Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I always wanted to sing. Growing up I was always told I didn’t have the voice. While music has been a source of inspiration since I was little (mainly pop/rock), I never thought I could be a part of this unreachable world. But after moving to Chicago from my native Ukraine, I found a teacher, Marc Embree, who knew what to do with my voice (he is a renowned bass-baritone, a soloist with New York City Opera, and now a voice professor). He also showed me my very first opera – Tales of Hoffmann – and introduced to his friend, bass-baritone James Morriss, who sang the role of the Villain… It was love at the first sight
Influences… There are so many, from the late Dmitry Hvorostovsky and Ettore Bastianini, to amazing contemporary singers who perform today, like Jonas Kaufmann or Anna Netrebko.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
To start a career! I used to work in finance, and still am involved in various aspects of that world. I made a leap of faith to become a performer in such a demanding and competitive field, leaving behind security and something I am very good at, to do something I LOVE doing. I would say it is a lifelong journey, which has its advantages and challenges.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
Marcello for Royal Opera House this summer followed by the same role for Northern Ireland Opera, post-COVID; spearheading the recovery of life performing after COVID, I felt the whole world was watching. Will they make it? Will they have to close again? And it was amazing to return to stage after this crazy early-retirement simulator for performers.
My album of of Rimsky Korsakoff romances would be the recording I am most proud of. These are not very well known tunes, but they are absolutely beautiful. I am so proud to share it with loved ones, friends and anyone who can be bothered to listen!
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Puccini and Verdi baritone parts are something which come naturally for me, and appeal to me on many levels, and I am getting quite good them. Of course, this is another lifelong journey to be able to say “I did it well”. I think we classical artists are super demanding on ourselves: there are always aspects of technique, expression, and artistry which can be tweaked or improved, and they grow with us every morning we wake up. However, Puccini and Verdi baritone roles are definitely something which are a clear focus for me now, what I enjoy most, and what I am one of the best at.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
I learn a lot – watching other performances, studying backgrounds and history, the actual stories behind the operas, even watching movies can inspire. I listen to music of other genres (I’m very big on Latin music!), I practice a lot… a journey of constant self-discovery is embedded into this career, on a daily basis. When something works, which was not working before, it is inspiring. I record a bunch of things for my Instagram account, trying classical vocal technique on different genres of music, tunes which appeal to me for whatever reason.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Trying to steer it to Puccini and Verdi – being my two favourite composers, almost any baritone roles from their output well for my voice and are really fulfilling.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
The Royal Opera House, Coven Garden. It kind of became a second home for me. Amazing energy, contact with the audience, and scale!
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
We need to get out there and convert people who have never seen a live opera performance. Coming from an accounting background, I’ve converted SO many friends, for whom one of my performances was their first night at the opera. No one came out disappointed
What is your most memorable concert experience?
The Kennedy Center Awards for amazing Martina Arroyo in Washington in front of President Obama. Rivalling that, the concert for the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
To be able to sing. Sing as much as you want, for the audience, live, share your art with the audience, with your colleagues, create and never stop searching for the means of expressing yourself.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
You can’t do this to achieve something – fame, money, whatever. You need to LOVE the process, always find joy in effort, in hard work, in struggle, in the process of creation. The rest will come inevitably. Firmly believe in that!
What is your present state of mind?
I am grateful to be performing again, after what was a difficult time for all classical artists. I hope this will make us value what we have more, fight for it harder, appreciate it even more!
Renowned baritone Yuriy Yurchuk performs at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 20th December in a lunchtime concert celebrating his musical journey. More information
Ukrainian baritone Yuriy Yurchuk is the Royal Opera House principal artist, described by The Times as “the finest voice on stage …with the immaculate Italianate line” and “rich, deep voice capable of great versatility” by Bachtrack.
In 2020/21 his planned engagement include Sharpless in Madama Butterfly (Glyndebourne Festival), Robert in Iolanthe (National Theater Tokyo), Rodrigo Posa in Don Carlos (Kyiv National Opera), Marcello in La Boheme (Royal Opera House). His past engagements include Marcello La bohème and Lescaut Manon (Opernhaus Zürich), Il Conte di Luna Il trovatore (Opéra de Baugé), Escamillo Carmen (Savonlinna Festival), Marcello (Opera North), Count Rodolfo in Margherita (Wexford Festival Opera), Eugene Onegin (Ukraine National Opera), Ping (Zurich Opera).
Yuriy is a prize winner in Queen Sonja International Singing Competition (Norway), Montserrat Caballe International Singing Competition (Spain), Ottavio Ziino International Singing Competition (Rome), Monastero Foundation Bel Canto competition (USA), Fritz and Lavinia Jensen competition (USA) and Chicago NATS vocal competition. His other appearances include the King of Egypt in Verdi’s Aida excerpt in tribute to Martina Arroyo at 36th Kennedy Center Honors Awards in Washington DC, concerts for the Royal family at Buckingham and Windsor palaces, appearances for BBC TV series and BBC Radio 3’s In Tune.