Photo Credit: Mike Sharkey
Nathan Gunn is a man of many talents and passions, as his responses to our “20 Questions” reveal. His compelling stage presence and musical versatility have given him star billing in a plethora of operas around the world, ranging from contemporary and 20th-century works to Mozart’s masterpieces (from December 21 through January 6 he reprises his acclaimed Papageno in the Met’s English-language family version of The Magic Flute). Singing with orchestras and in recital, the Grammy-winning baritone takes on some of the great concert and song repertoire, and also makes frequent excursions into musical theater fare, including, most recently, celebrated semi-staged performances of Camelot with the New York Philharmonic and Showboat at Carnegie Hall, as well as a Sondheim 80th birthday gala (also with the NY Phil) that recently came out on DVD. An avid sportsman and enthusiastic reader, Gunn’s charisma – yes, you saw him in People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive” issue in 2008 – is undeniable. He’s also a dedicated family man who stays close to his mid-western roots.
1. A few works of classical music that you adore:
Barber’s Adagio for strings; Debussy’s Claire de Lune; J.S. Bach’s The Passion according to St. John; The finale of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro; Messiaen’s Vingt regards sure l’enfant-Jesus; Scriabin’s Five Preludes, Op. 15.
2. Classical music recordings that you treasure:
I enjoy classical music live more than on recording, but Fritz Wunderlich singing Dichterliebe is surely extraordinary. I would have loved to have heard him live.
3. Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings:
The Bill Evans and Tony Bennett Album; Nat King Cole Christmas Songbook; Ella Fitzgerald’s These are the Blues; Johhny Hartman’s Unforgettable; Elton John: Greatest Hits; Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song; Led Zepplin, Prince, Sting
4. Music that makes you cry – any genre:
My daughter playing Danny Boy on the cello; chorales from Bach’s Passions
5. Definitely underrated work(s) or composer (s):
Tom Waits, Frank Ferko, Dolly Parton (she is a prolific song writer), Prince
6. Possibly overrated work(s) or composer (s):
I think Mozart symphonies are a little overrated. I’m always waiting for someone to sing.
7. Live music performance (s) you attended – any genre – that you’ll never forget:
Verdi’s Otello with the CSO under Solti with Pavarotti singing the title role
8. A few relatively recent films you love:
Casino Royale; The Sopranos (if you allow for a TV pick); Elizabeth; A Single Man
9. A few films you consider classics:
That Hamilton Woman; 2001 Space Odyssey; Moonstruck; The Godfather 1 and 2; Caddy Shack; Animal House; It’s a Wonderful Life; The Browning Version
10. A book (or two) that is important to you (and why):
Epictetus’s Discourses: the lessons have taught me to think; Pressfield’s The Gates of Fire: it’s an amazing story of self sacrifice, courage and freedom; Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises: I love how vivid it is in describing that period of time; Helprin’s Winter’s Tale: BEAUTIFULLY written and amazingly fanciful; Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled: the most terrifying book I’ve ever read (it’s a little close to my life); Hamlet, for obvious reasons; Dumas’s The Count of Montecristo: the greatest revenge story; Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, because it’s an amazingly beautiful love story.
11. Thing(s) about yourself that you’re most proud of:
I proud of the fact that I spend my life doing what I love and can still take care of my family.
12. Thing(s) about yourself that you’re embarrassed by:
The list is long: I spell like a gorilla, I have bowed legs, I understand languages better than I can speak them, I’m terrible at remembering names, I forget dates, etc. etc. etc.
13. Three things you can’t live without:
There are actually five: my children
14. “When I want to get away from it all I…”
Take a hot bath; do some hard manual labor
15. “People are surprised to find out that I…”
…have five children
16. “My favorite cities are…”
…New York, Chicago, London
17. “I have a secret crush on…”
Cote de Pablo
18. “My most obvious guilty pleasure is…”
Scotch and cigars
19. “I’d really love to meet – or to have met…”
Mark Twain, Leonardo DaVinci, Cleopatra
20. “I never understood why…”
…we use the contraction “aren’t I” rather than “amn’t I”
21. Question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer to that question):
Q: Who is your favorite poet?
A: Christina Rossetti
And here’s a little clip from a past performance of The Magic Flute at the Met, which Nathan will be reprising again this holiday season: