enjoyed singing Fenton in Falstaff, had fun being the witch in Hansel and Gretel.
Marc believes each singer brings something special to singing. “I get on a kick where I listen to one singer, really study someone. There’s a broad sense of history when singing a role, listening to all the past singers of BF Pinkerton, for example. It interests me that a man in, say, Japan, and a kid in Minnesota, get the same chill when they listen to 18th century music and opera.”
Marc continues, “If it sounds good, it is good. A good singer has something to sing about and is a storyteller. Singing to an audience can be a stressful, vulnerable situation and one can’t be thrown by criticism. You must be true to your style and self, and be in the moment. One of the few things that angers me is when someone who doesn’t know the process criticizes in a nasty, discouraging way.”
Marc prepares for a role by researching the composer’s process. He thinks about the character, what he wants, what his goals are. He records himself and constantly tries to refine his singing. “The source of energy for me used to be coffee, but I gave it up. Now it’s love, what is good, what is positive. I’m not so interested in the human condition as I am in the human potential. I believe that historically artists have always shown us a better way.”