Opera Steamboat performer Ben Gulley describes how he became ‘musical beast’
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Ben Gulley is an American operatic tenor, whose career also includes leading roles on Broadway, film work and a solo career as a singer songwriter.
Gulley was first introduced to Steamboat’s opera scene last fall singing Rodolfo in a local performance of “La Boheme,” and he’ll return to perform with Opera Steamboat Executive Director Andres Cladera on piano for the “Discover More Than Opera” at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.
For those unable to attend the concert, Opera Steamboat will host a “Meet the Artist” event after the concert 8:30 p.m. at Mountain Tap Brewery.
Raised on a farm in Missouri, Gulley grew up singing church and popular music before studying opera.
In college at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at University of Missouri-Kansas City, Gulley was a music minister for a few years before being cast as Stromboli in the stage adaptation of Stephen Schwartz’s musical “Gepetto & Son.” He then became the tenor apprentice at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City before signing on and touring as one of the three members of the SONY/BMG group, The American Tenors.
Explore Steamboat chatted with Gulley on the evolution of his music career.
Explore Steamboat: What is something about opera music people may not know?
Ben Gulley: That Wagner, Verdi and Puccini are huge influences in John William’s score for “Star Wars.” After all, it is a space opera.
ES: What can people expect for the concert this weekend?
BG: Expect to smile and come to hear some of my favorite musical stories to tell. Maybe, if the audience screams “Bravo!” loud enough, I’ll have my ukulele handy for an encore.
ES: What is it that you love about opera music?
BG: It is the greatest artistic challenge and union of basically all the art forms coming together to form this nexus of expression heightened above our reality and beyond spoken word. It’s a world where characters have to sing their emotions — artistic Olympics, every show. When you walk off stage after a magical performance, it has to feel similar to winning a gold medal.
ES: What’s been your most memorable role or production to date?
BG: I just finished debuting with Sarasota Opera, the third U.S. production ever in 100 years, singing Pedro in D’Albert’s jewel of an opera, “Tiefland,” a standard in Europe, and I am hoping it gets produced more stateside. It was an astounding cast and crew and experience.
ES: If you could sing any role, which would you most like to sing?
BG: Ha! King Phillip in Verdi’s “Don Carlo.” I fake sing “Ella giammai m’amo” in the shower at least twice a week.
ES: Your career includes opera, solo engagements, concerts and film work — how did you create a career that involves all of those?
BG: Most of my time is spent studying the next two or three upcoming operas or classical recitals. I don’t try to fit the genres into different boxes; I think they all operate in the same box. So far, the biggest reward is having audiences say they became opera fans or jazz fans after one of my shows. That’s when I feel my theory is verified. Folks just want to connect to each other, and I sincerely think music is the most powerful connector to exist.
ES: Who or what inspired you to pursue music/opera?
BG: I would say I did grow up in a musical family, yes. No professional musicians; albeit, my grandfather played saloon guitar and piano; my mom plays the organ, clarinet, piano and has a beautiful soprano voice; and my sister played the flute. I grew up with the amazing amalgamation of music from Dad’s classic rock; my grandfolks playing Elvis, Perry Como and hymns; and mom’s love for show tunes as well as what was happening in pop throughout the ’90s.
Those daily influences all on top of growing up singing gospel music in the church, playing tuba in band and learning piano and guitar all fueled the musical beast I am now. Finding opera in college and starting to understand the tools needed and artistic mettle it demands to be an international opera singer immediately struck me as a calling once I discovered and empathized with artists like Corelli, Tibaldi or Caruso.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User