Lubbock native and opera professional Garrett Sorensen, 36, already knows where he plans to spend June 10.
He and his family and friends will gather at his home in Louisville, Ky., to watch the Tony Awards and keep collective fingers crossed when Best Revival of a Play arrives on stage.
An accomplished opera singer, Sorenson played student tenor Anthony Candolino in Terrence McNally’s “Master Class” in 2011, starring award-winning Tyne Daly as Maria Callas, giving master classes to frightened students at Juilliard in the 1970s after her opera career had ended.
Sorenson was cast as Anthony when the play returned to Broadway. He stayed with the production when it moved to London.
Sorenson’s manager suggested he place opera on hold and audition for this Broadway show. As a young singer with the Metropolitan Opera, Soreson participated in many master classes and could draw on that experience.
Garrett is the only musician in his family, although his mother ensured he and his two older sisters and two younger brothers began with piano lessons.
But music didn’t click for Sorenson until school choir sessions, which began as “a social thing,” he recalled.
Soreson said he took choir chiefly to meet girls. But he developed a core of guy friends who remained with him through years at Coronado High and Texas Tech.
He cites his early vocal development with choir directors Julie Rhodes at J.T. Hutchinson Junior High, Brett Farr at Coronado, vocal instructors Karl Dent and John Gillas at Texas Tech and West Texas native and opera professional Mary Ann Johnson.
Farr said this week, “This is going to make me sound far too wise, but I knew very early on, from Garrett’s first year, that he was going to become someone special. As his voice quickly developed into his instrument, it was hard to contain within a high school choir.”
He added Sorenson also had a “bigger than life personality,” recalling when Sorenson disliked the bald cap given him when he was cast as Daddy Warbucks in school play “Annie.” Farr said, “When he showed up on the night we opened, he shocked everyone. That was the first time we saw that he had shaved his head.”
Farr credits Tech vocal instructors Gillas and Dent as “the ones who deserve credit for shaping Garrett vocally.”
Both Dent and Marilyn Arland, a piano accompanist, who worked with Sorenson, have only positive memories of the young singer.
Dent recalled Sorenson’s audition for Tech found him impressing “with vocal ease, beauty and strength. His star potential was immediately apparent. ... What makes Garrett special is his ease about being a star. He serves the music first.”
Arland recollects the rarity of a young vocalist who could “make even a vocal exercise sound like a beautiful aria.
Gillas agreed, adding, “He could not sing a simple vocalise without making wonderful music of it.”
When he enrolled at Tech, Sorenson majored in music education.
“That changed,” said Sorenson, “when Mary Jane Johnson came to Tech to teach a master class.” Sorenson had been singing baritone. Upon listening to him, Johnson immediately told him he should be singing as a tenor.
It was a thrilling move.
There were more opportunities for a tenor, said Sorenson.
Passing the psychological hurdle of moving from baritone to tenor, his major became music performance. While 19 hours short of a degree from Tech, he was invited to participate in the apprentice program at the Santa Fe (N.M.) Opera.
Soon he was invited to audition for the Metropolitan Opera’s Young Artist Program and was accepted. There was no looking back.
“There I was in New York, this kid who had grown up in Ames, Iowa and Lubbock,” Sorenson said. “I think for the first five months, I was running on nerves and adrenaline. I’d have coffee in the morning, a pizza at night, and lost 35 pounds. I had to learn a lot of music very quickly.”
He made his debut at the Met as Itulbo in Bellini’s “Il Pirata,” opposite Renee Fleming.
Over the years, Sorenson found success within the world of operatic concerts and performances.
He has sung with leading opera companies and performed opposite such artists as Placido Domingo and Fleming, and with such conductors as Kurt Masur, Valery Gergiev and James Levine.
He recalls Fleming with affection, saying, “She was very generous and sweet to me. She was there at a very important time in my career,”
He met his wife while singing in an opera in Boston. They decided to move to Louisville where she grew up.
One of Sorenson’s challenges these days is balancing his career with time for his wife and children.
But he has no problem staying busy. This year, he is contracted to sing Narraboth in the Cleveland Orchestra’s concert performances of Strauss’ “Salome.” He’ll perform Edgardo in “Lucia de Lammermoor” with the West Australian Opera” and then, for the first time, sing Cavaradossi in “Tosca” with the Arizona Opera.
With the Tony Awards approaching, Sorenson said his time with “Master Class” had changed him in new ways.
He explained, “Performing eight times a week for eight months was a big departure from the typical opera performance schedule. I came away from it feeling much more ‘seated’ as a performer, more able to blend everyday life (kids, bills, groceries, etc.) with performing.”
In addition, said Sorenson, “We spoke a lot about truth: truth in character, in delivery, in everything. I have found going on that finding the ‘truth’ helps bring all of the other details into clarity and perspective.”
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