Jay Hunter Morris
I was running late yesterday, meaning that I arrived at the Live in HD in Milford, CT about 45 minutes before Wagner's Siegfried was scheduled to begin. To my amazement, and only because this particular theater started showing Live in HD this season and folks around here do not know about it yet, there were only three people there at that time. I smiled at the couple who were seated in prime seating in the front row.
"Where are they?" I asked.
They both smiled and immediately engaged me. "Did you know," said the gentleman, "that Jay Hunter Morris sang at my son's wedding?" No...do tell. It turned out that I had the opportunity to meet Morris' former mother-in-law and three close friends, all of whom are long-time Connecticut residents. They had come to hear someone they knew and cared about sing on the silver screen.
People did show up. The opera began. Siegfried, played by Morris, entered singing and brought a bear to scare Mime. "There he is!" said a group of folks behind me. At intermission I introduced myself to them. It turned out that they are personal friends of Morris, and that Jay's kids had stayed with them to trick-or-treat Connecticut style this year. They had come to hear a friend they cared about sing on the silver screen.
His meteoric rise from working the opera circuit to starring at the Met was documented during Live in HD in a short film clip. As of today his wikipedia page is a one liner: "Jay Hunter Morris is a Texas-born operatic tenor." It also includes a reference to a Newsday article from 1997. But the best documentation is his own website (click the "intro" tab).
"Now I’ll tell ya right off," he writes on his website, "I don’t have one of those voices, ya know, where I can just open up and be glorious. But I am stubborn and persistent, and one of these days just maybe I will."
Wikipedia, no, but persistence and stubbornness produced a very cool grassroots fan club here in Connecticut. Think of the people that anyone in the opera circuit would meet over the years, then multiply that by an intriguing personality factor, then multiply that number by the opportunity to share this experience in a movie theater. I'm sure that there were many cinemas yesterday where someone was poked:
"Hey, there he is!"