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BWW Interviews: Opera Singer COLE GRISSOM

On the operatic stage, Cole Grissom has been lauded a "compelling vocal and physical presence" by the San Francisco Weekly. Mr. Grissom is a Texas native and alumnus of the New England and San Francisco Conservatories of Music where he studied with Metropolitan Opera Soprano Patricia Craig, and Metropolitan Opera Tenor Cesar Ulloa respectively. He is performing this summer as the title role in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro with dell'Arte Opera Ensemble in New York City, after a successful debut performance with the Natchez Festival of Music as Scarpia in Tosca in Mississippi last spring. Grissom's other roles include Michele in Il Tabarro, Escamillo in Carmen, Amonasro in Aida, Scarpia in Tosca, Olin Blitch in Susannah, Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress, Méphistophélès in Faust, Athanaël in Thaïs, Assur in Semiramide, Marcello and Schaunard in La Boheme, and the title roles in Macbeth, Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Tartuffe. had the opportunity to interview Cole Grissom about his career as an Opera performer.

When did you first become interested in the performing arts?

I have been performing for as long as I can remember. I really loved musical theatre growing up and filled most of my free time attending classes in the art form and performing in shows. The shows and performing arts experiences I had growing up have shaped who I am today. I met my lifetime best friend and my partner while doing shows growing up.

What influenced you to pursue a career in opera?

I started studying classically the summer before high school, and when it came time for college auditions I pursued operatic and musical theatre programs equally. During the audition process, I was watching Pretty Woman and the scene comes on where they go to the opera. I had a spiritual experience the minute the soprano hit the first note. I burst into tears and had this quiet moment of heavenly clarity. I knew then that I was/am supposed to sing opera. Then I was accepted into one of the most prestigious music conservatories in the country, and that was that. Whenever I have a bad day in the practice room, or a rehearsal that I'm unhappy with I think back to that moment. It's a very special memory for me.

Who have been some of your mentors?

My undergrad voice professor Patricia Craig has been a huge mentor to me, from our time together at New England Conservatory, through today. I think that it's such an important piece of the operatic tradition that is missing today. I value our relationship so much, and I think the mentor/mentee relationship is such an important connection to history. She sang with a lot of the singers that I look up to that are no longer singing, and it provides some valuable insight and perspective.

What performers or performances have inspired you?

James Morris is my absolute favorite. I admire so much about his sound and career. I think his voice is so unique and powerful, and I will always hear him in my head whenever I think of Wotan's farewell. The consummate Wagner singer. I saw his Meistersinger just last fall and I loved it so much. Seeing that performance was actually years in the making, as I had tickets to his Meistersinger several years ago in Cincinnati that was canceled. I'm glad that I got to experience it, because I'm not sure how many Meistersingers he has left in his career.

How do you think a new generation of opera lovers can be encouraged?

Opera is an art form that tells a story. Period. It's not unattainable; it's not elitist. It's an artistic medium in which a story is told on stage. It's meant to make you laugh, make you cry, make you think. I think that approach takes a lot of the mysticism away from it. Also, I think that the traditional operatic crowd needs to release some of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the audience experience. There is and always will be a place for that, but it can't be at the detriment of attracting new audiences.

Additionally, I think that some houses are doing a good job of mounting new productions to make some of the standard repertoire more accessible/relevant to modern audiences- ie, the Met's new production of Rigoletto that is set in Vegas during the 'Rat Pack' era.

Is there anything else you want BWW readers to know?

Come see me sing Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro this summer with dell'Arte Opera Ensemble in August.

For more information on Cole Grissom, visit

For more information on the dell'Arte Opera Ensemble, visit

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Cole Grissom

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