Ten Questions in an Aria: Hidenori Inoue

In a change from the popular “Ten Questions in One Minute” format of a lightning interview, we ask one of our amazing artists to pick one aria from an opera—any aria, any opera—and to answer ten quick questions within the time it takes to listen to, sing, or hum

Next up: Hidenori Inoue, the Japanese bass-baritone, who sang Don Fernando in Fidelio last month and whose private recital for Austin Opera fans is now streaming on our digital platform, Live from Indy Terrace.

1. What aria did you choose to listen to/sing/hum to while you take this quiz? 
The Drum Major’s Aria from Le Caïd by Ambroise Thomas.

2. Why did you choose that one?
This was one of the arias I encountered when I started singing. It’s such a fun aria and I got hooked on it for a long time. It was one of the very few happy-sounding arias among all those roles and songs I encountered, and I still listen to it, even if it’s not in my repertoire anymore.

3. Where is your home?
I’m from Japan, a small town called Himeji. That’s my hometown, my biological home, but I consider that my emotional home is Houston, Texas. My wife is from there, and I have a great relationship with my parents-in-law, more than my family in Japan. So, for me, where my family is my home.

4. Where do you consider your “operatic home”?
I would say that my operatic home is my home in Japan. Both my parents are opera singers as well, and that’s why I hated opera, why I hated music. I was always hearing my mother and my father practicing opera all the time, and it took a long journey for me to come back to opera. I never got interested in being involved in music until ten years ago.

5. What was the first role you sang professionally?
In terms of money, my professional debut was in 2017, singing the Marquis and Padre Guardiano in Verdi’s La Forza del Destino at New Amsterdam Opera in New York City.

6. What role/opera did you debut most recently?
Most recently, it was the title role in Boito’s Mephistophele, for Knoxville Opera in Tennessee. It was amazing. They had 200 people on stage, a full orchestra plus four brass bands—two in the house and two on the stage. People loved it! I got huge applause and also boos! It was quite interesting to do that opera in the middle of the Bible Belt.

7. Who was the greatest influence on your operatic life?
Well, there are so many people, but if I have to pick one, it’s going to be James Morris. He’s a legendary Wagnerian at The Met and is still in demand which tells me something. He was my teacher at the Manhattan School of Music. I was one of his first students when he started teaching, and I didn’t necessarily understand everything he was trying to teach me, but after years of learning and experience in the professional world, I started understanding what he was trying to say. That’s the key to good teaching, it starts growing inside of you. Nowadays, instead of thinking WWJD—or “What Would Jesus Do”? I instead think, WWJMD, or “What Would James Morris Do?”

8. What would be your dream role/event/opera house?
This is a tricky question since I always find aspects to fulfill my curiosity and artistry in any type of role. But if I have to pick the role, it would probably be any multi-dimensional role. For example, I would love to do the rest of the Devil-roles as well: Boito’s Mefistofele, I’ve done of course, though I have so much more to discover in it; then there is Mefistofele in Gounod’s Faust, and Méphistophélès in La Damnation de Faust by Berlioz. It is those authoritarian roles that I get drawn to. I’d love to sing in any of the top houses in the world, but I love coming back to Austin Opera, too.

9. When are you happiest?
Well, nowadays I’m trying to find happiness in every moment. But singing-wise, sometimes when I’m working on technique, on emotions or acting or whatever the goal of that moment is, when my inside plan matches my output, then I’m very happy. Also in my daily life, when I make a perfect cup of coffee, that’s happiness.

10. What’s next for you?
I sing a couple of gigs in June, and then I have two months off. I’ll have time to cultivate my artistry and work on my craft, and I’m looking forward to that. Then, next season, I’m in La bohème with Nashville Opera, in La Cenerentola with Kentucky Opera, and Madama Butterfly with Opera New Orleans. And then I’ll be back to Austin Opera for The Pearl Fishers in the spring.