Marc Deaton: Madison's Own Tristan

You've probably heard of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde, but did you know that you may have run across Tristan on the streets of Madison? Marc Deaton has played the role of Tristan and other famous lovers and heroes penned by Wagner and Richard Strauss at countless venues throughout the world, but when he's not on stage or overseas, he returns to his Madison home of the past three years, where he lives with his partner.

Marc's career as a dramatic tenor is a huge accomplishment-but perhaps not an unexpected one.

"I always sang," says Marc, who grew up in southern California. "We had a lot of acreage and I would go out in the backyard and sing and make plays and be very strange," he adds, laughing.

Despite having a "completely nonmusical family," the trend continued. Marc sang in high school and then double majored in theater and music at Southern Utah University, where he was introduced to opera.

"I saw Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera and I was quite bowled over," Marc recalls.

In his early 20s, he decided opera was the direction he would take.

"Opera was the right medium for my voice," says Marc, who did graduate work with the New Orleans Opera before apprenticing with the Santa Fe Opera. "I was advised to go to Europe."

Marc moved to Vienna, Austria, where he lived for six years while developing his repertoire of operatic roles. In addition to the Eastern Bloc, Marc has sung in Asia-mostly in Bangkok, but also in Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong. He's also sung Carmen in English, French, and German-but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

"I speak English most days," he jokes. "I speak German fairly well and I can get by in French and Italian, but not nearly as well. And I have sung in Cantonese, Czech, Russian, Swedish, and Polish, but I don't speak those languages."

Languages and locations aren't all that have varied.

"The roles that I started singing in my 20s are different from the roles I sing now," says Marc, who also performs classical and modern recital music, but is happiest portraying a complete character. "I'm finally doing the roles I was designed for-the heavily Wagnerian roles. The Ring, Tristan, you have to be of a certain age and a certain level of stamina to be able to do them."

Marc was also the subject of a documentary, Being Tristan: A Tenor's Journey, which broadcast on PBS/WNET Thirteen. The filmmaker followed him around for about two years while Marc prepared for a full (about 4½ hour), live recording of Tristan and Isolde in Bulgaria.

Right now, Marc's preparing to record a CD of songs by Strauss and he's also getting ready to play the role of Siegfried in a concert performance of Wagner's famous opera, The Ring.

Locally, his friends are throwing him a fundraiser next month (see details below) to help defray the cost of recording a CD of Wagner arias in Bratislava-you can call it karma since Marc performed a benefit last year to help raise money for Opera Theater of Connecticut, based out of Clinton (the group introduced him to Madison when he did a home stay for a performance of Carmen).

"I'm really thrilled that the people I've met here have taken that kind of interest," he says. "I feel like I have a family here that's growing, just that very welcoming feeling that I have from shops I frequent to friends I socialize with."

Although Marc admits "I'm not a big, famous star by any stretch of the imagination," he's proud of all he has gained.

"I'm very grateful for the legacy I have and that I live in an age of technology," he says. "There are many famous, famous singers of the past who never got to hear their voices recorded-they never got to hear what they sound like."

All in all, it's been a rewarding journey, if one that requires constant practice.

"I feel really blessed and very grateful that I've had the opportunities that I've had," Marc says. "I've had to work very hard for those opportunities, but it can be a very rewarding business."

Marc's benefit, the informal Songs and Stories, is on Friday, May 14 at 7 p.m. at Andrews Memorial Town Hall, 54 East Main Street, Clinton. For more information or to reserve a seat, call Bettina Braisted at 203-245-8238 or email info@marcdeaton.com.

Marc is the tenor soloist in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on Thursday, May 13 at 8 p.m. at Woolsey Hall in New Haven. For more info, visit www.newhavensymphony.org/page/event/ode-to-joy-86.htm.

For more on Marc, visit www.marcdeaton.com.

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