Success may have taken this operatic singer away from home but not from his heart

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Richard Ollarsaba in Tulsa Opera's performance of Bizet's 'Carmen.'
Richard Ollarsaba in Tulsa Opera’s performance of Bizet’s ‘Carmen.’

By M.V. Moorhead

Richard Ollarsaba has packed a lot of music, and a lot of mileage, into the 11 years since he graduated from Corona del Sol High School.

A graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music with a Masters of Music and a post-graduate certificate from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Ollarsaba has taken his operatic baritone-bass all over the country, with gigs ranging from Minnesota Opera to Lyric Opera of Chicago.

“Currently I’m a recent grad of The Lyric Opera of Chicago, from the Ryan Opera Center Ensemble, their young artists program,” says Ollarsaba.

“It’s like a residency.” He’s soon to head back to the Windy City, where he’s under contract at the Lyric Opera as an understudy.

From Chicago he headed west, to the Intermountain Opera in Bozeman, Montana.

“In May, I did the title role in [Mozart’s] Don Giovanni.” Still more recently, this past July and August, “I was a Filene Young Artist at Wolf Trap Opera in Vienna.”

Vienna, Virginia, that is, not far from Washington D.C.

“All the productions at Wolf Trap are done by these young artists,” he explains. “It really gives us a chance to put our abilities to the test.”

In his time at Wolf Trap he performed a major role in a modern-dress production of l’Opera Seria, Florian Gassman’s rarely-performed 1769 comedy set behind the scenes in the world of opera.

“It’s only been performed a handful of times in Europe,” says Ollarsaba.

“This was really considered an American premiere.”

None of these represent the singer’s favorite role, however. “I would say to date my favorite role I’ve ever gotten to perform is that of Revered Hale in The Crucible,” Robert Ward’s operatic adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play.

Ollarsaba sang the part while in grad school, in a production by Piedmont Opera in North Carolina.

And as for a role to which he aspires? More Mozart, please: “Since Don Giovanni is something I have under my belt, I guess I’d say Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro.”

Most recently, Ollarsaba was able to take a non-opera related journey.

“After I finished up at Wolf Trap,” he says, “I took road trip from Vienna to Arizona to visit my family. It had been a year and a half since I had been in Arizona, much less in the Kyrene Corridor.

I try to get home as often as I can, at least until something becomes available at Arizona Opera. I’ve only given a small recital in Arizona, so I’d like to perform in my home state.”

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