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Puccini comedy at Macomb Center for Performing Arts Sat. & Sun.

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

A scheming scoundrel will rule the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon when Michigan Opera Theatre stages Puccini's comic masterpiece "Gianni Schicchi" and its contemporary sequel by Michael Ching, "Buoso's Ghost."

Darren Drone, a baritone who's one of five resident artists in this year's MOT Studio, will play the title role of Gianni Schicchi. The Detroit News caught up with the Little Rock native, 30, last week to talk great opera, Daddy Warbucks and Meryl Streep.

Baritone Darren Drone, 30, is a resident artist in the Michigan Opera Theatre Studio this year, and will play the title role Saturday and Sunday in "Gianni Schicchi / Buoso's Ghost" at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.

So what does it mean to be a studio artist at MOT?

Darrell Drone: "We’re here for a year or two, and we get to have as much coaching and voice lessons as we want. We get paid a salary. Sometimes there are roles sprinkled on top of that. It’s a very cool gig. I auditioned last year in New York, got a callback, and here I am."

Where were you before Detroit?

"Last summer, I was at the Utah Festival in Logan, Utah. And that spring, I was with Opera Southwest in Albuquerque and did a few roles there. Before that, Houston's Opera in the Heights. I’ve sort of been bouncing around since getting out of school in 2016."

Tell me about Gianni Schicchi the man.

"He is a trickster, a swindler, and a lot of fun to play. He’s a guy who's figured out a way to game the system for his own needs. He doesn’t have money and didn't come from money. I see him as someone who’s figured out how to excel in life without those resources."

Is this production set in Renaissance Florence?

"No, it's set in 1939 – but Gianni Schicchi was a real person in Dante’s 'Inferno.' He’s in the ninth circle of hell, because he was an impersonator."

The two short operas together take about two hours. What's it like singing that long?

"It's interesting, because you have to plan where your character is going mentally and physically. Really good composers map out the right way for a character to take their voice all the way to the end. You just have to pace yourself. But composers who aren’t as good might front-load the performance with stuff that’s really difficult."

Have you ever blanked on your lines?

"Thankfully, no."

How'd you get into opera?

"I always had a singing voice – and would mimic what I heard on the radio. So in 10th grade, I decided to audition for 'Annie,' and got the part of Daddy Warbucks. And I thought -- damn, this is cool!

"Then I studied voice in college, and my voice teacher said he thought I had the potential to be opera singer. I didn’t know what that meant, but said, 'OK.' And it snowballed from there."

Tell me about "Buoso's Ghost."

"It's a sequel to 'Gianni Schicchi' composed in the mid-1990s by Michael Ching, a very cool composer. He also wrote 'Speed Dating Tonight!,' a fun, comic little piece about people going on speed dates."

What's your ultimate goal with your career?

"Oh man. I want to be one of the few people who both sings on the Met stage and also on Broadway – one of my longtime dreams. That’s really my ultimate goal."

What singers or performers do you particularly admire?

"Len Cariou, a big Broadway guy who played the original 'Sweeney Todd' on Broadway. Leonard Warren, a baritone in the 1930s - 1950s. And moving away from singers, Meryl Streep. I can think of no one, man or woman, who’s more versatile. She’s No. 1 for me."

mhodges@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

'Gianni Schicchi / Buoso's Ghost' by Michigan Opera Theatre

Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, 44575 Garfield, Sterling Heights

7:30 p.m. Sat. Feb. 29; 2:30 p.m. Sun. Mar. 1

$53 - general admission if purchased through MOT

$25 - students - ONLY available from Macomb Center (586-286-2222)

(313) 237-SING (7464)

michiganoperatheatre.org