Sharin Apostolou and Ryan MacPherson: On lip-synching, trust and a full life.

It’s a special time for soprano Sharin Apostolou and her husband, rockstar development director and tenor Ryan MacPherson, and UrbanArias is thrilled to get to be part of their joy.  They chatted with us about making art and having a life in the pandemic. 

Your special circumstances make you ideal for this project.  How did we get so lucky?

Sharin: John De Los Santos and I were chatting months ago and he brought it to me. He and Bob Wood are two of my absolute favorite collaborators so I jumped at the idea (after I warned him that I might look quite different when we’d be filming.) Also, getting to perform with my husband is always such a treat!

How has the pandemic been for you guys?

Ryan: As I’m somewhat “retired” as a performer, and now working in Arts administration as the Director of Development for the Charlottesville Symphony, it was a welcome return to singing and performing. It was also wonderful to work with a lovely small group – one that included many friends that I have known over the years.

Sharin: I won’t sugar coat it- it’s been HARD. Many of us are afraid. Months of work and income vanished overnight and it keeps coming in waves. And that’s only the practical part. We prep for months for our engagements and we want to create something amazing for the audience. That’s all gone, too. Everything has been so uncertain. It still is, really. It’s exciting to be a part of projects like this that are thinking outside the box! 

You play a married couple, expecting their first child.  Obviously, you relate!

Ryan: While based within a pandemic, I felt a wonderful connected honesty with regard to the relationships. Many of the struggles and comforts found with Ricky and Kat are reflected in my everyday life within our marriage. 

We all are experiencing this frustration of being locked in one environment that is limiting, but never changes – like the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray. It just takes one person to help you change your perspective and make it all ok.

Sharin: Kat and her partner Ricky have both lost their jobs and are staying at her parent’s house. She and her mother happen to also be on opposite sides of the political ideological spectrum. It’s also the dead of summer and the A/C is broken. And she’s pregnant. She’s very frustrated with her set of circumstances, to say the least. How do I relate? While my husband has stayed employed (thank goodness!) and we stayed in our own apartment, I tick the rest of the boxes- preggers and all! I think many of us are going through this pandemic with loved ones who feel or think differently about it. I’m sure there will be many moments that you can relate to. 

Was this your first opera-on-film? What was it like to make The Roost

Ryan: I’ve recorded quite a few albums, and have been in a couple of movies – but the way that we put this together was completely different. We recorded the music in our own home, without rehearsal, and in a very short amount of time. There is an incredible amount of trust that allows all of us to do this. They trust we will learn it and do our best, and we blindly give tracks that are dry, without music in the background, and completely out of context to the action that we would be shooting later. As we submit those tracks, we put our trust in the music staff and audio personnel to make us sound great!

And lip-syncing to your own voice and cadence is another completely bizarre challenge. At the end of the few days that we had to shoot, we were utterly exhausted. It felt like we exercised a muscle that had never been used. 

Sharin: I mean, I’ve done recorded auditions and self tapes but this was TOTALLY different and unlike anything I’ve ever done. It was incredibly eye-opening and MUCH harder than I was expecting. I’ve been performing on stage professionally for over 15 years and I felt like such a neophyte. I feel SO fortunate that I knew and loved everyone involved in this project because they all received at least one text or email that started with “this may be a stupid question but…” There was a steep learning curve, to say the least! 

It’s pretty unusual to have so many companies working together on one project. Your careers are so wide-ranging – have you worked with any of the other Decameron artists in other settings?

Ryan: I met Bob Wood at the Santa Fe Opera when I was a young artist in 2003. Bob was our chorus master for some incredibly difficult pieces – I was so impressed with his professionalism and musicality. His vision and talent have not only grown but provide a true gift to the DC community through Urban Arias.

I’ve known Emily Pulley for about 17 years, and have had the pleasure to share the stage with her about as many times. From Opera Omaha to Central City Opera, to Virginia Opera – working with her is like coming home to a cherished family.

Sharin and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary Sharin Apostolou and Ryan MacPhersonthe day after we wrapped shooting. We met on the job eleven years ago and love every chance we have to sing together. To have the gift of a piece that reflects our time and celebrates the real-life joy of expecting our first child is a gift that we will always treasure.

Sharin: Yes! Emily Pulley, who plays my mom, and I have known each other since my first professional job. I was lucky enough to do Florida at Urban Arias with Bob a few years ago and this is my fourth project with John De Los Santos (Le Comte Ory at LoftOpera and South Pacific and Camelot at Charlottesville Opera.) And, Ryan and I have been together for 11 years and married for 7. I hadn’t worked with Marc Migó but I LOVE singing his music. 

As for other companies, yep! Michael Ching, who wrote Dinner 4 3 for Fargo Moorhead Opera, conducted me early in my career and we’ve stayed friends ever since. Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi and I met when I was still in grad school and I performed a piece of theirs and, thanks to social media, stayed friends through the years. As for the other singers, we’re a small community and like a family. For purely selfish reasons, I hope we get to do these in person just so I can see Jorell Williams, Briana Elyse Hunter, Kate Jackman, Josh Kohl, and Katie Henly.  It’s going to be one heck of a party! 

And a special word from Ryan:

I’m now a development director so I want to make sure that everyone out there knows that we can’t do this without their support. Great cities have great art and we have a duty to keep them going. Fill your life with music and support your local arts organization!

Thanks Ryan – we couldn’t agree more!

Get your tickets for The Roost here and join us on October 16 for the premiere!
Tales From A Safe Distance will be available on-demand until December 31.

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