Center Stage With: Vince Wallace

Vince Wallace is in our Core Supplementary chorus and was most recently seen at Lyric in Queen of Spades this season. Our Core Supplementary and Supplementary choristers must find ways to supplement the income they make at Lyric and Wallace is no stranger at doing so with ease. He is currently and has been performing all over the Chicagoland area for many years both as a soloist and as a chorister, and we are very lucky to have him here at Lyric. As with many musicians during this time, he has had performance contract cancellations and his Bella Voce concert has been postponed rather than cancelled. He performs regularly with prestigious companies such as Chicago Opera Theater, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and sings “The National Anthem” at the Bulls and Bears games. Both of his Parents were professional singers. So, it is no surprise that he mentioned in this interview if he was not an opera singer, he would still be an entertainer of some sort. He has been singing at Lyric since 2008 and when asked what his favorite thing was about working at Lyric Opera of Chicago, his response was “the rehearsal process.”

Q: Where did you grow up?

Wallace: I grew up in St. Louis, MO.

Q: How long have you been singing at Lyric and what brought you to this company/city?

Wallace: I’m currently in my 11th consecutive season at Lyric. I came to Lyric/Chicago to be in the ’08-’09 season when I accepted a supplementary chorus position in Porgy and Bess.

Lyric Opera Chorister Vince Wallace as a prepares backstage for a recent performance.

Q:  What is your favorite opera and why?

Wallace:  It’s hard to say what my favorite opera is as I haven’t done them all.

Q:  What is your favorite opera production/cast/performance at Lyric that you have been a part of thus far?

Wallace:  Out of the shows I have done, my favorites have been Tales of Hoffman, Tannhauser, Faust, Damnation of Faust, Carmen, Il Trovatore, Otello, Rigoletto, Simon Boccanegra, Showboat, Boris Godunov, Macbeth, Ernani and Carousel to name a few.

Q: As a Core Supplementary Chorister, you perform an average of two shows per year.  I know you do a lot of performing outside of Lyric. Tell me a little about where/what you perform and in what other ways you supplement your income outside of Lyric.

Wallace: I also perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Opera Theater, Grant Park Music Festival, chamber ensembles, numerous religious institutions, as well as the anthem for the Chicago Bears and Bulls, I have to find as many ways as possible to supplement my income as I’m not in the regular/full-time chorus.

Vince Wallace appearing as Mr. Koffner in Chicago Opera Theater’s production of Menotti’s ‘The Consul’.

Q: You were just involved in the opera Freedom Ride at Chicago Opera Theater simultaneously while you were rehearsing here at Lyric. Tell me a little bit about the role you played and about that experience.

Wallace: I played the role of Tommie, music minister of a church. My character’s role was to motivate the church community to take the trip to Jackson, MS, as well as provide solace and safety. The experience, as always, with COT is a warm and welcoming process as I’ve been with the company for over 3 years. I covered a lead role, Clayton as well in this production.

Q: Do you have a passion for newly composed operas and what subject matters would you like to see composers address?

Wallace:  I don’t really have a passion for new operas itself as they are usually difficult (but not impossible) to learn, but I do support new music with current subject matter as it educates the audience of modern times and perspectives. I continue to do them to play a part of keeping this art form alive, bringing them to audiences new and old.

Q: What is your favorite thing about working at Lyric and singing in the chorus?

Wallace: My favorite thing about working at Lyric and singing in the chorus is the rehearsal process. Music and memory rehearsals are exciting as they bring the chorus together and test our skills before we can start the staging process. This process is exciting because this is where the opera literally gets “on its feet” and we see it come to life. Performing these works is a culmination of our hard work and hours we put in to show a beautiful and complex final product.

Vince Wallace rehearsing with the Utah Festival Opera Orchestra.

Q:  Do you speak any other languages? Does this help you as a chorister?

Wallace: I am not fluent in any other languages but do know a little of them…enough to get around conversationally. As a singer in this business, I can easily understand the overall meaning or sentiment from years of schooling as well as professional work.

Q:  Where and what did you study? Do you have any degrees in music or any outside of music?

Wallace: I received my Bachelors’ degree in Voice Performance from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY and attended Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ for my Masters’ degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy.

Q:  If you could sing any role, what would it be and why?

Wallace: My favorite roles to sing that are appropriate for my voice type, Bass-Baritone, are Leporello (Don Giovanni), Escamillo (Carmen), and Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro) so far. If I could sing any role, King Philip from Don Carlo would be great, but I’m not a bass.

Q:  Tell me some of your most memorable moments from your time at Lyric?

Wallace: Some of my most memorable moments at Lyric have been learning and performing the Pilgrim’s chorus from Tannhauser and other great choral numbers in Il Trovatore and other Verdi Operas.

Q:  What are your hobbies?

Wallace: My hobbies are going to the gym, listening to vinyl, tending to my houseplants, watching sports, entertaining/hosting, playing cards and cooking.

Q:  Tell me a little about your family (partner, children, close relatives) and their significance in your life and career.

Wallace:  My parents were both professional singers. My father released an album in the early 1980’s with some of his friends (It was similar to The Temptations or the O’Jays) and my mother was a gospel singer.

Q:  Do you have any performing/opera related things coming up?

Wallace:  After this season at Lyric, I will be in Lyric Unlimited’s production of Blue as a cover, Bella Voce’s concert series, Outcast: Lamentations of Jeremiah (White) and Sun-dogs (Macmillan) and possible Grant Park Music Festival concerts. I will have concert work with the Skokie Concert Choir, DuPage Chorale and Merit Conservatory. In the spring of 2021, I will make my debut at Florentine Opera in their production of La Boheme and will be returning to Chicago Opera Theater for their production of Il Postino.

Q:  If you weren’t a singer, what would you be doing and why?

Wallace:  If I weren’t a singer, I believe that I still would be a performer/entertainer. Even from early on, I’ve always loved the stage. Now I do that with singing, but I’ve done theater since before I can remember. I do love interior design as well as cooking and sports.

Q:  Do you play any instruments? If you don’t, which one would you want to play?

Wallace:  I was a percussionist for many years before and up to when I took on singing. I wish I was better at piano, not only does it help immensely with my career now, but it would be great to do proficiently.

Q:  What kind of music do you listen to outside of the opera house?

Wallace:  I listen to almost every genre of music, even some country. I feel that it’s important to listen to all types of music to better get a sense of what I do as an opera singer. I started out as a R&B and Gospel singer. It then turned to Musical Theater and now I sing mostly Classical and Opera. Pulling from as many genres as possible helps me to use those skills in what I do today.

Q:  What do you do in your down time backstage in the dressing room?

Wallace:  In my downtime backstage of the opera house you can usually find me on my phone playing games or on social media, playing cards or hanging out in the dressing room watching TV.

Q:  Do you have a sore throat remedy?

Wallace:  I don’t really have a throat remedy. I’m not the bottle toting, scarf-wearing germaphobe stereotype. If I need, a good hot toddie, lots of fluids; water and rest, limited talking and time usually heals my instrument.