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Feature: FW Opera turns Texas tenor Scott Scully into a Greek general
Scott Scully may be playing a Greek general in the fifth-century B.C. Peloponnesian War, but the twang in his tenor betrays Texas origins. A Houston native and vocal-performance graduate of the University of North Texas, he has gone from Houston Grand Opera to the Met. Now he’s singing a lead role in the Fort Worth Opera Festival production of Lysistrata by American composer Mark Adamo.
“The more we do it, the funnier it gets,” Scully says of rehearsals for the opera, loosely based on Aristophanes’ anti-war play and which premiered in Houston in 2005. “Hopefully, by opening night it will be side-splittingly funny.”
In Adamo’s adaptation of the classic Greek comedy, the women of Athens and Sparta get so fed up with the men’s constant warring that they declare they’ll withhold sex until peace is established. Needless to say, both sexes get pretty frustrated. An “adult content” caution appears on the FWO website.
“Remember conjugal passions?” the Athenian women sing. “Now only rhetoric and rations.”
Scully is portraying the Athenian general Nico. Soprano Ava Pine is Nico’s seductive love interest, Lysia, also the organizer of the women’s anti-war demonstration. Add some more Athenians, and some Spartan soldiers and women — and conflicting political and amorous agendas — and you’ve got an opera.
Scully grew up in a musical, if hardly operatic, family. His parents met when his dad started playing guitar in his mom’s band. He was all of 5 when he made his performing debut, in a community-theater grab-bag program of popular songs and Broadway tunes. He performed with the group until he was in his midteens, then sang in choirs in junior high through college.
“I went to North Texas to be a country singer,” he says. “But the jazz program is so big up there that I couldn’t get into any of the ensembles as a freshman, so they put me in a choir. I had to audition for the choir director and the classical voice faculty, at which point I had to learn an art song in English and one in Italian.
“I’m sure my Italian was fantastic that day,” he says with audible irony. “But thank goodness they did that. I just kinda took to it really quickly.”
After graduation, he went right into Houston Grand Opera’s apprenticeship program, spent a couple of summers at the Aspen Music Festival and another in a San Francisco Opera apprenticeship. Now, having performed major roles with a number of opera companies, he’s a regular in secondary, but significant, roles at the Met.
His role in Lysistrata “doesn’t sound nearly as hard as it is,” Scully says. “The range is superwide for me — and for Ava — and the actual writing is difficult, with the meter changes. And you don’t always get your note from the orchestra. But Mark has written some of the most beautiful music.
“It’s a great show, and I think we’re all pretty happy about how it’s going.”
Classical Music Critic
Published: 24 May 2012 05:35 PM