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He's big man onstage

February 14, 2008

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    February 14, 2008
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    Opera Carolina News

He's big man onstage

Mark Rucker laughed when his high school music teacher told him that he would sing opera one day and star in Macbeth nonetheless.

Rucker had a passion for song but not enough to consider it as a career. Back then he was focused on football.

"I even had guys in the huddle tease me about singing," Rucker joked. "But I had a music teacher who would get us all to sing. She was very much into all types of music."

But even before he entered high school, Rucker wasn't new to music. His mother was an organist and his father was a singer and a conductor. He started playing the piano at age 4 and sang in his church choir.

"I've always been exposed to music," Rucker said.

He even recalled playing his father's RCA phonograph recording of American baritone Leonard Warren and enjoying it.

"I picked up (Warren) and for some reason I decided to play it," Rucker said by phone from his home in New Jersey last week. "I wound up wearing it out."

Now years later, with two CD releases and a baritone singer himself, Rucker is returning to Charlotte for the third time - the last was in 2004 when he played the role of Macbeth with Opera Carolina.

Rucker is performing in Opera Carolina's "Love Notes" at 8 p.m. Feb. 16 at Queens University of Charlotte's Dana Auditorium.

He'll sing two pieces.

The first piece is "Eri tu" from Un ballo in maschera and the African American spiritual "He's got the Whole World in His Hands."

"It's the first time I will be singing with the orchestra," Rucker said. "I think it's great that Opera Carolina is doing this concert." Rucker said the audience will enjoy the show, especially the spiritual music.

"I think a lot of people think the opera has always got to be serious," he said. "A lot of people actually like spirituals."

As a black man singing opera, Rucker said he got his influences through performers like Warren.

After graduating from high school in Chicago, he attended Mount Senario College in Wisconsin where he earned a degree in psychology and music education.

His first job was with the opera in Orlando. He also lived in New York City, before appearing as Renato in "Un Ballo in Maschera" with Luciano Pavarotti for the Opera Company of Philadelphia. He's also traveled to North and South America, as well as Europe and Asia.

"That was one of the highlights of my life to sing with (Pavarotti)," Rucker said. "I've been all over the world basically." Rucker's favorite operas are those that have a dramatic acting interest. He prefers the challenge of acting, similar to "Love Notes."

"I think it's going to be a lot of fun," Rucker said. "They have a great orchestra and singers. I'm looking forward to performing with them because they're wonderful."

After the Feb. 16 concert, the artists of "Love Notes" will host a reception including complimentary wine, beer, live music and dancing. For cast biographies, tickets or more information visit operacarolina.org or call (704) 372-1000.

by Ryanne Persinger
The Charlotte Post