Inside the Utah Opera Chorus: Part I
Many of our wonderful patrons are getting excited for upcoming Utah Symphony and Utah Opera performances. As a way to say thank you, we will be publishing a mini-series over the next several weeks in which we will offer unique insight into the lives of our Utah Opera Chorus members and what it means to them when they perform for you.
Tom Klassen joined the Utah Opera Chorus, following in the steps of his wife, Carolyn Talboys-Klassen. He’s been hooked on the magic ever since and answered our questions to help explain why.
How long have you been in the Utah Opera Chorus?
I have been in the Utah Opera Chorus since 1991, when I started out in the chorus of “Samson et Delilah”, based on an invitation from my wife Carolyn Talboys-Klassen to join her in a wild Bacchanale on stage. How could I say no to that? Some 40 productions later, I’m still enjoying opportunities to create great music with such wonderful and talented colleagues.
Tell us your favorite production or something unique that you’d like to share.
I have two favorite productions. The first was Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Grapes of Wrath” in 2007. I had the privilege of not only singing in the very active and involved chorus, but also being at the piano and helping to workshop the piece two summers prior to mounting the production. In part, the chorus experience was so meaningful for me because I’m from the Midwest and I could easily relate to the characters. In addition, my entire family (Carolyn, son Matt, and daughter Kate) was in the production, which added another sense of connectivity with a reality that could have been all too real for me. Playing a car salesman in a small ensemble was also a high point for me.
My other favorite production was “Turandot”, which we performed in 1998. The music is just so enthralling, and as we were frequently on stage during principal’s singing, I was able to absorb and vibrate to their amazing massive frequencies as well as that of the orchestra. Sally Dibblee singing Liu’s Signore, ascolta! was about as close to heaven on earth as I’ve experienced.
What does it feel like when you perform in a crowded theatre?
I often feel inexplicably connected to something timeless when I perform with Utah Opera. It is an experience I can’t replicate anywhere else in my life, and it is as though travel to another time and place is possible, if only for a few moments. I often marvel at how quickly this personal transformation can take place for me, when I’m waiting in the wings and about to go on stage.
What is your current occupation?
I am the COO and a software developer at Gold Systems, a small technology company, located in Salt Lake City. I very much enjoy being creative in different ways during my day job.
Will you elaborate on your training in music?
The majority of my formal music training has been at the piano, having pursued degrees in piano performance. Perhaps I gained my first hint of the power of opera as a Teaching Assistant in the University of Utah’s School of Music. I was simply amazed at what feelings could be aroused from beautiful singing.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am grateful and proud for having the opportunity to sing with the Utah Opera chorus over the past couple of decades. Every chance I get to perform with the company is magic.