by Len Lear
Richard Troxell, one of the world’s greatest lyric tenors, has a close connection to Chestnut Hill, having worshipped for over 20 years at Chestnut Hill United Church (with whom he maintains a close relationship), 8812 Germantown Ave. Troxell will be making a rare appearance in Philadelphia on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2 p.m., at the Academy of Vocal Arts, 1920 Spruce St. (his alma mater) in a concert of jazz standards from his new CD, “So In Love.”
Professionally, Richard has sung leading roles in opera companies nationally and internationally and starred in the Martin Scorsese film “Madame Butterfly” as B.F. Pinkerton. He was also seen on late night TV with Jimmy Fallon. He has thrilled audiences in leading roles in opera houses and on concert stages around the world, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Los Angeles Opera, Washington Opera, in Sydney, Australia; Paris, Monte Carlo, Vancouver, Montreal, Seville, Spain, and many others.
Troxell, who said, “I never tell my age,” grew up in Thurmont, Maryland, began singing at age 4, played piano starting in first grade and played the French horn through college. He began pursuing opera seriously after college (Shippensburg University). “My parents were always very supportive of whatever I did,” he told us last week. “I was very fortunate that way. They loved that I became an opera singer. My dad was a truck driver and was extremely proud of me, as was my mom, who was a great singer herself but never made it a career.”
Troxell insists that the training he received at the Academy of Vocal Arts in center city “was by far the best training I could have possibly received in the field of opera. I loved going to school there. I learned more there from the coaches, from my teacher, Bill Schumann, and from the music director, Chris Macatsoris, than I could ever have imagined. They taught me how to rehearse, how to work on an operatic role, how to really know the score of an opera, how to use my voice, how to sing healthy, how to be prepared when you show up at a job and how to truly respect and invest in the music the composer wrote … Just great people in my life. I am very grateful to all of them.”
From 1993 to 1998, Troxell and his family lived in center city and since then in Chester County, but despite living so far away, the family worshipped for 20 years (1993 to 2013) at Chestnut Hill United Church (then Chestnut Hill United Methodist Church). Why did they travel so far every week to come to the Chestnut Hill church?
“It was my pleasure,” said Richard. “There were a few reasons we stayed at Chestnut Hill. Hal Taussig was a minister, friend and teacher like we had never experienced, and the theology of that church spoke to us. The other big reason was my wife, Lisa, who was a very big part of that church.
“In fact, the Chestnut Hill Local just did an article about the church honoring Nellie Greene and mentioned the dance Lisa choreographed with Nellie, who has been wheelchair-bound for almost 40 years. So it was openness and interest in projects like that which kept us going there. This is a very progressive church and congregation.”
Being a world-renowned opera star means, among other things, that Troxell is away from home between six and eight months a year. He usually travels between 15,000 and 20,000 miles a year and tries to include his family whenever possible. “Both of my sons have been in more countries at their ages than I had been to by the time I was 30,” he said. “I love my family, but at the same time I love my life as a singer. I love being on stage and doing what I do. I think it’s so important for my children to see that you should love your work and love the life you have, and we all do.”
What have been Troxell’s favorite roles? “I love the role of Don Jose in ‘Carmen’ because of the journey he takes from the beginning to the end of the opera. As an actor it is a great role. I love the role of Rodolfo in ‘La Boheme’ for his youthful, unabashed, fully lived life, and the music is so real. It’s timeless … Pinkerton is always near and dear to my heart because of the 1996 Scorsese released film, which I starred in as Pinkerton. It changed my life. Romeo in R & J is divine music, and to get to be Romeo and be that youthful idealist with such love and tragedy, all in three hours. I love it. I could go on and on, but you only have so much room in your article.”
The list of Richard’s favorite performing venues is also lengthy. “When I sang for 47,000 fans at Camden Yards for the American League Championship Game, it was unreal. When the curtain opened on ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,’ and Jimmy announced my name, and I walked through and sang my bit for millions on NBC, it was crazy fun. When I went to the Sony Theater in NYC and saw my face on the big screen in ‘Madama Butterfly,’ it was overwhelming. When I walked on stage in ‘Romeo and Juliette’ at the Opera Comique in Paris, it moved me almost to tears … This list too could go on and on.”
Troxell has obviously accomplished a great deal, but he still has more in his “bucket list.” He wants to sing “Peter Grimes” by Benjamin Britten. He wants to sing a jazz concert at the Carlyle Room in New York City. He wants to sing Pops concerts with all the major orchestras, and he will be starting another CD of “All American Broadway Classics” with the Czech Symphony Orchestra in Prague in three weeks. And he has at least one non-musical ambition: “I want to bike across the U.S.,” he said.
Troxell is married to the dancer and choreographer, Lisa Lovelace, who is also a professor at West Chester University. The couple have two sons and reside near Downingtown.
Tickets to Sunday’s concert are $10 at the door. Richard’s new CD, “So In Love,” features love songs from legendary composers such as Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Kurt Weill. The CD is available on CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes. More information at www.richardtroxell.tv/