Choice Voice: Seven Questions with Jonas Hacker

Jonas Hacker has something to sing about in his solo recital for the Cranbrook Music Guild


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Lyric tenor Jonas Hacker is just 24, an age too green, it would seem, to tackle such an emotionally charged piece as Schumann’s Dichterliebe (“The Poet’s Love”). The 16-song cycle, with text by Heinrich Heine, chronicles a poet’s love, longing, and loss — sentiments more suited to someone who’s experienced more of life than Hacker.

However, the tenor displays boatloads of expression in his YouTube performance, and his voice’s somewhat dark cast underscores his dejection.

In a solo recital this month presented by the Cranbrook Music Guild, Hacker will include Dichterliebe, accompanied by pianist Matt Brower. Hacker is the Guild’s 2012 Betty Brewster scholarship winner, named after the first president of that organization.

The Wisconsin native received his bachelor’s in music from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and is now a grad student at the University of Michigan, studying with baritone Stephen Lusmann. Hacker recently broke from his studies to speak with Hour Detroit.

What will you be performing in your recital?

We are doing Dichterliebe, which describes the psychological journey of this poet whose heart is broken. It’s a very intimate and important work. We will also be doing two settings of the poem Adelaide, one by Beethoven and the other by Schubert.

Will there be any operatic numbers, or will it be strictly lieder?

Oh, no — we’re going to bust out an aria or two, but we haven’t finalized them yet. I do mostly Mozart, Britten, and Rossini, so it would likely be one of those three composers.

How did you get interested in singing? We’re you hooked as a boy?

Yes, I’ve been singing in choirs since elementary school, and my dad was a music major who also sang. But it really wasn’t until my sophomore or junior year of high school that I started seriously thinking of singing as a profession.

Voices often change. Sometimes they get heavier, brighter, darker …

Yes, and I’m very young for a singer. Male singers, in particular, don’t hit their stride until their mid-30s, so it’s going to be a while before I really settle into my voice. It could stay light, or it could get heavier.

Who are your favorite singers today?

I like Lawrence Brownlee and Jonas Kaufmann; they’re incredible. They’re both tenors, but they couldn’t be more different. Brownlee is a very high coloratura tenor, and Kaufmann is a big spinto singer.

Do you prefer songs over opera?

No, I actually prefer opera, but I still love art songs. There’s a lot you can learn, and you have to be really secure to sing them. They’re not as technically demanding as opera arias, but they teach you how to interpret text, and you can take those interpretive skills and apply them to opera.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’m hoping to get a yearlong apprenticeship at an opera company and maybe stay there for a couple of years and work my way up through the ranks. … My long-term goal is to end up as an apprentice at the Chicago Lyric Opera.

Jonas Hacker performs at 3 p.m. Nov. 11 at Christ Church Cranbrook, 470 Church Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-645-0256, cranbrookmusicguild.org. Tickets: $25; students, $15.
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