Opera singer Ta'u Pupu'a is in Baltimore preparing for his upcoming performance in Verdi’s “Rigoletto.” Verdi’s great tragic opera of a father’s love is coming to The Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric on May 17 and May 18, 2013. Ta'u Pupu'a will play the role of Borsa. The last time Ta'u Pupu'a was in Baltimore, he played defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens.
"I am one of the original Ravens that came over with the team from the Cleveland Browns," he said. "Now, I am making my “Rigoletto” debut in Baltimore. At first, I was on the football field and now I am on a stage. I am still performing, but in a different venue.”
Pupu'a is a native of the Polynesia
Island of Tonga located near Hawaii. According to Pupu'a, he and Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata are second cousins. Pupu'a talked about his career switch.
“It was a huge jump,” he said. “But I suffered an injury and needed to recover. I moved to Utah and did my rehab there, but still needed to get into football shape. I eventually moved to Canada to play in their football league and pulled a hamstring. I then had another shot to work out with another team. I looked up to the heavens and asked if this was my true calling, and a little voice inside of me said to move to New York and sing.”
Pupu'a describes the voice as being that of the Holy Spirit.
“I listened to that voice, packed up and moved to New York to pursue a career in opera,” he recalled. “I knocked on many doors and had many promises about tomorrow. However, tomorrow became days, days became weeks, and then weeks became months. Then one day in spring 2008, everything changed. I was at the Metropolitan House in New York for dress rehearsals for an opera and met Dame Kiri Janette Te Kanawa.
A native of New Zealand, Dame Kiri Janette Te Kanawa is a very successful opera singer.
“She asked what I was doing in New York,” he said. “I told her I was a tenor and opera singer. She then asked me how things were going. She went on to tell me that she knew it was a hard life and asked how she could help me. That’s when it all started.”
He added, “She took me to Juilliard where I sang for her. I ultimately auditioned for Julliard and got in. I learned a lot and graduated two years ago. I am now making my rounds as a professional opera singer. Dame Kiri Janette Te Kanawa is a wonderful mentor in my life and my career. I believe life is a puzzle and everyone comes into our lives for a reason and to make our lives complete. In life, we need that little push from someone. People come and go but they bring something special.”
Pupu’a said he is looking forward to his Baltimore “Rigoletto” debut. The story is about Rigoletto, a deformed court jester, who carefully protects his daughter from the world. Despite his protection, the Duke of Mantua seduces her and then abandons her.
“My character Borsa is the Duke’s right hand man,” said Pupu'a. “Borsa is not a good person. I do the boss’ bidding and bring women to him. The story is about love, betrayal and murder. It has all the elements of good and evil. It’s a great opera.”
Pupu'a says listening to that special voice, now has him singing a joyful tune.
“Being a man of faith, I ask the Lord to walk with me. I journey with music and faith in my head. People ask me how could I just pack up and move to New York. I tell them that what I had was faith, and then courage came afterwards. One door closed and another door opened.”
He added, “We all have a gift from a higher being. Once we figure out what that talent is, we have to listen and move on it. We have to stay quiet and listen to that inner voice. People who believe in God understand and have to listen to that voice. I am back here in Baltimore, and everything has come full circle.”
The Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric and Lyric Opera Baltimore presents “Rigoletto” for two performances. For more information or tickets, visit: www.ticketmaster.com/lyric-opera-house-baltimore/venue/172089.