Interview with Michael Sokol, Baritone/The Judge
BODHI TREE CONCERTS: If you HAD to pick a favorite G&S Show... what would it be?
MICHAEL SOKOL: Well, you're asking the proverbial which one of your children would you Save first question! There is something about the energy and spontaneity of PINAFORE that just wows me every time. From the opening bars of the men's chorus to the last hurrahs of 'For he is an Englishman'--hook, line and sinker!
BTC: If you HAD to pick a favorite G&S Role...what would it be?
MS: That would have to be Koko in THE MIKADO. I've performed him the most--I think I counted almost 20 productions. His journey from Yum Yum to Katisha--his spunk and smarts--SO FUN!
BTC: We know you have vast and impressive experience with the G&S Canon - can you tell us a memorable story or anecdote form a past production?
MS: Well, there are a lot--I'm very old. And I bore my students with the stories all the time! There was the time I broke Dick Deadeye's leg as Captain Corcoran: A running gag was that every time someone said Dick Deadeye's name, someone backstage would cry like a seagull. At the last utterance of his name, which is said by me as the Captain to Buttercup, I forgot to leave time for the seagulls! That rushed the next move: Dick Deadeye sliding down the banister to tell me of Josephine's escape. Dick was flustered, fell off the banister and broke his leg! Trooper that he was, he crawled through the last 15 minutes of the show!!!
BTC: You teach the "younger generation" how to perform G&S...what does the younger generation have to learn from G&S?
MS: What a sweet question! I think G&S is a great training ground for young classical singers. It is meant to be seriously sung and it's still some of the first professional singing a young opera singer will be paid to do! It also is an excellent way to learn style. Too often our young opera singers are sent out into the professional force without understanding the difference between singing Verdi and singing Rogers & Hammerstein! Working on these eternally funny, sweet pieces is s big lesson in comic restraint. Too many times a singer will make the choice to make fun of the piece with a gag or making a face that begs the question, 'If you find this piece so silly that you need to rewrite it, why are you doing it?' These pieces have survived for a sesquicentenary well loved, eternally funny operas, in the same vein as classic Rossini--don't mess with them! Ask yourself as you perform--is my performance serving the opera? Am I advancing the story or detracting from the sense of it's nonsense? I was lucky enough to work, when I was a young undergrad, with John Reed, the last principal comedian for the original D'Oyly Carte--the original company created by Gilbert and Sullivan and their producer Rupert D'Oyly Carte. I did 5 of the shows with him and he taught a course in G&S scenes where we learned every tradition he could remember. It's now my pleasure to pass that knowledge on to the next generation.
BTC: Do you have a favorite local SD restaurant...and why?
MS: YES! My wife and I have fallen in absolute love with HAVANA GRILL on Clairemont Mesa Blvd just off the 805. My wife Angelina Reaux's mom was a Spaniard from Puerto Rico, so we've been lucky to eat good Cuban and Puerto Rican food--and this is incredible Cuban food. You must order the Fricasé de pollo if you want to go to heaven!
BTC: Do you have a favorite charity and why is it important to you...
MS: We've been a part of a fantastic group of animal rescuers, Whiskers Tails and Ferals in Napa CA. They've saved literally thousands of cats and dogs and they're wonderful!