Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Portland native Clayton Brainerd makes debut with Portland Opera

One of opera's big guys, Clayton Brainerd, will perform in the upcoming Portland Opera production of "Fidelio." Brainerd has one of the most unusual backgrounds in operaland. As a teenager, he smoked a lot of marijuana and almost flunked out of Cleveland High School. While working in a lumberyard, he suffered a terrible accident and then discovered classical music and opera. Matter of fact, the first music that transfixed him was Beethoven's 9th.

There's a lot, lot more to the story, and if you want to read about Brainerd's curious route to his current profession, please read this article that I published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a few years ago.

"Fidelio" is Beethoven's only opera and it's a great one in which a courageous woman frees her husband, who is being held as a political prisoner. This production features some of the best singers around and the performances should be glorious.

One of the nifty things that Portland Opera has done over the past few years is to features some of the Portland State University grads who have hit the big time. I'm referring to Kelly Nassief, Angela Niederloh, and now Brainerd. Christine Meadows, who is now running the opera program at PSU, was the first PSU music grad to sing with Portland Opera.


Extra note: I sang as an extra chorus member the last time that Portland Opera did "Fidelio." That was during the 1979-1980 season. Stefan Minde conducted. Phil Kelsey was the chorusmaster (he has been the assistant conductor at Seattle Opera since 1990). I think that Brainerd was in the chorus as well.

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